The first lily of the valley blooms have emerged in my garden, in the last days of March. I love lilies of the valley but they can be hard to grow here in Zone 7, so I’m delighted that these have decided to return. They emit one of my favorite fragrances, the inimitable “muguet“. Do you grow lilies of the valley? When do they emerge in your garden?
I spent the whole month of May posting about lily of the valley-based fragrances on my other blog, Serenity Now, in a series I called “May Muguet Marathon.” While I was doing that and reading a lot online about lilies of the valley, I came across a variety I have long wanted to try in my own garden, Convallaria majalis “Bordeaux.” It was on sale, so of course I bought 40 pips! My teenaged son helped me create a new planting bed for them by spreading many cubic feet of mushroom compost on top of the clayish soil between several old azaleas and the base of our house’s front terrace, a partly shaded area that is well-watered by our in-ground sprinkler system. He turned it in for me; I hope this will provide a suitable habitat! Lilies of the valley do not become invasive here in the South as they do further north; in fact, sometimes they struggle. Fingers crossed that “Bordeaux” finds a happy home here!
I also bought some pips of Convallaria majalis “Prolificans”, which many sellers describe as “double-flowered”, but it is not a true double flower, as can be seen in this photo:
Rather, it has clusters of tiny, single flowers that dangle together from the main stalk, creating the look of double flowers. The true double-flowered lily of the valley is “Flore Pleno”:
I hope my new lilies of the valley find themselves happy in their new home and spread profusely! I would welcome what plant-hunter Reginald Farrer described as “the worst of all delicious weeds when it thrives.”
I love this post from Bois de Jasmin about making potpourri and scenting closets and drawers with lily of the valley! Sadly, I cannot grow it in such abundance here that I can try this out. But my sister who lives in New England has a huge patch of lilies of the valley outside her house where they grow like weeds, so maybe I can get some from her next time I am there in May.
Source: Lily of the Valley Potpourri
Garden and floral designer Non Morris wrote this lovely piece about lilies of the valley, a flower emblematic of the month of May, a couple of years ago.
GRACE KELLY, PARIS IN THE SPRING TIME AND THE “WORST OF ALL DELICIOUS” WEEDS
Convallaria majalis var. rosea after the rain
On the wooden table outside our kitchen door I have a terracotta pot of the most elegant pink lily of the valley, Convallaria majalis var. rosea. The pot was given to me as a precious container of newly planted bulbs by my friend the painter, Charlotte Verity . The gift was important as it was a memento of an extraordinary year Charlotte spent as Artist in Residence at The Garden Museum in London in 2010. Here in the shadow of the ruddy castellated walls of neighbouring Lambeth Palace, Charlotte spent a year painting in Tradescant’s Garden – the knot garden created in 1981 by the Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury around the important tomb of the Seventeenth Century plant hunters.
Lily of the Valley 2009 – Charlotte Verity
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I planted twenty lily of the valley pips today, so this weekend’s Saturday Snippet is from a favorite book series: Cicely Mary Barker’s Flower Fairies. Lilies of the valley are some of my favorite flowers, and I love their fragrance too.
Gentle fairies, hush your singing;
Can you hear my white bells ringing,
Ringing as from far away?
Who can tell me what they say?
Little snowy bells out-springing
From the stem and softly ringing—
Tell they of a country where
Everything is good and fair?
Lovely, lovely things for L?
Lilac, Lavender as well;
And, more sweet than rhyming tells,
And this was one of my favorite songs to sing as a round with my children when they were little:
White coral bells upon a slender stalk
Lilies of the valley line my garden walk.
Oh, don’t you wish that you could hear them ring?
That will happen only when the fairies sing.
Illustration and poem: Copyright Estate of Cicely Mary Barker.