|A Nosegay of Lily of the Valley
One of the joys of this time of year is the scent of the beds of Lily of the valley, Convallaria majalis. The fragrance is embedded in my memory from early years. These small, milky white bells arrayed long the delicate stem give out a slightly musky perfume that pervades the air of the garden.
When describing flower scent, it is often remarked how certain blooms are free on the air, their good smells given freely and generously to garden visitors. These May blooming bells are one of those, not withholding until conditions are just right, like some other flowers renowned for fragrance.
This is the flower my mother chose for her wedding bouquet, it is an old fashioned flower whose romantic stories go back to the sixteenth century, and I wouldn’t be surprised if told there are tales from much earlier.
It was from my mother’s garden that I transplanted my first starts of Convallaria pips.
Many gardeners dislike plants like Lily of the valley, which can be vigorous to the point of invasiveness. But if you plant a bed of it, it can be controlled by mowing along its border. For those who love it, like the much maligned (by landscaping experts) lilacs, there is no replacement for the sheer pleasure of breathing deep on a fine spring day and inhaling such memorable aromas.
I picked a small bouquet for the house, and find that it is a good cut flower for indoors. Some fragrant flowers are too heady and I feel overwhelmed by their perfume. Lily of the valley has that soft innocent waft of something lovely that reminds you of its presence, but without demanding you notice. Maybe this explains the reason it was one of the preferred personal fragrances of Victorian ladies, along with that other elusively attractive flower, the sweet violet Viola odorata.
It makes a lovely ground cover with its fresh green leaves, and in fall I love the golden hues it gives to an autumn scene.
I planted nice fat tulip bulbs last fall, and made a how to video of the process. Here is a cameo of those bulbs which I recorded in one of my garden tutorials. Though some tulips have scent, most don’t. These are Darwin hybrids, most of the ones reputed for fragrance are the single early tulips. The Darwin hybrid, ‘Daydream’ is said to be one of the few. I grow it, but not in a part of the yard where I took any notice of fragrance.
Other contributing aromas are the Korean Spice Viburnum, V. Carlesii, which this year opened with an overlapping garden time with the Lily of the valleys. Lilacs are still giving their unique sweetness, although the earlier ones have finished. Sweet Woodruff has opened its blooms, and the new mown hay smell will remain with its leaves all summer.
The months coming hold their own sweetness, but none so nostalgically and fondly remembered as May.