It embodies happiness, life, purity, renewal and joy. Emblematic of the month of May and easy to grow, lily of the valley is also associated with Labor Day.
The Lily of the valley is as precious as it is fleeting. It flowers between the end of April and mid-June, for 3 to 4 weeks, originally in the undergrowth. Today, its production comes mainly from the Nantes region, which represents 80% of French production. The remaining 20% come from Bordeaux and Saône-et-Loire, where new cultivars are being developed. For example, lily of the valley with pink flowers (less floriferous than white and often blooming later), lily of the valley with variegated foliage ... Some high-end lily of the valley can even have up to 20 bells but it is the one with 13 bells that really brings good luck.
Lily of the valley, an easy-going perennial
This plant requires little attention: just rich, well-drained soil (lightened with sand if necessary), exposure to shade or partial shade and sheltered from the wind. It is only sensitive to dryness.
From these growing conditions, one has only to wait for the first white bells with the characteristic odor.
They usually start in the last days of April or the first of May.
A gesture to perpetuate
Offering lily of the valley is a simple gesture of recognition and sharing. Ideally, the strand is offered on May 1, Labor Day. "It is the only over-the-counter product in France," notes Marc Guéguen, marketing and development manager at Truffaut. Avoid the hawkers who sell rootless lily of the valley, however.
Prefer to buy a lily of the valley with roots, or better yet, its cultivation in your garden or on your balcony ". Because if it is presented as a composition or associated with a rose in flower shops and garden centers, bet on simplicity: the elegance of a few sprigs offered with a smile is enough.
Give it away ... and replant it!
A Lily of the valley with roots can be replanted to create your personal annual lily of the valley culture. As soon as the flowers have faded, or in autumn when its red berries are finished, place the sprigs in the ground or in a pot, every 10 centimeters, delicately separating its claws. Then water and mulch to keep the soil cool. "For a pot planting, we advise at Ernest Turc, plant 3 to 5 prongs in pots 10 cm in diameter, place them in the dark for several weeks, watering regularly, then gradually bring them in to light at 16-18 ° C: lily of the valley will flower 3 weeks later ”.
Every 3 to 5 years, divide them to rejuvenate your thrush. As it is covering (it multiplies quickly by rhizome), it will grow and multiply: “Let yourself be overwhelmed by happiness, and what an intoxicating scent!” Concludes Marc Guégen. Your only challenge, in connection with the weather god, will then be to succeed in having it flowered for May 1st! ".
The whole plant is very poisonous, even fatal. To prevent lucky lily of the valley from becoming bad luck, plant it where animals, especially cats, and children cannot reach it without supervision.
Note, however, that in medicine and herbal medicine, thrush is useful for heart problems and diuretics among others.
A little history ... 1560: the beginning of a tradition
The Lily of the valley comes from Japan and was introduced to France in the Middle Ages. In 1560, the knight Louis de Girard de Maisonforte offered a sprig of lily of the valley to the young king Charles IX, son of Catherine de Medici, then aged 10. Very touched by this gesture, the young boy decides to do the same and offers a sprig of lily of the valley to the ladies of the court, with this maxim: "Let it be done so every year". The tradition was born and it will last throughout his life, that is to say until 1574. Then, this ritual falls into oblivion, with some uncertainties ...
In the 1900s, a great Parisian couturier organized a party with the little hands of his workshop, in the Bois de Chaville in the Paris region. He then offers a sprig of lily of the valley to each of the workers, and one of them decides to offer a sprig of lily of the valley in turn to those around him. In the Paris region, this is the beginning of the popularity of the famous lily of the valley. With one consequence: the surrounding woods are robbed because people tear off all the strands!
But lily of the valley is associated for the first time, in 1889, with the labor Day. However, it was not until the twentieth century, in 1936 to be exact, that it became a strong symbol with the arrival of paid vacation: lily of the valley has been associated to this day.
Visual credits: Muguet 1 and 2: © Ernest Turc Muguet 3: © Truffaut