Lily of the Valley

May has got to be one of the most beautiful times of the year here in the Cotswolds.  In my garden at the moment there is such a variety of blossom.  We have several varieties of apple, two kinds of pear, a cherry tree and a quince all covered in blossom.  The hellebores are almost over but there are still a few tulips and primroses.  The blue bush, whose name I can never remember, is covered in flowers and the orange azalea is amazing.  But the piece de resistance has got to be the Lily of the Valley.  I did not plant these, they were already naturalised when we moved in ~ but they are superb.  They are prolific under my pear trees.  The perfume that surrounds them is just beautiful.  There are so many in our garden that I picked a couple of bunches on Sunday.  I brought one indoors where the perfume fills the room.  I gave the other bunch to a lovely local lady when I took her some rhubarb I had just picked.  The rhubarb is another thing that seems to love our soil as it grows really well.  Unfortunately my husband is not allowed to eat it now that he is on dialysis so I tend to give it away.

Lily of the Valley is a native of Britain. The 16th century Gerard’s Herbal decries it as “growing on hampstead Heath, four miles from London, in great abundance@”  I must remember to check if it still grows there.   It used to be a tradition here to give bunches of Lily of the Valley on May 1st.  It still is in France I believe, where the flowers are called Muguet.

In 1851 Queen Victoria commissioned a special painting to commemorate 1st May.  It was a very special year for her as it was Prince Arthur’s first birthday, the 82nd birthday of the Duke of Wellington who was the Prince’s grandfather, and the opening day of the Great Exhibition.  Of course Lily of the Valley featured prominently in the painting with the Duke of Wellington presenting a posy to the Queen, Prince Albert and the young prince Arthur.  The painting was completed by Franz Xaver Winterhalter and is in the style of the adoration of the Magi which seems rather irreverent to me but was a sign of the times I guess.

Queen Victoria wearing the George III Tiara (T...

13 thoughts on “Lily of the Valley

  1. In our backyard where I grew up in northeast New Jersey, my mother had an ample daffodil patch ringed by a footpath, under a stand of ash trees. To a five-year-old, they were a delight to see and smell and play in and around, the several varieties causing the bloom to go on for what seemed like weeks. It was sad to see them go, but then came out the more subtle jack-in-the-pulpits and lilies-of-the-valley, in a carpet of myrtle (periwinkle).
    Now some 65 years later, on the opposite side of the continent, our front yard sports a patch of the magical lilies-of-the-valley, following daffodils, headily-scented hyacinths and the pink explosion of flowering plum trees. I don’t know where the little dangling-white on leafy-green plants came from. I never planted them and they weren’t here when we first moved in. All part of their enchantment, I’m thinking.
    And speaking of enchantment, thank you for sharing these earlier posts.


    • what are jack in the pulpits like? Its a delightful name! Just now we have azaleas out and huge oriental poppies. It is wonderful the way the garden changes every month ~ but scary how quickly the year passes!


  2. Pingback: Lily of the Valley | heavenhappens

  3. May is Autumn here in Oz…a beautiful season also. Your garden sounds wonderful. I wish I had a neighbour who brought me bunches or rhubarb ( except Brenda when I move in next door I prefer them to be already baked in pies …generous serve of sprinkled sugar on the top…Thanks!)


    • Ha, well maybe that would be nice for the old lady I visit. She has no family nearby and never had a daughter so I like to spoil her now and then ~ since my mum died I have missed having someone to spoil! This lovely old lady is happy to indulge me x


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