Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Lily of the Valley

If you've been  fortunate enough to be in France on May 1st,
you may wondered about the bunches of Lily of the Valley being sold at roadside stands.

May 1st is French Labor Day, (also known as May Day or La Fete du Muguet)
 and the tradition is to pick a bunch of wild Lily of the Valley to give to a friend or loved one.
 How sweet! This tradition is so widespread and accepted that special regulations are in place allowing organizations to sell these bunches without having to pay the usual tax.

King Charles IX was presented with Lily of the Valley on May 1, 1561 as a good luck offering.
He liked this flower so much that he presented small bouquets of them to the ladies in his court. Later, around 1900, men began to offer these small bouquets to their lovers
and the tradition has never waned.

The dictionary description of Lily of the Valley is "a small (poisonous!) ornamental plant
with two long oval dark green leaves. Flowers: small, white or pale pink,
 sweet-scented, bell-shaped, drooping, growing from a single spike."   
Their scent is truly intoxicating.
As a gardener, you may know that this is an early spring-blooming perennial
that needs cold winters to return year after year.
Given the right conditions, your Lily of the Valley bed will expand year after year,
 expanding through underground rhizomes.
It's official meaning is "return to happiness" and symbolizes chastity, luck and humility.

A popular flower for dainty bridal bouquets, it was one of the blooms Princess Katherine
selected for her bouquet when she wed Prince William a few years back.
Brides beware: these "pips", as they are called, can be budget-busters!

I'm especially fond of the harder-to-find pink variety,
though slightly less fragrant than the white.
 Bloomers Floral Design
122 South Front St.
Wilmington, NC 28401