Monday, 18 November 2013

Borage: Brilliant blooms for busy bees

Borage (Borago officinalis) is an annual herb native to the Mediterranean region and belongs to the Borage family (Boraginaceae) together with many other great pollinator plants such as Viper`s bugloss (Echium vulgare), Comfrey (Symphytum spp.) and Lungwort (Pulmonaria spp.). 

Borage is also known as starflower as the blue (sometimes also pink or white) flowers with their five narrow triangular-pointed petals look like little stars. The plant grows to a height of 60-100 cm and is quite bristly all over the stems and the big alternate leaves. Borage has a long flowering season and normally starts flowering in June and will continue up to the first sharp frosts in October or November. In very mild areas Borage will flower continuously for most of the year.

Borage has pretty star-shaped flowers which can be blue, pink or white

The large black seeds are easy to sow. Just plant them about 1 cm deep in fertile well-drained soil in a sunny spot in April and watch the plants grow. Borage fits well into a vegetable garden or allotment but needs a bit of space as it can smother small plants growing close by. Borage self-seeds freely but will never get out of hand as the large seedlings are easy to see and to remove if they grow in the wrong place.

Planting Borage in your garden or allotment is a great way to attract pollinators and especially bumblebees and honeybees find the nectar-rich flowers irresistible  It is said that planting Borage close to strawberries and tomatoes will improve their growth and will give you more fruit, probably by attracting more bees to the area. Make your plot even more attractive to pollinators by planting Borage together with other great pollinator-friendly flowers such as Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis), Cosmos (Comos bipinnatus and C. sulphureus) and Phacelia (Phaclia tanacetifolia).
For more ideas of how to make your allotment (or vegetable garden) pollinator-friendly have a look here.

A Common carder bee visits a Borage flower
Bumblebees find Borage irresistible
Borage flowers are nectar-rich and attract bumblebees and honeybees

Borage has even more uses as the flowers and leaves (especially when young) are edible. The flowers add colour (and a bit of flavour) to salads, soups, dips & spreads and can be frozen into ice cubes to put into drinks. The leaves taste of cucumber and can be added to salads (when young), soups or spreads or into anything which needs a bit of a cucumber flavour.
Borage is also useful as a mulch and in the compost heap as the stems and leaves are rich in calcium and potassium.
Borage is a great addition to your vegetable plot

If you have not grown Borage before give it a try; you will be rewarded with pretty star-shaped flowers, edible flowers & leaves and lots of happy bumblebees and honeybees.

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