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 before 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 [email protected]May Dreams Gardens on the 15th of each month. And I am also linking in with [email protected]Lavender Cottage who hosts Mosaic Monday.
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.
Borage 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 grow 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
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.
Borage 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
Borage 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.
Do you grow borage? If you do, does it self-seed in your garden?
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.
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.
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.
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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