Like gemstones, flowers also have associated months - typically each month has two flowers. The month of May is represented by lily of the valley and hawthorn. Both of these flowers are sweet, and are said to embody the hopes and dreams of those who give them as gifts.
While poisonous if consumed, the lily of the valley has signified the return of happiness since the Victorian times - most likely because of its blooming in spring as the warmer weather returns.
It appears throughout historical mythology with similar stories and meanings:
- German myths portray them associated with humility and purity
- Christianity explains Eve’s tears in the Garden of Eden as turning into lily of the valley
- It is also often linked to the second coming of Christ
It has continued to be popular throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. The scent was replicated by Dior in the 1950s as its classic scent Diorissimo - because the flower was Christian Dior’s favourite. Around this time it was also used in the wedding bouquet of Princess Grace of Monaco and, in 2011, it featured in Kate Middleton’s bridal bouquet
Similarly, the hawthorn plant symbolises hope and even supreme happiness - gifting it to someone means you want only the best for them. Hawthorn is a thorny shrub and part of the rose family - its flowers can be red, white, or pink and its small fruits are known as haws.
Abundant in English hedgerows, hawthorn is associated with the festival of spring and Celtic mythology describes it as one of the most sacred trees. Originally they were used to make Maypoles. Impressively, they can grow up to 45 feet tall and for over 400 years so a plant alive today could have been planted during the reign of King Charles I.
It may be popular with birds, but many also know it as a Fairy Tree - with the small mythical creatures acting as the plant’s guardians. Brides are welcome to ‘politely collect’ the flowers and include them in crowns to symbolise a union of love.
The ideas of rebirth and fresh hope in this month’s flowers also tie nicely in with May’s birthstone, emerald.