Flower Tales-Borage


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The end of each season of flower gardening lives on in thoughtful gardeners’ memories.

 ~Robin Lane Fox

 

 

In late fall, the last flower blooming in my garden for the pollinators, besides roses, was borage.  And I never planted any of the borage…well I did not plant the borage this past year.  I planted it the year DSCN9109before in 2013.  And they self-seeded so much, they took over half of a 4ft x 8ft raised bed, and also grew in front of it.  I hated having to remove so many to make room for veggies.  And I hope they return. 

Borage or Borago officinalis is an herb that is native to the Mediterranean region.  Specifically it was thought to originate in Syria, and then naturalize throughout Europe and the United States.  And while some gardeners may consider it a nuisance plant, I prize borage for its stunning flowers, its ability to self-seed and how the pollinators are drawn to it.

As I write this month’s flower tale, I am linking in for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day (GBBD) hosted by Carol@May Dreams Gardens on the 15th of each month.  And I am also linking in with Judith@Lavender Cottage who hosts Mosaic Monday.

 

 

 

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Borage goes by many names:  burrage, common bugloss, bee-bread, bee fodder, ox’s tongue, and cool tankard.  It is also known as starflower which refers to the shape of the flower.

There seem to be many ideas about how borage got its name.  The most popular is that it comes from the Italian word borra, the French word bourra or the Latin word burra, all meaning ‘wool.’  These words all refer to the hairs that cover the plant’s stems and leaves.  

 

 

 

Growing Conditions

DSCN5620Borage will grow 3 ft high and 2 ft wide if given enough sun and moisture.  And it will flower from June until the first hard frost.  It is a true annual flower as the original plants die, but reseed in the same area to come back the next year as new plants.  It is said that if you deadhead or cut the flowers they will bloom longer, but mine bloomed prolifically without any cutting.  And it is suggested that you stagger the planting times so you can have a longer bloom period.

As borage grows taller, it tends to get top heavy.  But if you pinch them back, it can help keep them upright, as can planting them in a mostly sunny location.

Borage is best grown from seed.  If you want to harvest the leaves for use, do it early because as they DSCN6080grow larger they become bristly.  I have to use rose gloves to handle borage as it feels like I am handling a cactus when I have to prune or pull mature plants that have leaves up to 5 inches long.

The flowers are a beautiful blue color.  Sometimes though I do get a few pink blooms.  White borage can also be found as a cultivar. 

Borage is usually problem free, although I have had deer who like to eat these prickly plants.

 

 

 

Folklore and Tales

DSCN9427Ancient Greeks are said to have used borage to bring joy, get rid of melancholy and comfort the heart. 

Since the Middle Ages, borage leaves have been used in herbal medicine and as a potherb in soups and stews. 

Borage leaves and flowers were also mixed with wine to make what was called, “cool tankard” or “claret cup.”

In Iran, people still use borage as a tea to relieve ailments such as colds, flu and bronchitis. And borage tea, is said to promote better circulation and getting more oxygen to the heart.

 

 

 

Uses

DSCN6077Borage is usually grown as an herb and for its edible flowers and leaves that have a cucumber-like taste.  Some use the flowers as a garnish or both flowers and leaves in salad.  In some European countries borage is used in sauces, to flavor pickles and in some pasta dishes.  The plant is also commercially cultivated for borage seed oil. 

As with any edible flower use them sparingly until you know how they affect you. 

Borage is also used as a companion plant in the vegetable garden especially with tomatoes.  It is said to confuse the hornworm moths and improve the growth of tomatoes, although this has not been substantiated.  I like to use borage in the veg garden as it is great for drawing in pollinators.

Currently there are a few studies showing that borage may be useful in treating osteoporosis. 

 

 

 

Language of Flowers

DSCN8631Borage is said to stand for heavy heartedness and lack of confidence when facing challenges.  And it is said to fill your soul with optimism and enthusiasm

In The Language of Flowers it also stands for:  bluntness, abruptness and rudeness.

 

 

 

 

 

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Do you grow borage?  If you do, does it self-seed in your garden?

 

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In A Vase On Monday 

 

When we had our thaw a couple of weeks ago, I was able to spot a few foliage plants I wanted to use in a small vase.  So I waited for the sun and a bit of a warm up to almost 32 degrees.  Then I dug up a few pieces and snipped a few branches.  I warmed everything by putting it in cool water and was able to make this little vase.  

 

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I used several small branches of one of my unnamed lavenders.  Then I surrounded it with a lamium groundcover and a few clumps of a purple-leaf Ajuga.  Not sure which cultivar of either plant that I planted 8 years ago.

