Welcome to a blooming lovely Monday. Today I am looking at Lily of the Valley and I had to include this beautiful flower in my posts here, as it is such an exquisite addition to any spring garden. I am lucky enough to have a host of these beauties and their fragrance is delightful. The flowers bloom in May and across Europe, they are popular spring blooms. One legend says the Nightingales won’t sing until the Lily of the Valley blooms. I would recommend planting them to everyone, but do keep them away from young children and your pets.
These tiny white bell-like flowers with their heady perfume have a hearty chunk of lore associated with them going as far back in time as to ancient Greece. It is said the god Apollo discovered them and offered them to the god Aesculapius for their healing properties. This association with healing is no mere myth. The plants are poisonous and if the berries are eaten, they can cause serious problems, even death.
In the past water distilled from the flowers was known as Aqua Aurea or ‘golden water’ and such was its power it had to be kept in golden or silver vessels. Much store was set in its healing properties. In the twentieth century, a drug with similar properties to digitalis was created from Lily of the Valley plants. It was used to treat soldiers injured in gas attacks in World War I.
Lily of the Valley is associated with humility, sweetness, chastity, and purity. The flowers are said to bring luck in love. There is also the idea it is not a good thing to bring them into the house. This is a recurring idea about many springtime blooms.
In Christian myth the flowers are said by some to have bloomed from Eve’s tears as she and Adam were cast out of heaven. Others say the flowers sprouted from Mary’s tears as she wept at the crucifixion.
These flowers are also linked to Saint Leonard, a hermit like warrior who lived in the Vienne Valley near Limoges in 559 AD. In an effort to become closer to God, St. Leonard went to live in the woods. Legend tells that a dragon with the mane of Temptation also lived in these woods. The dragon ordered St. Leonard to leave. The saint refused and a great battle ensued. Weeds sprouted where the dragon’s blood and Lily of the Valley appeared where the saint’s blood landed.
The pearly white flowers are also said to show the way to heaven as they form a step ladder up the stem of the flower. The flowers are also said to prompt visions of a better future.
Irish legends say the fairies use the Lily ladder to reach the reeds they need to weave cradles for their infants, or that the fairies use the flowers for cups. I do like that idea.
In the Victorian language of flowers, Lily of the Valley means ‘let’s make up’ or ‘a return to happiness. The sweet scented flowers are often used in bridal bouquets.
I’m rather sad the blooms in my garden are almost over but I will look forward to next Spring when I will hopefully see them again.
Thanks for reading.
Image from “Convallaria majalis 0002” by H. Zell – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons