May’s special flowers

lily of the valley
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To celebrate the 1st May enjoy these lovely flowers.

The Old Farmer’s Almanac identifies the Lily of the Valley and the Hawthorn as the special flowers for the month of May.

The lily of the valley signifies sweetness, humility, and a return to happiness.

lily of the valley
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The hawthorn plant represents hope and supreme happiness.

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I would far rather have two or three lilies of the valley gathered for me by a person I like, than the most expensive bouquet that could be bought! 

Elizabeth Gaskell, Wives and Daughters

lily of the valley
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The hawthorn whitens; and the juicy groves
Put forth their buds, unfolding by degrees,
Till the whole leafy forest stands display’d,
In full luxuriance, to the sighing gales.

James Thomson The Four Seasons 1730

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Do you know that well known Yorkshire adage

‘Ne’er cast a clout till May be out’.

I’ve always assumed that the saying refers to the month of May. Meaning May is out – the new month has begun.

In other words, don’t pack away your winter clothes until May 1st at the earliest.

But according to a BBC News Blog the reference is to May blossom: the blossom of the hawthorn hedgerows.

The Phrase Finder explains that the earliest known version of the rhyme dates from 1732 from a Dr. Thomas Fuller. Although it may have existed in word-of-mouth form well before that.

The same ambiguity is found in

April showers bring forth May flowers

which can also be read as either the month of May or as the May blossom of the hawthorn.

As it was Shakespeare’s birthday a few days ago it seems appropriate to quote Sonnet 18.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Elyse Bruce of the Historically Speaking Blog has an 1855 version of the rhyme from the Whitby Gazette and some more fascinating information on the subject of May blossom.

Happy May Day!

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