One of the most charming, if not endearing, childhood traditions has to be the creation and delivery of May baskets. While the annual May 1 tradition has dipped a bit in popularity, we think it’s time, especially as we look for ways to reconnect with neighbors and friends, to escort the custom back to the fore.
One is never too old to appreciate finding a delightful basket of spring flowers or delicate sweets attached to a home’s doorknob or poised on the front step. Confections aren’t hard to find, but it’s a bit early for cutting gardens.
Lesa Fenwick owner/florist with Candlelight Floral & Gifts shows us how purchased flowers can add a personalized touch to May baskets—perfect for friends, family, coworkers, teachers or anyone deserving of a day brightener.
While we can agree that most, if not all, flowers are delicate treasures to behold, some varieties lend themselves to May baskets. “Hardy flowers and fillers would work best—asters, chrysanthemums, baby’s breath and statice,” Fenwick says, noting that fresh roses or spray roses can survive for a bit out of water, and eucalyptus varieties are good fillers because they dry so nicely. “I would definitely avoid sensitive flowers, like hydrangeas, snapdragons and lilies (those are toxic to kitty cats),” she says.
With the flowers chosen, what’s the next step? “The ‘baskets’ we make here in our shop always have floral foam in them to give the flowers a water source,” Fenwick says. “They would then be set on a doorstep, rather than hanging on the doorknob.” For those who want to go the more traditional route of hanging the basket from a doorknob, she recommends placing water tubes on the ends of the flower stems or wrapping the stem ends with a very moist piece of paper toweling before placing in a handled container.
To elevate the bouquet and add layering, Fenwick suggests using additional elements. “We always have fun add-ons on hand, like pheasant feathers, lotus pods [and] curly willow branches.” And she notes some clients like to sprinkle the bouquet with an extra helping of sweetness by adding chocolates or other candy to the delivery.
While not every region in the country celebrates with May baskets (“To be honest, I’d never heard of them until I started working here,” Fenwick says.), the staff at Candlelight embraces the tradition. “We like to assist customers in surprising their friends and family on May Day, but I tend to surprise my friends and family with flower gifts all year long,” Fenwick says.
Candlelight Floral & Gifts
850 E. Lake St., Wayzata; 952.473.2564; candlelightfloral.com
It’s All in the Delivery
Sources note that May baskets have roots in a pagan festival, marking spring’s arrival. Modern incarnations find folks leaving May baskets for a sweetheart (secret or otherwise!) with a quick “knock knock” on the door or ring of the doorbell before dashing off to avoid being caught (sometimes with a kiss!) by the recipient.
Today’s version affords the giver to take any delivery avenue. But, in our eyes, the element of a sweet surprise sprinkled with mystery always adds a touch of whimsy and fun to any tradition.
Art to Heart
Kori Brown, visual art teacher, shares an idea for an upcycled basket that’s fun for kids to make.
- Colorful magazines
- Masking tape
Cut three-inch strips from magazines. Fold strips in half (long way). Unfold, creating a center crease. Fold the edges toward the crease, and fold it in half. Glue the strip together. Make at least 22 strips. Lay seven strips side by side, taping the strips to a hard surface to hold them in place. Take all but six of the remaining strips and weave them (over, under, over), using glue every so often to secure in place. Once dry, bend (up) the edges of the strips. Take the remaining six strips and glue three together to create longer strips. Use those long strips to continue to weave, going up the sides. Trim extra material, leaving enough to fold over a bit. Add tape on the top to secure it. To make a handle, create two more strips, and glue them together. Adhere them to the basket’s side.