Lily of the Valley

Lily of the Valley

Common Name: Lily of the Valley or Lily-of-the-Valley[1]

Scientific Name: Convalaria majalis

Jefferson recorded lily-of-the-valley as early as 1771 in a list of hardy perennial flowers suitable for Monticello.[2] He also ordered roots from Bernard McMahon in 1809.[3] This well-known flower, native to Great Britain, is a universal favorite and has been in gardens since the 16th century.[4]. Williamsburg's John Custis first mentioned it around 1738, and by 1829, flowers in white, double white, and rose red were known.[5] In the late 19th century it became an important florist flower and was produced in immense quantities. Plant the growing tip of the rhizome just below soil level in a well-prepared bed. The foliage begins to go dormant by early fall, dying completely to the ground.

Lily of the Valley is a hardy, herbaceous, late-spring-flowering perennial with fragrant, nodding, white, bell-like flowers and large, dark green, lance-like foliage. The plant was used to help with headaches, hysteria, fainting, sprains, cholic, and love potions.[6]

Primary Source References[7]

1808 December 19. (Ann Cary Randolph Bankhead to Jefferson). "I would be much obliged to you if you will send me in a letter some of the ice plant seed a Lady here has Lost it & is to give me a few roots of the Lily of the valley..."[8]

Footnotes

  1. This section is based on a Center for Historic Plants Information Sheet.
  2. Betts, Garden Book, 24. Manuscript and transcription at the Massachusetts Historical Society.
  3. Edwin M. Betts, Hazlehurst Bolton Perkins, and Peter J. Hatch, Thomas Jefferson's Flower Garden at Monticello, 3rd ed. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1986), 57.
  4. David Stuart and James Sutherland, Plants from the Past: Old Flowers for New Gardens (London: Penguin Books, 1989), 107.
  5. Ann Leighton, American Gardens in the Eighteenth Century (Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1986), 410.
  6. Stuart and Sutherland, 107, and Alice M. Coates, Flowers and their Histories (London: Black, 1968), 57.
  7. Please note that this list should not be considered comprehensive.
  8. Betts, Garden Book, 382.

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