Gardening for Health

Enjoy the Spring Bloom 

By Maria Price 

Annapolis is a wonderful town to see May Day baskets carefully displayed on people’s doors. I certainly feel like celebrating May’s flowers after the long COVID-winter of torrential rain and wind.  

Every day we have new things blooming thanks to the heat. So, enjoy your garden and the flowers it produces and then spread the joy to others. It certainly has not been a fun year but flowers can turn things around. 

Although not as popular in America as it is in European countries, May Day is a day of celebrating spring, fertility and femininity. It is celebrated on May 1 and the history of the holiday goes back to Roman times as a festival of flowers. This was a five-day festival in honor of the goddess Flora with offerings of flowers, dancing, ringing bells, May queens and dancing around the maypole. The night before, men would strip a birch tree (the maypole) and stake it in the ground. Long ribbons were tied to the pole and each dancer would weave a ribbon in a pattern around the pole. I remember doing this when I was in elementary school in Anne Arundel County.  

The Celts of the British Isles believed May 1 to be the most important day of the year, when the festival of Beltane was held. This May Day festival was thought to divide the year in half, between the light and the dark. 

The other European tradition that has survived is the hanging of May baskets on doorknobs. People make small baskets filled with treats or flowers to give secretly to friends and neighbors. It is customary to leave the basket on the doorstep of a neighbor or friend, ring the doorbell and run away. If the friend catches you before you get away, you must give them a kiss. 

May Day baskets are fun and easy to make and are a great arts and crafts activity to make with children. A piece of colored paper rolled into a cone can be a simple basket or you can use a recycled Easter basket.  A small plastic cup or empty pill bottle can be put inside the cone or basket or use a small piece of floral foam. Add water and tape some ribbons to the cone. Cut your favorite blossoms and fill your basket. Flowers that hold up well are azaleas, rhododendrons, tulips, narcissus, lilacs, early roses, columbines, snowball viburnums, bleeding hearts, forget-me-nots, irises and English wood Hyacinth.  

Surprise someone this spring with a May basket from your garden.