There are so many flowers associated with spring in our area that it is difficult to cover them all, but one of the more common ones is Lily of the Valley. These flowers are a woodland plant in its native habitat and can survive for decades through its aggressive growth habits. In the urban setting, it can be controlled a little better with the use of barriers or just general spring maintenance of digging out extras.
This is a great plant for north sides of buildings or areas that receive a great deal of shade. I often forget about the plants until they begin blooming and then their scent is unmatched with its wonderful fragrance!
About a decade ago I had a small round patch in the front yard coming up in a shady area. It was small to begin (maybe about five shoots in a small clump) and it wasn’t something I planted, it just appeared one spring. Eventually, it grew in size and I decided to move it to the north side of the garage where there wasn’t anything growing. I dug up the clump and ended up dividing 28 shoots from it that I planted about a foot apart. Within the next three to five years that completely filled in the north space of about 15 feet long by 3 feet wide. It is a great groundcover for the summer and in late spring it is covered in nearly 100 stems of white flowers. For a free plant, this one went a long way without any effort. Now each spring I dig out plants that go beyond their bounds to keep them in check, but I only have to do this deep digging once a year.
Lily of the Valley has been around for centuries and is symbolically known as the flower meaning the return to happiness. How wonderful to have a flower that gives people hope and the celebration for the return of better things. It used to be the national flower of Yugoslavia and later was named the national flower of Finland. In America, it has come across through the ages meaning many different things to many people. Some people love them and others don’t much care for them because of their invasive habit. For me it is a die-hard plant with amazing flowers!
The plants grow through a root system known as rhizomes. These branch off from a developed plant and create a new two-leaved plant that, when mature, creates a flower stem. In our area, these flower stems occur around the end of May to the beginning of June. Each stem can produce anywhere from five to 15 flowers that are shaped like a bell with a ruffled edge that hang from the stem. They have a waxy appearance and will bloom for about 10 to 14 days. If the flowers are pollinated, they will often form a green berry that later turns red and drops to the ground late in the season. These may, on occasion, produce a new plant, but it is not commonplace.
Since they are growing in my yard on the north side, I often forget about them, so when they begin to bloom I enjoy picking about 30 stems for a short vase to enjoy indoors. The heavy fragrance from these short stems will fill the entire kitchen and dining room. For me, it is very appealing, yet not overwhelming.
Many brides in May and June like to acquire these flowers for their bouquets, but I will warn you upfront, they do not come at a cheap price. When I used to work in a floral shop 14 years ago, they were running anywhere from $8 to $10 a stem. If you are familiar with the flower, you will know that it takes quite a few stems to make a noticeable bouquet. I would suggest those who want these to grow their own but each year they can bloom within a different two-week period, so always hard to guess for an exact date. Maybe great for an elopement!
There are a few different varieties in the market, of course for most of us, we are familiar with the old-fashioned white flower with green leaves. ‘Albostriata’ produces white- and green-striped leaves with white flowers and the ‘Flore Pleno’ produces double blooms. This is one I have not seen in our area before. Then there is the ‘Rosea,’ which produces pink flowers and is a little more costly to acquire through a catalog. They usually run about three times that of the regular white species, but a fun variety to try in the garden.
As with many woodland or spring flowers, like all perennials, they have their bloom period and then after that has passed, they remain as a ground cover. Their density usually keep weeds at bay which makes them easy to maintain through the season. One of the side factors I really enjoy about this plant. With its vigorous habit, it is also one of those plants that is nice to share with others who may have a difficult shady area to grow plants in. This one will not disappoint. Gardening is about enjoyment and seeing things grow and perform, but I also like the element of sharing plants with others to spread the joy around a little.