This flower is called the Melancholy Thistle.
People used to take it as a natural remedy to ease their sadness and depression, or melancholia, as it used to be called. In a lovely piece on what thistles to choose for your garden, Alys Fowler tells us that Nicholas Culpeper, an English botanist, herbalist, physician, and astrologer in the 17th century, said of this thistle, “It makes a man as merry as a cricket.”
I am sharing this photograph today, the 6th of July, for all of my friends and family who may be feeling melancholic – because it is my mother’s birthday – and the first one that we have experienced without her here with us.
And although I am feeling deeply sad today, the depth of colour and the fizzing explosion of energy in this thistle flower reminds me of the joyfulness of being with my Mum – with her humour, strength and complete commitment to living life to the full – and so it feels an appropriate flower for today on that count, as well as for its name.
It nurtures, too; again, like Mum. Butterflies and bees flock to drink its nectar, and finches are particularly attracted to it. Mum was always open to anyone who wanted to stop for a chat and a cuppa. And it is the only thistle without spines – open to whatever the world throws at it, as Mum was too. What better way to be?
Here are two photos of Mum. First, as a young nurse with a cheeky smile on her face. And then in 2009, in Brighton – where my daughter Amie and I took her for her birthday treat – with the same lovely smile shining bright.
Love you always, Mum.