Flowers of May and May Day Celebrations

The merry month of May seems to be a favourite time of year for many people. May Day celebrations herald the end of winter and the birth of a new year. The British countryside offers us much needed pops of colour with hedgerows and meadows brimming with wildflowers.

May Day Celebrations

May Day Celebrations

May has always been synonymous with love. A tradition that began with the ancient romans, May Day celebrations are held worldwide, promoting new life and fertility. In medieval times, tree dances would bring a community together and the May King and Queen, dressed in green, symbolising fertility. This would have stemmed from pagan times when trees were worshipped by the ancients. This tradition is still continued all over Europe, where maidens adorned with garlands of flowers, are seen dancing around a Maypole.

The Gaelic May Day festival of Beltane, is held on 1st May; midway between Spring and Summer. Likely referring to Belenus, the Celtic Sun God, it is associated with couples coming together and a celebration of fertility. Throughout history, May Day festivals have been seen as controversial. They were banned during the time of Oliver Cromwell and the Puritans, being seen as heathen. They were then brought back to life on the village greens, with ‘The Merry Monarch’, Charles II.

Green man

In the Middle Ages, images of ‘The Green Man’ were found in stretches of ancient woodland and he is often depicted as wearing hawthorn leaves and acorns, which are fertility symbols.

‘Jack in the Green’ Festivals are still popular in East Sussex, during May Day celebrations. Dating back to 1775, Jack originally danced with musicians, wearing a large framework of foliage. Folklore tells us he evolved from the chimney sweeps attempting to draw crowds and earn themselves money. Copying the milkmaids, who wore garlands of flowers and pails on their heads, Jacks’ costume needed to become more elaborate in order to draw more spectators. In the 1800’s, with Victorian sensibilities, the tradition of ‘Jack in the Green’ died out and May Day celebrations focussed on children dancing around a Maypole.

Nature offers up its’ own celebrations and sexual imagery is boundless at this time of year. The flower is the sexual organ of the plant, alluring and irresistible to insects with their sweet smelling scent. As insects visit and transfer pollen from one plant to another, they create a new generation. Nowhere is this better described than in the wonderful cinematic documentary, #WildIsles, by Sir David Attenborough. As the sun begins to shine and the flowers grow, we are reminded of the constant cycle of rebirth and we need only smile and watch it happen.

Spring flowers

Lilacs – photo by Julia Kicova

A Spring flower that has the sweetest smelling scent, is the Lilac. We recently added luxury lilac cushions in six different accent colours. The various colours have their own meanings; pink/purple for spirituality, blue for happiness and tranquility and white for purity

The Lilac or Queen of Shrubs, is also known by its’ greek name ‘Syringa Penda.’ Greek mythology suggests that the God of Forests and Fields, Pan, was in love with a nymph, Syringa. She disguised herself as a Lilac Bush in order to evade capture and Pan took a branch of the shrub to fashion his first panpipe. Revered for its’ scent by the Celts, Lilacs were also seen as a symbol of love, by the Victorians. Widows wore a sprig to show their loss and loyalty.

The humble Daisy, Chaucer’s favourite flower, was given the elevated status of ‘Earthbound Star,’ by the Poet Shelley. Its’ name derived from Day’s Eye, is suggestive of a small sun that opens early in the morning and closes at night.

The Dandelion has been named Dent de Lion, because of it’s beautiful sun-like heads and sharp leaves. The age-old tradition of children telling the time by blowing the seed heads, simply helps spread and pollinate them. Its’ healing properties have been used in teas, wine and even coffee grounds, as it has a high vitamin A and C content.

blue cornflower

The blue Cornflower is also known as Centaurea Montana, Mountain bluet, batchelor’s button and Montaine Knapweed. Greek Mythology tells us that Chiron used the plant to heal wounds. Folklore suggests that after picking off the florets, a maiden would put the rest of the flower in her blouse to see if it blossomed. If it had, she knew a man be on his way to ask for her hand in marriage.

We have a set of 4 mixed purple and blue accent glass coasters that celebrate these colours.

May is also #NationalWalkingMonth and nowhere is it better to go out in East Sussex to see bluebells in the woodlands than the National Trust gardens, Nymans and Sheffield Park, plus Wakehurst and Arlington Bluebell Walk. Beautiful Tulips, Azaleas, Lilac and Peonies are also out in full force.

The magnificent Peony is the official Emblem of China and is thought of as “most beautiful.” It was believed to be a divine plant, warding off evil spirits and banishing nightmares. Ground to a powder it was given to women after childbirth to aid recovery.


In many countries it is also #MentalHealthAwareness month. Stepping out into Nature and feeling its’ healing properties, is something anyone can benefit from.

Scatter seeds and help wildlife flourish in your own garden. At the Seedball website you can learn more about growing native wildflowers to increase our bee, butterfly and wildlife populations. It is also #NoMowMay. We are being encouraged to leave our lawns to grow long, providing a natural habitat for our wildlife and increasing the biodiversity for bees, birds and butterflies.

Choose your plants carefully with wildlife in mind. Bees live for less than 40 days and make less than 1 teaspoon of honey, although they visit at least 1,000 flowers during that time. Having a small garden pond encourages its’ own wildlife, attracting birds, frogs, newts. Not only does it add a lovely focal point, but surrounded by flowering and moist loving plants, it is a breeding ground for insects.

Weedkillers and pesticides are dangerous for small animals, Hedgehogs, for example, eat up to 100 invertebrates at night.

Our biggest British May celebration this year will be The Coronation of King Charles III. Charles is a fan of Delphiniums, renowned for their rich hues. He refers to them as having “Impeccable bearing,” so no doubt they will feature heavily in Spring bouquets throughout the #CoronationCelebrations.

Share the love!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Basket
Scroll to Top