To celebrate May Day, I have chosen the delicate, deliciously scented flower, lily of the valley. As my family in France are now on the Covid-19 Coronavirus Lockdown day 40, I thought it would be nice to think about a French tradition which goes back to 1st May 1561 when Charles IX having received a bunch himself, decided to offer the exact flower to every lady in his court.
May Day in France is all about two things: muguet, pronounced “moo-gay” and Labour Day. On the 1st of May friends and family offer each other little sprigs of lily of the valley, bouquets or whole plants of lily of the valley for good luck. The littler bell-like flowers the plant has, the better the luck. In flower language it means the return of happiness which seems very apt in these troubling times.
Muguet was also the inspiration behind the perfume Diorissimo as it was a favourite of Christian Dior who introduced it in 1956. He used it to decorate his stationary, his garden and his jacket lapel and was the inspiration for his 1954 spring collection.
Lily of the valley is a popular choice for brides on their wedding day and the most famous wedding bouquet in recent times was that of Kate Middleton (2011), which was 8 year ago now!, made up almost entirely of lily of the valley. Lily of the valley is rather expensive and, because it is so small, you really need to use a good number of stems, however, on the plus side, they come still attached to their bulb, so can be planted in the garden as a reminder of your wedding.
Just something to be aware of – there is always a serpent in paradise – all parts of the plant are highly poisonous!
This is one of my favourite wedding bouquets which features Lily of the valley together with individually wired stephanotis flowers. I tied it with white lace and added small green fronds of thlapsi Green Bells. The perfume was amazing!
I would love to know which were the favourite flowers in your wedding bouquet.