One of the first flowers in May is the beloved lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis).
With its fresh, green, earthy beauty with honeyed undertones, it has been a favorite fragrance for centuries.
Lily of the valley is grown in cooler climates and prefers the partial shade of a woodland setting. It spreads via its underground stems called rhizomes. It can take a few years to get established, but once it is, it will spread far and wide.
According to Elanour Sinclair Rohde, in her book, The Scented Garden, “The lily-of-the-valley is, I think, the very first of the flowers whose scent is a true summer scent, for the May lily, as our ancestors called it, never flowers till the bitter winds we so often get in late spring are over. When the lily of the valley flowers we know in truth that summer has come.”
Its flowers hang, with each bell consisting of six florets with edges that turn back into six small scallops. While there is no honey in the flowers, there is a sweet sap stored in tissue at its base which is very attractive to bees. They also visit to collect its pollen.
Lily of the valley flowers contain extremely minute amounts of oils, making them too labor intensive to pick as each floret opens at different times. Any perfume with lily of the valley notes means that it is a combination of other natural oils, such as rose and jasmine. There is no lily of the valley absolute or essential oil.
Hydroxycitronellal is widely considered to be the aroma chemical material closest to the scent of Lily of the Valley, although its use is limited by IFRA restrictions to 1% of the finished fragrance.
Diorissimo, composed by Edmond Roudnitska in 1956, is generally referred to as the gold standard for lily of the valley perfumes.
At Indigo, our favorite lily of the valley perfume is by Floris London. Lily of the Valley was created in 1847 and is a true soliflore that is as close to the real flower as one can get. Its sillage and longevity are medium. It is a refreshing floral to wear on a spring or summer day. It is also the perfect office fragrance.
Perle de Mousse, authored by Bertrand Duchaufour in 2012 for Ann Gerard, is an artistic interpretation of lily of the valley. It is a memorable green chypre that begins with green galbanum and bubbly aldehydes, with a heart of lily of the valley, rose and tuberose. Its base notes include ambergris, musk and vanilla. Its longevity is outstanding, its sillage is very good.
Stilettos on Lex is a lively fruit and floral bouquet that starts off with pear and plum liquor. Lily of the valley joins the heart notes, along with rose, heliotrope, iris and carnation and is followed by a base of musk, patchouli, vanilla and Atlas cedar wood.
What is your favorite lily of the valley scent?