January is a month of few blooms here in New England. One must rely on indoor blooms to satisfy the senses. Usually that sense is sight but this Bloom Day I have a very special fragrant flower in bloom. A bloom with a story. About a year ago I read an article somewhere on plants which were sold in winter during Victorian times for indoor forcing. These plants were picked for fragrance and ease of bloom. One such plant which was often sold was the Lily of the Valley, Convallaria majalis. This shade plant grows with abandon in my garden. It tolerates dry shade and forms a lovely colony providing green ground cover for much of the season. The flowers bloom in May. Yes, the May of May Dreams. It has a fragrance unique unto itself and which once experienced is never forgotten. Last year's article remained in the recesses of my mind until Carol of May Dreams mentioned that she had bought some pips from White Flower Farm, a wonderful catalog supplier of plants. Since it was early December or so when she mentioned this, I went outside into the cold depths of the barren garden to that special place where the lily of the valley grow. There were a few tattered remnants of once lush leaves so I started to root around with the spade. Now, the pips of the lily of the valley are a bit smaller than the tip of your little finger but very identifiable. I scooped some up and brought them in the house not sure at all if they would bloom. Stuck in the urn in the entry, I decorated the urn with sheet moss and waited. Pips emerged. One pip has thus far resulted in flower. It is not full and lush but it is strongly scented although I will admit that I have to assume the prayer position in order to fully appreciate the fragrance. No matter, it is blooming, it is quite fragrant and it really is what May Dreams are made of. I owe a very big debt of gratitude to Carol for inspiring me to get out and dig. I have marked the calendar for next October to dig several pips, pot them up and bring them inside during the bleak months of winter. In the language of flowers, lily of the valley means purity and return of happiness. Everyone deserves a bit of happiness in their lives. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of experiencing the fragrance of lily of the valley, check out White Flower Farm and don't worry about that price. Some things are meant to be experienced at least once in lifetime. Happy Bloom Day!
The recent snow has receded and on Sunday the winds blew strong after Saturday's heavy rain. It felt more like March than mid-January. In the garden there are a few standing grasses, the ever present evergreen shrubs and trees and there are a multitude of seed heads. The variety of seed heads in the garden is quite amazing.
From the stiff and prickly coneflowers all the way to this gnarly seed head from the Sinocalycanthus chinensis or Chinese Wax Shrub. There is a world of shapes and sizes well in between these two dried garden offerings. The Chinese wax shrub is relatively new to North America. I bought my plant from a local wholesale grower in CT and according to their information it has only been in cultivation since 1980. The nursery first received a plant from the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and they have been propagating and selling it since. Chinese wax shrub is a lovely shrub with shiny green leaves and delicately pink flowers. There really are not tons of flowers on this shrub but it is showy with its elegant leaves. The flowers are just a bonus. They are fairly large. Two to three inches in diameter and they do look quite waxy giving credibility to the common name. I will enjoy the memory of them until they next appear. Small gardening chores can be done here when the weather permits. I have gotten rid of that pile of leaves on the left side of the top picture. There are more to rake if time and weather allows although everything was quite muddy on Sunday. It sounded like winter but felt like the winds of March. Winter is not even a month old but winter gets old very quickly. It is over two months until actual spring arrives. There are lots of catalogs to read and orders for seeds must be placed. The chores of summer and fall are a distant memory along with the muscle aches those chores generate and the feeling that there is never enough time in the day to get them all done. Now, I am itching to get back into the garden. I will have to settle for a visit to a greenhouse full of lush plants and heavy, moist air. Any suggestions?