 

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The vase is another small Belleek vase that was a gift.  And while I love the vase, I thought it might look great if I put the vase in this silver distressed candle holder I received as a gift.  I photographed the vase in natural light, under a lamp and in the turquoise bathroom that has a southern exposure.  I love how the foliage looks in all the different locations.  

I am joining in with Cathy@Rambling in the Garden for her wonderful meme, In a Vase on Monday.

 

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Next up on the blog:  

Next Monday, I will have a Garden Book Review, and next Wednesday I will have another Stuck Foot post.

I am linking in with Michelle for her Nature Notes meme at her new blog just for Nature Notes.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Tuesday. 

 

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I am also joining in I Heart Macro with Laura@Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2015.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only. 

 

 

104 comments

  1. Christina says:

    People here in Italy use the leaves of Borage as an appetizer by deep flying the batter covered leaves. It is delicious but not so healthy! In the UK the leaves and flowers are one of the ingredients of Pimms, a favourite summer drink.

    • Donna says:

      I imagine how yummy those borage leaves are deep fried but boy too much borage can make you sick. I had heard of Pimms, but did not know it had borage as an ingredient….thanks for sharing these specific uses Christina. It’s why I love doing these profiles…I learn so much more.

  2. Eileen says:

    A lovely flower and plant.. I have not heard of Borage a new bloom for me..Interesting learning this plants uses and language.. Thanks for sharing. Have a happy day and week ahead!

  3. Alistair says:

    I like Borage Donna, didn’t know it had so many attributes, some not half contradictory. Well, I am steering clear of bluntness and abruptness, just in case its too close to home. Yes, I’m going with *** optimism and enthusiasm, ah, that feels better.

    • Donna says:

      I am with you Alistair…optimism and enthusiasm. And borage certainly gives me these feelings in my garden as it blooms forever (almost) and looks gorgeous.

  4. Judith@Lavender Cottage says:

    I’d love to grow borage Donna but it self seeds like crazy in the gardens here. I want those pretty blooms to top salads and float on cold iced tea. How about growing it in a container and pinching back for height – does anyone grow it in pots do you think?
    Thanks for linking to Mosaic Monday.

  5. Barbarapc says:

    Hi Donna, a belated Happy New Year! Adore the colour of borage, one of the most beautiful blues on earth. Sadly haven’t had the room in my limited sunny areas – however, with that tree coming down, and a redesign in my future, I’m thinking this would be a good beefy plant to use while I’m waiting for other things to get bigger in the new gardens!
    Barbarapc

    • Donna says:

      Happy New Year Barbara…borage is a great addition and will probably live on year after year self-seeding unless you deadhead it…can’t wait to see the new garden.

  6. susan troccolo says:

    I love borage and do plant it with my vegetable garden. It’s color is almost unearthly, as shows in some of the first photos here. I guess that means I’m one more person with the word-of-mouth knowledge that the borage MAY have helped my tomatoes. It’s all word of mouth anyway with herbs, yes? When was your birthday Donna? I’d like to know for next year! A belated happy birthday to you.

    • Donna says:

      Susie my birthday is May 26th so it is smack in the middle of spring when the early veg garden is growing and we are harvesting lettuce and radishes and the garden suddenly bursts with lilies-of-the-valley, and irises, creeping phlox…and so much more.

  7. Cathy says:

    In some years you will see borage grown as a crop round here – presumably for the seeds which contain the highest natural known source of Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA), a fatty acid essential for human health. It is surreal to see blue fields along with the usual green and also the yellow of oil seed rape. The relative lack of material at this time of year really concentrates the mind – but shows how even the smallest of vases with the simplest of contents brings the pleasure that we seek on a Monday. Your herby vase is lovely – and good to see it against different backgrounds. Thanks for sharing it Donna.

    • Donna says:

      I think the borage seed oil is a by product of growing the borage for the GLA…amazing sight I am sure to see all the blue flowers. I am glad you liked my little offering Cathy…it is just amazing what we can find for a simple sweet vase.

  8. Debra says:

    I am so sad to say I tried to grow borage last year but wasn’t successful. It is so depressing when an easy to grow plant fails!!!! I am still not sure what the problem was. Maybe I’ll try another location sometime. Love borage. It is one of my favourites.

  9. Donna says:

    I will tell you Debra I had several failed attempts when I tried to grow it in the ground. So I moved to growing them in a raised bed and was successful. And mine have self-seeded to the ground around the raised bed now. Try a container and keep it well watered in loamy soil and in sun.

