French Hybridizer 
Antoine Lagrange

by Kit Knotts - Click images to enlarge


Less seems to be known about pioneer French Nymphaea hybridizer Antoine Lagrange than others of his time, but we have been able to learn enough to create a sketchy image of him, his nursery and his work.

The Lagrange establishment was founded in 1843, the same year Antoine was born on November 22, by his father Jacques. The original location is not known but in 1871 Jacques bought land in a location called "La Sarra", at 237-245 Grande Rue in Oullins, a small town southwest of Lyon.

Environs of Lyon
Baedeker's Southern France, 1914
Courtesy of The General Libraries,
The University of Texas at Austin

N. 'Marie Lagrange'
Images above and below from
Revue Horticole

We do not know when the Lagrange family nursery began to specialize in aquatic plants but the 1899 catalogue introduced Antoine's first hybrid waterlily, 'Marie Lagrange', presumably named for his wife. It was a tropical night bloomer.

From 1900 through 1914, a number of tropical night and day blooming waterlilies were introduced by Lagrange, as well as some hardies. Many were award winning. It was Antoine who provided the aquatic plants for the most prestigious lily pond in France, Paris' Bagatelle, from 1908 at least through 1912, featuring many of his own creations and those of other hybridizers. 

N. 'Mme. Paul Cazaneuve' &
N. 'Mme. Abel Chatenay'

The Lagrange display at
Bagatelle 1910 ^ >


It is interesting to wonder if Lagrange and Latour-Marliac were friends, friendly competitors or just competitors. Most of the hardy lilies offered by Lagrange were hybrids by Latour-Marliac, often very soon after Latour-Marliac himself had introduced them. Rumor has it that Latour-Marliac took legal action against Lagrange but this has not been confirmed.

Mrs. Lagrange, presumably Marie, died in 1914. The same year Antoine introduced the last new waterlily that we can find recorded, 'Madame Blot', a rose hardy. Antoine died in 1921. He had a son named Jacques Marius Louis, who was born on April 4, 1877. He was a horticulteur like his father but a note on the 1923 voters' list says "has left".

We can only speculate (at this time) about what happened to the Lagrange nursery. Could it not go on in the wake of World War I, as happened with many family businesses in France? Did legal problems with Latour-Marliac affect the demise? Regretfully all the Lagrange cultivars have been lost to cultivation.

Complete 1912 Catalogue

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