Bouquet at Your Door: May Basket

“As full of spirit as the month of May, and gorgeous as the sun in Midsummer.”

William Shakespeare


The May Day basket is but a forgotten rite of spring in North America.  In this charming tradition, a small bouquet of flowers is hung on a neighbor’s door to welcome spring.  The giver remains anonymous so that there is no reciprocity expected.  It is a small floral gift to brighten the recipient’s day.

Traditionally the bouquets are held in small paper cones, hung with ribbon.  See my “how to” instructions on making the paper cones here.  Any household containers can be used as a May Basket.  An empty aluminium can with hammered holes on its side threaded with ribbon makes a unique bouquet holder.  Jelly jars with wire or ribbon/raffia/twine wrapped around the neck work well too as do baskets with handles.  Even an inverted party paper hat with the elastic replaced with ribbon can be totally charming repurposed as a May bouquet container.  I created several May Baskets to inspire yours.  Who will you surprise on May 1st?


A darling lilac bouquet in a glass bottle held by a jaunty lime green grosgrain ribbon.


An existing mesh vase with a hanging chain is filled with leucojum and Virginia bluebells.


Hanging on an outdoor shower door(surprise!) is a sunny bouquet of daffodils, pussywillow and  forsythia branches in a weathered tin basket bearing a cheerful morning greeting.


Not all May Baskets need to surprise on a front door. This dainty arrangement of tête à tête daffodils with muscari and scilla in a tiny vase is an intimate morning welcome on a bathroom cabinet door.


Paper cones created out of botanical wrapping paper are filled with a single stunning tree peony bloom(left) and a bundle of fragrant white lilacs(right) hung with pink satin ribbon.


A shed door gets into the spirit of May with a galvanized milk pail holding a bright bouquet of hyacinth, daffodils, pussy willow and forsythia tied on a vintage pitch fork adorning the door.


A classic “bouquet de muguet du premier mai”:  Lily-of-the-Valley wrapped simply in brown paper and hung with a length of twine on a garden spade door knocker is my absolute favorite~Which bouquet was your favorite?

“Another May new buds and flowers shall bing:  Ah! why has happiness no second spring?” Charlotte Smith

21 thoughts on “Bouquet at Your Door: May Basket

  1. Loved the one you brought over to Lynne’s house the best! That’s because I could smell it…. These are all uplifting and lovely! Jacqueline

    On Thu, Apr 28, 2016 at 3:06 PM, French Gardener Dishes wrote:

    > Johanne Lamarche posted: “”As full of spirit as the month of May, and > gorgeous as the sun in Midsummer.” William Shakespeare The May Day basket > is but a forgotten rite of spring in North America. In this charming > tradition, a small bouquet of flowers is hung on a neighbor’s do” >

  2. What a wonderful tradition that is; to truly give just to brighten someone’s day without anything in return!!! The tradition is so touching, and your baskets are all very beautiful. Your neighbours are so lucky, Johanne. xoxo

    • Thank you Pang! My neighborhood garden club does a fund raiser for a local arboretum and sells May Baskets which we all hang on our mailboxes. It is really lovely to see!

      Johanne Lamarche


  3. I love the idea of the May flower basket tradition…when we first moved into our home…when the neighborhood was small and cozy…a friend and neighbor went to all the houses on our street and left a small basket of flowers on each of our doors! I was so thrilled as I did not know about this tradition. Great story and post as always. Thanks

    • That must have been so welcoming and inspiring Teresa! Has the tradition been kept up in your neighborhood? Many people have shared stories and it seems families with children have been the ones to keep the tradition alive. In our neighborhood there is a garden club that makes and delivers May baskets as part of a fundraiser for a local arboretum. Driving home tonight, it was so nice to see dozens of these darling baskets hanging from mailboxes as they were delivered today. Thank you for sharing your memory.

      Johanne Lamarche


  4. What a feast for the eyes Johanne! I can just imagine driving through your neighborhood and catching glimpses of all these beautiful bouquets. I am pretty partial to lilacs too, I picked some from Goodstay Gardens last week, too bad they didn’t last as long. Love yours, the color is so striking and I’m sure the scent intoxicating!

  5. Hello Johanne,

    I know of this tradition dating back to the Victorian Era. It is such a sweet gesture and sad that it is no longer practiced. I do this for a couple of my neighbors each spring. I try to keep some traditions alive.

    Your photos are a treat for the soul and eyes. Thank you for remembering such a lovely part of history.

    Warm regards,


    • Hi Janet, How lucky for your neighbors! Have your neighbors figured out who makes this lovely bouquets for them? I hope you get a surprise delivery of a May basket as well! I wrote more extensively about the origins of the tradition last year. It actually goes back 400 years to Roman times! Our neighborhood garden club has revived it in an annual fund raiser where they sell baskets to us. I love driving around the neighborhood and seeing so many lovely baskets hanging from mailboxes! Here is a link to the longer article in case you are interested in it. Happy May Day!

      Johanne Lamarche


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