  10. Kris P says:

    The foliage bouquet is wonderful Donna. Now, that’s thinking outside the box! I planted borage from seed a few years ago as well and it dutifully comes back. It looks great in spring but get’s tatty here in the summer’s scorching heat – I just pull it out then, confident in the belief that it will find it’s way back and it hasn’t disappointed me yet.

  11. Island Threads says:

    Donna another lovely post, I do like your herb and wild flower posts, I knew you could eat the flowers and did when I grew some back in the seventies but I didn’t know the leaves were also edible, thanks for all the info and it is interesting reading some of the extra info from your readers in the comments, Frances

    • Donna says:

      Oh how very nice of you to say so Frances…I have eaten a few of these flowers in salad….I had no idea about the leaves either. The best part of these posts are the comments adding to the interesting information about the plants and how others have grown or used the flowers.

  12. Cathy says:

    I love borage too, both as a flower and as herb. It is called “cucumber herb” here, and added to cucumber salad and very finely shredded to lettuce too. None of mine reappeared last year, so it seems they only seed themselves out if the conditions are just right here. You have included lots of interesting information about it! Your vase is lovely too Donna – so glad you have managed to find some pretty foliage in your winter garden.

    • Donna says:

      Oh that is too bad about yours not reseeding. This fall before the cold weather hit, mine was already reseeding like crazy in the raised beds. I already had to pull some out so I can plant veggies next year.

      I have only had them grow like crazy in my raised veg beds…I love that they use them in salads there.

  13. Susie says:

    Your foliage vase is quite inspired. Wonderful colors and textures. Also enjoyed reading about borage. I might like to have it but am timid to add anything that might self seed too easily. Is it one of those plants that’s easy to remove if it grows too generously?

  14. Pam's English Garden says:

    I grew borage for the first time in 2014, Donna. I grew it in a grow box and it was lovely — quite large, shading the vegetables I planted next to it. I learned that I must give it its own space, so I wont plant anything else in that particular box, if it reseeds. I hope it does. P. x

  15. Julie says:

    What a good idea to photograph your vase in different locations Donna – it changes the result so much. I love your little vase in both of its containers! I grew borage for the first time last summer so will have to wait and see how well it self seeds. I will sow some more just in case as I loved its true blue colour. Have you tried freezing the flowers in ice cubes for a pretty addition to summer drinks? The flowers also look lovely on a salad. I am on a mission to learn more about edible flowers – I would love to pick a Monday vase and then eat the contents on Tuesday!

    • Donna says:

      I have not tried freezing the flowers in ice cubes but will try it this summer. And I can’t wait to put so many lovely flowers in my salad again.

  16. Beth says:

    I like your vase, Donna! At my house all plants are under snow now! We got over 5″ last wknd. The borage flowers are pretty. I grew either borage or comfrey at one time; it self-sowed itself in the pasture behind our house, over 50 yards from the location where I’d planted it. (I thought it was borage, but as I’ve read about borage and comfrey now I think it probably was comfrey???) It was just way too invasive for me and I still have small plants of it that come up every year; I’ve been trying to get rid of it for more than 5 years. Crazy!

  17. catmint says:

    My experience of borage is that once you have it it’s hard to get rid of. Not that I want to get rid of it – like you, I love the plants and how they self seed. I do pull a lot out though when they start overpowering other growers. And because I don’t want them to take over the garden I’ve stopped putting the seed-heads in the compost. And as you say, the flowers look lovely in a salad.

  18. Kimberley at Cosmos and Cleome says:

    I’ve not planted borage, but now I will add it to my list of things to consider. The blue flowers are gorgeous.

    What a nice little vase you created! Good for you to venture outdoors and paw around in the snow to find your foliage! I keep saying I’m going to venture out and do the same, but so far have not. I did notice a couple weeks ago that my lavender still looked nice. Now you have me wondering about the ajuga and lamium up in the lasagna bed. We expect highs in the mid to upper 30s this weekend—I think that will be a good time to get myself out there to check!

    • Donna says:

      Have fun pawing through the snow and looking for some great treasures still of use in the garden Kimberley. I love it as it keeps me in the garden a bit still.

  19. Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern says:

    Borage, Donna! I see yours now returns. I haven’t planted borage since I planted Calendula – both overrun my Potager. I read sometime ago that Borage was a good companion for brassicas so I always try to prick a few volunteers to plant next to my brassicas. I know the bees LOVE Borage. I always feel guilty, too, because sometimes I just have to rip it out to make room for vegetables! I get a few bright pink-magenta blooms now and then but I love the shade of blue. I also love your arrangement – so creative! I love the milk vase, too. Hope you are staying warm and full of cheer. Sending sun rays your way.

