Lily-of-the-valleyBotanical name: Convallaria...


April 06, 1991|By Amalie Adler Ascher


Botanical name: Convallaria majalis

Pronunciation: kon-va-LAH-ree-ia

Family: Liliaceae (Lily)

Origin: Europe, Asia, Eastern North America

Class: Perennial

Display period: Mid-May to mid-June

Height: 8 inches

Environment: Partial shade

Lily-of-the-valley grew under a great, wonderful Magnoligrandiflora in my garden. Each spring the plants faithfully appeared and then one year they failed to return. It was an old-fashioned flower that I'd taken for granted, but I didn't appreciate it until I'd lost it.

Now, after a 25-year absence, it's back again. This time, though, the plants are sitting on my window sill. An offering in a mail order catalog prompted me to send for a bowl planted with five pips, the creeping underground rootstocks from which lily-of-the-valley springs. Just water and watch the plants grow, the advertisement said. When flowering is done, you can plant "valleys" in the garden, thereby gaining a double use.

Pips used for forcing must be subjected to a cold period for at least eight weeks, according to Dr. August A. DeHertogh, a professor of horticulture at North Carolina State University and one of the foremost flower bulb researchers in the world.

To force valleys from the garden, Dr. DeHertogh says, dig plants in October (having marked their locations before they died down), shake off the soil, pack the roots in moist peat moss, enclose in a perforated plastic bag and store in the vegetable bin of your refrigerator. Don't let the moss dry out. For fullest display both in the ground and in a pot, set pips barely touching and just below the soil surface.

The beautiful, tiny, bell-shaped lily-of-the-valley flowers are said to have sprung from the tears the Virgin Mary shed at the Cross. Their sublime fragrance is called the lure that leads the nightingale to his mate.

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