10 Jun2005

Lily of the Valley

by Marketman

Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis and C. Montana) equals Spring. valley1In Europe, the flower is associated with May 1st, in the U.S., they are in abundance throughout the month of May, barring extreme weather complications. A member of the lily family, this stunning little family member has bell-shaped, drooping white flowers that have the most incredible sweet scent. The wild varieties grow in shaded or wooded areas, their underground rhizomes spread like weeds, and when it thaws enough, send out wide leaves of a medium green color. Then, the delicate blooms emerge. There are few things simpler and more beautiful than a bunch (small or large) of fresh lily of the valley in a vase in your home.

Today, the flower is widely cultivated because valley2it is so sought after for commercial purposes such as wedding bouquets. I believe the most stunning use of it may be the whoppingly large bunch of them on the casket of the late Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis when she passed away in 1994(?). Whoppingly large would apply to a bouquet of just say 8 inches in diameter if it included mostly flowers, and very few leaves. The fragrance such a bouquet might have would exceed several spritzes of the most expensive French perfume but the natural version would cost even more. A small bunch of lily of the valley with leaves at the wholesale flower market or at the outdoor markets was USD10; so a really big bunch of blooms could run USD500+ if you were really extravagant!

My pet lily of the valley peeve? Manila brides who request, and florists who oblige valley3the inclusion of the delicate flower in Manila wedding bouquets but do it half-assed… the flowers are flown in, cost a lot, and tend to wilt in the heat… so when florists put them in bouquets they tend to put all or most of the leaves to pump up the volume and it looks like the bride is carrying a bunch of lily leaves with a few flowers peeking out. They inevitably wilt during the ceremony and look less than stellar. My unsolicited advice, don’t screw with the flower unless you can do it justice. So there. I include three photos of this great flower: first, a close up of the bell-shaped blooms, second, a pail of stripped-down lily of the valley without leaves (intense, no?) and finally, pails of several dozens of bunches of lily of the valley grown on a farm in upstate New York. Enjoy!



  1. virgilio p. castillo says:

    I know the name but didn’t know, pardon my ignorance, that it was lily of the valley what we have in the garden that shoots up every Spring. Didn’t bother to look it up in the dictionary. Why the name Lily of the Valley? Anyway, we never cultivate them but they don’t forget to to show up every year, each time taking over a portion of the garden . Maigloeckchen (literal translation: Little May bells) is how we call them. Thanks.

    Jun 10, 2005 | 4:52 pm


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  3. Marketman says:

    Not sure where the name comes from… but you are SO BLOODY lucky that you have them in the garden. What a wonderful way to welcome the Spring season and herald the forthcoming summer. May I ask what country you live in?

    Jun 10, 2005 | 5:09 pm

  4. Maricel says:

    What else can I say but….BEAUTIFUL!!!!!
    Thanks Marketman for granting my request.

    Jun 10, 2005 | 8:03 pm

  5. Qouque says:

    The thousands of lilly of the valley stems on Jackie’s casket arranged on an oasis shaped cross were flown in from Alsmeer and arranged by Robert Isabel. Her funeral was organized by George Trescher, now himself deceased, the prefered event planner of NYC’s old guard. Weddings, funerals, benefits, etc. all need the same skills, right? Just a little aside for Jackie fans.

    Jun 11, 2005 | 5:19 am

  6. schatzli says:

    WE use Lily of the Valley especially spring time. They
    grow easily in UK. I once scoured for small glass vases to put lilies and every table I used, I placed a small rounded mirror so the flowers reflect.

    I love Lily of the valley lotion from Crabtree and Evelyn.

    Jun 11, 2005 | 6:05 am

  7. virgilio p. castillo says:

    i live in vienna, austria

    Jun 13, 2005 | 3:32 pm

  8. Jim says:

    Can someone please identify the specific type of greenery or ferns that were used on Jackie Onassis’ casket spray? That was one of the most unusual casket arrangements…very plain and very unusual. But the greenery surrounding the lily of the valley cross is different than anything I’ve seen before. Does anyone know the exact type and name? Thanks.

    Mar 20, 2007 | 12:48 am

  9. Pat says:

    My 89 year old mother is planning her funeral. She wants the casket spray to look like Jackie’s. I can’t find an image of it anywhere on the web. Did anyone find an image?

    Sep 3, 2008 | 4:18 am

  10. arlene says:

    i, too am looking for a photo and description of the types of greenery utilized in jackie’s casket spray

    Jun 1, 2009 | 10:52 am


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