It’s not sound that comes from the lily of the valley’s delicate bells, but a beautiful sweet scent. She’s probably trying to tell us that summer is arriving and that we need to start enjoying ourselves. The stems, which are packed with pure white bells, are particularly popular in the perfume industry.
The sweet lily of the valley is beautiful and sophisticated - at least from a distance. All parts of this innocent-looking flower are poisonous, including the flowers, the red berries and even the vase water. So it’s best to stick to looking and smelling.
Colours and shapes
We get to enjoy this refined flower to the full during May and June. It brightens our days as a perennial in the garden or loose in a vase. The lightly curved stems can bear up to twelve bell-shaped flowers. Each bell has six petals which are attached to one another. If white isn’t your preference, then opt for the variety with pink flowers.
Every stem starts with two wide elliptical leaves, which appear to be cheering enthusiastically, and the plant produces red berries. In the garden you’ll quickly have a carpet of May bells.
This flower symbolises absolute purity, youth, sincerity, and discretion. But most importantly, it symbolises happiness. This joyful symbolism means that it’s very important to give someone you love a bunch of lilies of the valley on the 1st of May.
This tradition of giving lilies of the valley is an old Germanic custom: a tribute to Ostara, the goddess of the coming of spring and the growing light. In order to honour this important goddess, the Germanic peoples threw lilies of the valley into celebratory bonfires as a sign of respect and to show that they believed in her divinity.
Another story suggests that lilies of the valley arose from the tears of the Virgin Mary after she visited her son’s tomb.
Is it lily of the valley, or lily-of-the-valley? Lillium convallium, Convallaria majalis or May lily? The good news is that it’s all correct. The Latin name was Lillium convallium. Now the Latin name is Convallaria majalis. Convallis means ‘valley’ and majalis means ‘of the month of May’. This adorable flower is a member of the lily family, so it was given the common name of lily of the valley.
The May lily has not travelled far, since it originates in Europe, as well as in the Caucasus and western Siberia. In the past, these scent bombs were a must-have if you had a country estate or castle garden.