Solomon’s seal is one of those lifeenhancing plants which look tender and fragile, as though they required much nursing, but are in fact perfectly tough. They are hardy, perennial, will take to any soil, and spread readily if given a mulch of good leafy stuff in autumn, and a bit of shade. They like town or country life equally well. In fact, they behave just like lilies-ofthe-valley and belong to the same family, the Liliaceae.
Nothing is lovelier in late spring than their tall, arching, some 2 feet (60 cm) tall or more, clasped by long pointed all the way up between which hang clusters of small, tubular white tipped with green. They are perfect for , and even the most ham-fisted flower arranger, such as myself, will produce an elegant vase with Solomon’s seal and some sprays of green foliage. Plant the 18 inches (45 cm) apart. Perhaps with a group of hostas in front and a shade-giving shrub behind, such as X arguta. Or, if the soil is moist enough, you could plant it with ferns. It is a mistake to plant with lilies-ofthe-valley, as is sometimes suggested, for the two plants will spread at the same rate, and will have to compete for the available space.
Solomon’s seal is a British native, and I used to pick it in an oak wood full of primroses,and violets, which is now swallowed up by a housing estate, and I often wonder if a few brave plants have pushed through the rubble to surprise the fortunate householder.
Solomon’s seal has a near and equally beautiful relative from North America, Smilacina racemosa, with similar leaves, but the stalks, about 4 feet (1.2 m) high, carry spikes of fluffy white flowers. Smilacina is more highly scented than Solomon’s seal, but unfortunately it will not endure lime.