    • Donna says:

      Thanks for the rays Kathy…been mighty cold but it won’t deter my borage. I think it does so well returning as I have the veg beds mulched all winter.

  20. rickii says:

    I became annoyed with borage for its reseeding ways in my urban garden. Now that I have lots of space I could let it roam free. Thanks for the reminder and all the lore. I used to freeze the blossoms into ice cubes to add to wine spritzers.
    Your herb bouquet is charming. I always like to keep an herb vase in the kitchen for impromptu seasoning.
    Thanks so much for visiting Sprig to Twig and leaving a comment so that I could find your lovely blog.

  21. Diana Studer says:

    I tried it, and lost it. Had a Swiss friend who cooked borage leaves with spinach. The flowers are so beautiful floated on a summer drink. Another one for my blue and herb garden.

  22. Stepheny Houghtlin says:

    I congratulate you on this beautifully presented blog with wonderful information and photographic support. Pinning a small corsage on your shoulder which includes a sprig of borage. Thank you for all the time and work you pour into these posts.

  23. Grace Peterson says:

    Hi Donna, I’m sorry I’ve been away so long. Borage is such a cool plant, isn’t it? I really should grow another plant or two just to make the bees happy. I had to laugh at the moniker “Cool Tankard.” How funny. Great post.

    • Donna says:

      Not so much hardy Nadezda but a prolific self seeder so as the original plants die in winter, they will have set many volunteers to grow in their place.

  24. Janet/Plantaliscious says:

    I had no idea borage was supposed to bring an end to melancholy! I love this plant Donna, and will be trying to remember to pinch mine out before they get too top heavy this year. This is one of those plants that I was worried I wouldn’t see again, despite being told it is a prolific self-seeder, just because I am so unused to plants self seeding. Or rather I was… My previous garden had heavy clay and borage never self seeded. Here, though, everything does, so I am confidently expecting a forest of borage seedlings again this Spring. Such a shame they are so unpleasant to handle though, but I can forgive them for that for those beautiful flowers, and the way they are such a bee magnet.

  25. Rose says:

    Thanks for all this great information on borage, Donna! I have tried to grow it from seed, but the only success I have had was a few spindly plants in a container last year. And yet I originally saw it in a garden where it had self-seeded with abandon. Maybe if I try planting it where I don’t really want it, it will do better:) Love those blue flowers!

  26. Helene says:

    Thanks for yet another lovely presentation of a plant I don’t grow, I have heard of borage but in my tiny garden I try to steer clear of prolific self seeders. It sure is pretty though and your lovely photos shows them off beautifully.

  27. Anna K says:

    Fabulous photos of a lovely flower. I don’t grow it – don’t have enough room or sun, but I feel like I’m missing out. Loved all the information you offered on it too! 🙂

  28. Indie says:

    I’m wondering if these were the clumps of blue flowers that I kept seeing growing wild along the roadside in Pennsylvania as we drove along. Such beautiful blue flowers! It is too bad we’ve stopped using and are now unfamiliar with so many of the old-fashioned uses of plants in food. I don’t know if I’d grow it in my garden, though – I’m too clumsy to grow many plants with prickles!

  29. Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti says:

    Borage has such pretty blue flowers. It looks so beautiful, and soft and fuzzy in your close up photos, Donna.

    I want to grow milkweed this summer to help the butterflies, but I’m sure the deer would eat even that. We had to encase all our shrubs in chicken wire this past week as two “resident” deer were eating them down to nubs.

    • Donna says:

      It is a bit deceiving Pat as Borage is not soft but bristly. As for your milkweed, do grow it. The deer will not eat it as it is poisonous to everyone but the monarchs.

  30. Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams says:

    I fell in love with the purple blue of the borage flower one day when I was going through a gardening catalougue…and have been in love ever since. I should put them on my list for plants this spring…thanks for the reminder.

    Jen

  31. debsgarden says:

    I am not at all familiar with borage, other than hearing of it. I have never tasted it, but I like its color! Your little arrangement is simple but very effective. I love the charming white vase!

  32. commonweeder says:

    I love your borage tale. And all your similar posts. They once more prove my thesis that a walk down the garden path takes you into many other lands – poetry – medicine – folk lore. And your arrangment is beautiful too. You cover a lot of ground. Thank you.

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