||When Lilies of the Valley are in bloom, we know spring is
It was called The House on the Wall because
it was built on a knoll and fortified by field stones, and it belonged to my
favorite aunt. In spring and summer the wooden fence was covered with flowering
pink and white Rugosa Roses; their colorful branches almost touched the street
below. The house with its dark brown gable and blue shutters could
easily be recognized from the valley; from the street just below, it was hidden by
an ivy- covered wall and large fir trees. A squeaking, black, cast iron
door, usually left ajar, was the entrance to my childhood paradise. After the
first steep rise, the stairs became more level, cutting through a small
hillside. Starting in early May this whole area was covered with hundreds of
white bells and their green, pointed leaves.
My birthday is during that time, and I was about five when my aunt gave me the
first nosegay. From then on lilies of the valley were part of my celebration.
Sometimes, depending on weather, they had to be picked from a sunny spots, yet
barely opened; other springs, the last few bells were waiting on the shady patch
underneath the trees. Whatever gift I was given, the fragrant flowers accompanied
When we got married, my husband continued this tradition. It was not always easy,
particularly when we lived in California while he went to school. During those
years he gave me picture postcards with lilies of the valley. Later he'd call a
florist friend well before my birthday to make sure she would find a few stems.
Several times he brought me a bunch from Europe. He placed them carefully in a
bed of damp paper towels inside a Tupperware container and looked forward to seeing
my shiny eyes.
When we moved to Washington, we learned that here again lilies of the valley can
be planted outside. On my first birthday here I received a flower pot with
several blooming plants, which found their home underneath our cedars. The
following year we watched them grow, watched the leaves appear, then tiny little
knots announce the flowers, and two days later they were gone. A slimy track
told us where they had ended.
How surprised I was to find a large bouquet of the most beautiful flowers on my
birthday table; my beaming husband next to it. He couldn't wait to tell his
story. He had already stopped at the second flower shop to search for lilies of
the valley, but to no avail. A woman customer saw his disappointment and offered him
her lily patch to pick from. He followed her home to an abundance of flowers.
From that time on they meet once per year in her garden, and she is happy to
share her delicate flowers with him as a symbol of love.
After the warm spring in 2004, the lilies of the valley already were withered
when my birthday rolled around. This time our friendly supplier gave my husband
several lily patches, complete with soil and bulbs, which my husband planted
For the first time in my life, the fragrant,
little white bells, that enhance the coffee table in the family room, come from
our own garden.