On the surface, the story appears to be that I happened to see some pre-cooled Lily of the Valley pips for sale and decided to order them and give them a try.
But actually the story of how I came to this point of planting Lily of the Valley pips a few weeks before Christmas so they will bloom for the holidays starts way back many decades ago when I was a little girl.
Every Sunday when I was growing up, we drove from our house in the suburbs to my grandma’s house on the near East side of Indianapolis for an afternoon visit. Visits in the spring were especially exciting because when the Lily of the Valley were in bloom, we were allowed to go out and pick them, as many as we could hold in our hands.
We’d give our bouquets as gifts to Grandma and my mom who graciously accepted them from us and remarked, always, how pretty they were. Often we picked violets, too. Grandma would put them in little vases and row them up on her china buffet.
I think that Lily of the Valley is the first flower that I really knew by name and could identify when I saw it, along with violets.
I’ve always had at least a small patch of Lily of the Valley growing in my garden through the years. Here in my current garden, my little patch has become a bit sparser lately as I dug up borders and beds where they grew for various and sundry reasons. That’s one of the reasons I used to rationalize my purchase of pre-cooled Lily of the Valley pips. After they bloom, I can grow them on and plant them in the garden in the spring.
I received my Lily of the Valley pips yesterday and potted them up last night. I look forward to seeing the leaves and then the blooms in a few weeks.
Smelling the blooms of Lily of the Valley in the wintertime will remind me of my grandmother and my mom, of warm spring days, of times long past. I won’t think just of spring, though, I’ll remember the Christmases of my childhood, when Grandma would come to our house on Christmas Eve to spend the night and read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ to me and my siblings.
I’ll remember aunts and uncles long gone, too and cousins who we rarely see these days. I’ll remember the dinners, the presents, the laughter of many Christmases a long time ago.
And that’s really the story of why I bought Lily of the Valley pips to force into bloom in the winter time. I really bought them for the warm memories contained in the scent of each tiny bell-shaped flower.
It is interesting how many memories are tied to scent.
Danielle Bedics-Arizala, The Magic Garden says
Your story really touched me, as my Grandmother had Lily of the Valley growing in her yard. It was the first flower I could identify by name too. This dainty little flower will always bring back happy childhood memories of my Grandmother and playing outside in her yard in the country. I tried growing the pips but they didn't come up for me. Your story inspires me to try again. I also wear the scent in a perfume. Thanks for sharing your story. -Danielle
Sweet me memories, Carol. I also have an affinity for Lily-of-the-valley and it's my birth month flower too.
Marta McDowell says
Olfactory time machines.
Oh, I definitely believe scents are connected to memories. My dad always grew arugula, but as a child, I did not like it. As an adult, I love it in a salad. Every time I eat it, I am reminded of those Sunday family dinners during the summer!
By the way, I love Lily of the Valley.
What a lovely post, Carol! It's amazing how certain scents can evoke such powerful memories.
My lily of the valley patch isn't very big. When it is plentiful I will dig some up to force indoors.
Lee@A Guide to Northeastern Gardening says
Carol-I enjoyed reading your story! It reminds me of when I was growing up and my mom had Lily of the Valley sprouting all over the garden and the smell was so sweet in springtime. It's nice to have it for winter too!
I love this post. I too love Lily of the Valley and Violets. I usually came home from school with a handful of Violets for my Mother. My sister also loved Lily of the Valley, her daughters gave me pips last Christmas!
It is wonderful when we can put in our gardens lovely plants, more so scented and yet evoke sentimental memories in our lives. I have a few of these sentimental plants too.
I love the perfume from Lily of the Valley, planted some in my woodland and waited, and waited. Eventually a few leaves appeared, the next year 2 flowers appeared and this year we had quite a few more flowers. It has taken them a while to settle down and decide that they really do like being in the garden here, hopefully they will now increase as they seem to be happy at last.
I so enjoyed your post. The scent of Lily of the Valley is so evocative, and like many others, for me it reminds me of my grandma, born in 1889.
Sadly Lily of the Valley don't like me, or my garden, and die a slow and lingering death every time I plant them !
Best kind of gardening, that which evokes memories of good times. I don't ever see Lily of the Valley growing in these parts. Wonder how it would do? Maybe I need to have a talk with a Master Gardner.
I got clumps of leucojum from my mom. They are snowflakes but she always called them lily of the valley so I continue to call them that as well. I just can't bring myself to call them by their correct name. A sweet memory that I know you treasure.
Brenda Payne says
I love this. I’m the plant guru for a group of friends of mine. I’ve purchased Lily of the Valley earrings for them but for Christmas I want to give them Lily of the Valley pips that will come up for Christmas.
Could those of you who know how to get them to bloom at Christmas please send me the directions. I would so appreciate it. email me at bpayne53@ gmail.com