lily of the valley

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Common name:  Lily of the valley, May lily, May bells

Botanical Names: Convallaria Majalis

Origin: Northern Hemisphere, Asia and Europe

Colours: white and more rarely pink

Lily of the valley is also known as May lily which comes from the Latin convallis meaning valley and majalis for May-flowering.  It is said to symbolise purity, humility and the return of happiness.  It has long been associated with May and is said to bring good luck or protect your garden from evil spirits.  Lily of the valley has been the national flower of Finland since 1967.

This pretty plant is a herbaceous perennial that spreads it’s rhizomes (roots) underground to form extensive colonies.  It grows up to 20cm in height and has tiny bell shaped flowers up to 10mm in diameter.  The flowers have a beautiful sweet fragrance.  The plants offer good ground cover and thrive in shady areas.  Although after several years they can take over large areas or other plants if not divided and kept on top of.  All parts of the plant are poisonous including the berries.

The herb is used medicinally for various conditions.  In the First World War it was used to treat victims of mustard gas to lower blood pressure.  It contains cardiac glycosides which are used to treat heart problems.  The roots of the plants are used by herbalists to make an ointment that treats burns.  It should only be used by a qualified medical practitioner as the side effect can be harmful if used incorrectly.

Lily of the valley bouquet

In floristry Lily of the valley is used predominately in wedding work, as it’s petite stems are not long enough for normal bouquets and it is one of the dearer flowers.   It’s main season is March to May as a cut flower.  It is available in some other months, but it is usually more expensive out of season.  It’s delicate flowers look beautiful in hand tied bouquets or shower bouquets, and it’s sweet fragrance has a gorgeous old fashioned quality.   The delicate flowers are so petite a vast number are needed for bridal bouquets of only lily of the valley.  It also works well mixed with roses for an elegant vintage look.

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Kate Middleton and Prince William tied the knot today at West Minster abbey, and the sun shone for them after all.  They will now be known as The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.  Kate’s highly anticipated wedding dress did not disappoint, she looked beautiful in an ivory vintage style gown designed by Sarah Burton at Alexander McQueen.  The dress had a very classic Grace Kelly feel to it, and featured a lace appliquéd bodice and skirt.  It was made with English lace, French Chantilly lace, satin gazar and silk tulle.  The design contained lace flowers including the rose, thistle, daffodil and shamrock.  The skirt reflected an opening flower with arches and wide pleats and had a 9ft long train.  Kate wore a veil made from ivory silk tulle, edged with hand-embroidered flowers.  It was held in place by a Cartier ‘halo’ tiara lent from the Queen.

Kate Middleton's Bouquet

The predictions I made few weeks ago for Kate’s flower style were almost spot on, neutral colours and understated flowers.  The flowers at the wedding all had a very natural organic feel.  The couple reportedly spent £50,000 on flowers, plants and four tons of foliage.  Shane Connolly was the lucky florist chosen to create design for the wedding of a lifetime.  He designed all the flowers for the Royal Wedding including Kate’s bouquet, she held a petite shield-shaped bouquet in ivory and white, not quite a teardrop, a little shorter.  It consisted mainly of delicate lily of the valley with some hyacinths, sweet william, ivy and myrtle.  Kate’s bouquet will have had a wonderful fragrance, as lily of the valley and hyacinth are highly scented.   The wired design was very understated and suited her vintage style dress perfectly.  All the flowers in the bouquet were chosen according to their significance for the Royal Family and the Middleton family, as well as their meaning according to the Language of Flowers.

Lily of the valley – return of happiness

Hyacinth (white) – constancy of love

Sweet William – gallantry

Myrtle – emblem of marriage, love

Ivy – fidelity, marriage, wedded love, friendship, affection

Kate’s sister Philippa wore a comb of lily of the valley in her hair.  The younger bridesmaids were cute as a button wearing circlet headdresses made from ivy and lily of the valley.  The bridesmaids carried tied posies of lily of the valley, hyacinths and sweet william.  The youngest bridemaids carried pomanders of the same flowers held on ivory ribbon.  The buttonholes were also made with lily of the valley.


The flowers in Westminster Abbey were all English grown, many from Royal Estates.  The aisle was lined with 20ft high English trees with growing lily of valley around the base.  The flower arrangements throughout the Abbey were made with ivory flowers incorporating lilac, wisteria, blossom and azalea in a very loose and natural style with lots of foliage including euphorbia, viburnum, beech and eucalyptus.

Even though William and Kate’s royal budget is out of the reach of most couples, there are always more economical ways to achieve your dream style..but that’s another blog.  I think today they showed the world a classic English wedding, and provided a lot of inspiration for a romantic vintage look.

Congratulations to William and Kate, I wish them long and happy life of love and laughter.

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