The Blue Flower

I love flowers. I love them in all the different shapes and sizes and colours, the way their petals are sculpted from within and without by the wind and the rain and the nutrients in the soil.

The poet Novalis, and other Romantics, wrote of a mysterious blue flower that was unattainable. CS Lewis picked up on Novalis’ blue flower and ran with it, focusing on the way it represents the beauty of Nature, which was always somehow unreachable, and therefore creates a longing (Sehnsucht) for beauty in the human soul.

A blue flower (German: Blaue Blume) was a central symbol of inspiration for the Romanticism movement, and remains an enduring motif in Western art today. It stands for desire, love, and the metaphysical striving for the infinite and unreachable. It symbolizes hope and the beauty of things.

Not for me the universal, Platonic ideal of the Blue Flower. What I love is blue flowers in all their variety and particularity.

For me, beauty is intrinsic to a particular being, not loaned to it by a Platonic Form of which it’s an imperfect reflection.

Each bluebell, with its bells flaring out just at the right moment.

I really miss the carpets of bluebells in English woodlands.

Here in Canada, there are these pretty little blue squills.

In Scotland and Northern England, the delicate harebell graces the uplands and grasslands:

And the intense blue of grape hyacinths can be seen in gardens in both Canada and the UK:

Later in the summer, there will be cornflowers (now sadly rare in England):

And the paler blue of chicory:

If I hadn’t seen one of these blue Himalayan poppies with my own eyes, I’d’ve thought it was photoshopped:

There are so many lovely blue flowers, and each is unique and special and beautiful in its own way.

The wonderful flowers of the Borage family, for example. The forget-me-not (whose name reminds us of the archaic language of flowers):

The borage flower itself, which is edible and used in cocktails. I love the hairy stems.

The deep blue of the flowers of Green Alkanet, which is used to make a green dye.

And a familiar garden plant, sometimes called ‘Joseph and Mary’, sometimes called litmus plant.

Even the fact that flowers are seasonal and don’t appear all year round is one of the things that makes them so precious.

One of my most treasured memories is coming upon a huge carpet of meadow cranesbill in Grandpont, Oxford (UK).

Now tell me which of these is the “perfect” blue flower, the Platonic ideal of the blue flower? They’re all amazing and wonderful and lovely, each in their own particular way. No need for mysterious unattainable blue flowers when there’s all this beauty right here on Earth.

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