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BONNIE'S GARDEN--Lily-of-the-Valley

Lily-of-the-Valley makes me think of the house we lived in when I was a child. The side of the house was shaded by a huge oak tree (I remember my Dad paying me 50 cents each to collect bags of acorns). It was covered with Lily-of-the-Valley and lacy ferns. I loved the Lily-of-the-Valley because the fragrant flowers made such a nice “kid-sized” bouquet. Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis) is native to cool temperate Europe and Asia. There is a separate species (Convallaria majalis var. Montana) that is native to the southern Appalachian mountains. It is difficult to find commercially. Lily-of-the-Valley has been cultivated since about 1420. It is the National Flower of England and is seen on Norway’s Coat of Arms. A legend in Sussex, England, says that as St. Leonard was fighting a dragon, Lily-of-the-Valley sprang up whenever a drop of his blood touched the ground. Lily of the Valley (also called Lady’s Tears or May Bells) has long been grown for its sweetly fragrant nodding white flowers. It’s very popular in bridal bouquets. Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, used it in her bridal bouquet. Its six to ten inch height make it an excellent ground cover. The plants generally set sterile seeds, but make up for it by producing sturdy spreading undergrounds stems. Lily-of-the-Valley rhizomes are usually offered at garden centers in early spring. We have ours in now. For best results, plant the small rhizomes (called ‘pips’) in shade to part-shade. Soil should be moist and slightly acidic. If your soil is not acidic enough, a light topping of azalea food will help. Once planted, don’t dig or divide unless absolutely necessary since they bloom best if left undisturbed. Do give this one plenty of elbow room. Because Lily-of-the-Valley needs exposure to cold temperatures, it is not suitable for growing south of zone seven, but will perform well as far north as northern New England. All parts of the plant, including the flowers and berries, are highly toxic so keep pets and small children from tasting. This does provide an advantage for those gardens bothered with rodents or other furry pests however, since they don’t eat the flowers or foliage. Because it reminds me of my childhood home, I planted some lacy Cinnamon ferns in with my Lily-of-the-Valley. They both thrive in the same shady, somewhat damp, conditions. To add some summer drama, I tuck an elephant ear or two and a few caladiums for color.

Posted: 3/23/2014 by Bonnie Pega | with 0 comment(s)
Filed under: BonniePega, Bonnie'sGarden
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