Monday, March 10, 2014

Keep Calm and Think Spring

Recently I saw an image that said, "Keep Calm and Think Spring." After the long and cold winter it has been, I think we are all beginning to think spring. Actually, it is probably more than just thinking of spring. It is needing spring. As such, we begin to look for those harbingers of spring -- and we all have specific ones we look for.

When I think of early spring, I begin to think of certain flowers blooming and certain animals making their appearance. Last spring I wrote about Turkey Vultures making their spring return appearance. On another blog, I've also written about Pussy Willows BloomingSeeing Spring Ephemerals, and other signs of spring.

But today, I'm thinking about the late spring sights. I guess I'm tired of winter's browns and grays and need that emerald green of verdant May. So what do I think of in bloom come mid to late May? Many things to be sure! But today the mid to late spring sight that is on my mind is the Lily-of-the-Valley. Give them a shady spot, and they will fill the area with their tulip-like leaves and racemes of tiny bell-like flowers. The best part of these flowers, is their scent. It is heavenly and rich and it always reminds me of being a kid for my mom had these in her gardens. I loved picking a few to make a tiny bouquet for her. She had a special little bud vase for such tiny bouquets. Despite their petite size, these bouquets would perfume a room.

A few lily-of-the-valley tips:

  • They do spread via rhizome so take care of placement for they will crowd out other plants, weeds and other flowers alike. Can be a blessing and a curse so add wisely. 

  • Unlike many shade loving plants, these plants can tolerate a dry shade. In shady areas near your house's foundation, downspouts, under bushes, etc. where little else can grow, these plants can survive and thrive.

  • All parts of these plants including the red berry-like fruits are highly poisonous. The plant has at least 40 different cardiac glycosides. As you can guess, those compounds are not so good for the healthy heart.

    If you are worried about young children and poisonous plants, then skip this one. But as I've said before, you should be teaching your young children plant safety! I was picking bouquets of these when I was 4-5 years old for my mom. I didn't get poisoned for at that tender age I had already learned plant safety from my mom. In fact, she made sure to specifically tell us about lily-of-the-valley's poisonous nature. Don't dumb down things for your kids. Treat them like the intelligent, responsible people you want them to be. And always make a good hand-washing when coming in from outdoors a requirement like my mom did. 

  • With their tiny bells they make a great fairy garden plant.

  • The scent is intoxicating that no fake, store-bought lily-of-the-valley fragrance can compare to. If you have scent or moonlight garden, this is a must.

  • I like the standard white variety best, but other cultivars are available including double and pink flowers plus variegated foliage.