Lilies fit for a Queen

A new season is upon us. As we prepare to say goodbye to a Queen, we also say goodbye to summer. Change is happening.

With a nod to the Queen, I will plant what is widely considered her favorite flower – Lily of the Valley.

With its fragrant smell, gracefully arched stems, and small white bell-shaped flowers, this plant was part of Queen Elizabeth’s bouquet at her wedding to the Duke of Edinburgh in 1947 and appeared again in her coronation bouquet in 1953.

With a meaning of purity, motherhood, and good luck in love, it is no wonder, Audrey Hepburn (she’s royal to me), Grace Kelly, Princess Diana, and Kate Middleton and countless other royal brides have all include these stems in their special day.

Another legend says that Lily of the Valley plants sprang from the tears of Eve when she was evicted from the Garden of Eden. 

No need for tears; this plant is easy to grow and is most often started from bare roots or divided clumps. It can be grown from seed, but that is a lot of work when it is easy to divide mature plants.

Fall is the time to plant for spring blooms. Pick a location with shade or partial shade and make sure the soil is well-draining. Take the extra step when planting to work organic matter into the soil for the enrichment and start of thriving plants.

Place the stems about six inches apart and half-inch deep.   If this plant is healthy, it will spread through underground rhizomes and fill a garden area. This can be good or bad. If your space is limited, be cautious, some consider Lily of Valley an invasive plant. 

Spreading can be managed through pruning, dividing plants, or planting in a container. If left uncontrolled, the plants will form a dense patch. As older plants slow down blooming, thin the area and ensure it receives plenty of water.

The leaves of mature plants will be anywhere from 5 – 10 inches long ovals with pointed ends. Slender arches with white flowers will form from the center of the leaf clumps. This plant is ok to touch but poisonous when ingested. 

Don’t let this delicate flower fool you. Just like the Queen, this petite flower is a tough one. Once established, it requires little care to flourish and will come back year after year in Zones 3-7.

 Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis) is really not a lily. It is a member of the asparagus family.

There are several variegated cultivars. One is Albostriata, which has cream stripes down the length of the leaves; Rosea produces a rosy pink flower; and Flore Pleno yields double flowers.

As if being one of the Queen’s favorite flowers and a bridal bouquet standard wasn’t cool enough, the humble Lily of the Valley is featured in a 1974 Queen song sung by Freddie Mercury.  

This past week I have indulged in all things royal and have shamelessly watched the news coverage for hours. Now, as the seasons change, I will add Lily of the Valley to my garden and smile, knowing it is also growing in royal gardens across the pond.