May 1st celebrated in many ways around the world...I remember May 1st as May Day…a day to dance around the Maypole, celebrating spring and…having cake!! Usually a beautiful rich yellow cake slathered in fluffy white frosting covered with freshly grated coconut.
In France, May 1st is celebrated with the custom of giving little bouquets of Muguet or Lily of the Valley to friends and loved ones…and always a little sprig for yourself! On every street corner throughout France, vendors can be found selling these delightful little bouquets.
The flowers are sweetly scented tiny bell-shaped beauties that grow best in shady, moist conditions…I remember them covering the ground just under my Grandmother’s huge front porch and their fragrance lingering in the air for days. I planted a few “pips” in my garden several years ago and they now cover the entire spot every early spring. There are finally enough to pick a few sprigs for the tiny vase next to my bed…’till I’m ready to share!
There is something, to me, about all things French that make them stylish and ROMANTIC! I remember a May afternoon spent walking through a market in the south of France…a large woven basket, I still use for shopping, filled with some goat cheese wrapped in green fig leaves, a fresh still-warm baguette, a bottle of local Rose’, a few bars of handmade lavender soap and a new pair of red espadrilles and of course, a lovely bouquet of Muguet. Later, nearing dusk, we ambled down the lane towards a small stone house with lacy curtains fluttering in the breeze…our little cottage for the night! Roses clambered up the wall and eventually onto the roof…lavender just starting to bud…such wonderful fragrance added to a night sleeping with windows open to the night air.
ROMANCE…L’Amour, ah sigh…loves labors are never lost as one generation after another tend the same gardens, the same roses that climb ancient stone walls, the same fruit trees, the same vineyards and the same perfume makers in Grasse distill hand-picked summer blossoms…every spring and summer in Provence, the air is filled with the scent of flowers that inspire the romance of perfumes…such perfumes are one of France’s great gifts to the world!
Early blooming roses capture the beauty of spring, their delicate petals and fragrance always a delightful WELCOME to the season. “Autumn Damask”, a favorite antique or old European rose, has a strong fragrance used in making some of the finest perfume in the world…she blooms profusely in spring, followed by scattered blossoms through summer into fall. Every day during the first burst of blooms, I collect a few to use for drying…simply pull the petals away from the center stamen and spread them on a linen dish cloth, cover with another cloth and let them dry for several days. When completely dry, store in glass jars. I use them to make Rose Petal Scones for special friends and rose water for soaking hands and feet. Of course, you would only use the rose petals for cooking if grown organically.
Magic of May, a sweet idea…old wooden boxes can be used for growing annual herbs like sweet and cinnamon basil, cilantro, and parsley while perennial herbs such as sage, onion chives and thyme also work well in containers…the wooden boxes simply add a bit of nostalgia and vintage charm to your garden.
The right plants for your garden…many gardeners often choose plants based on what they want rather than actual growing condition…such are the quirks of human nature. I stress the need to learn to love the plants that do well where you live…ADAPT! That’s why I often use and suggest using containers to grow plants that prefer a different or less acidic soil than what I have…and I can move them around as needed.
especially clematis! In this photo, a fragrant pink clematis climbs
up the wall clinging to a trellis by the open window…ferns at the base simply add the lovely green ruffle to cover the vine legs. Clematis vines can be fragile and initially need to be guided onto a trellis. Each season I do trim them back by about 1/3, depending on bloom time and variety. a clematis adds much needed bloom, scent and upward direction. Choose several to use around the garden but don’t forget one of the best…Sweet Autumn Clematis…a late summer into fall, very fragrant white blooming paniculata !
March was lions, lambs and hares…April showers and cool temperatures…May will bring magic and springtime and blooms…
“Every flower is a soul blossoming in Nature…” Ge’rard De Nerval