Monday, June 30, 2008

Sky Blue Borage

I can't believe our Borage (Borago officinalis) is blooming already! This faithful, self-seeding herb just comes back better than ever for each successive year we've had it out at the front of the Boulder Bed, and we should really encourage it to take hold in a few other spots as well. It's not only unusual (and not seen in many gardens we know .. the only one we know of is our Sensei Master Gardener Frank, who lives up one block east), it's extremely pretty and even has culinary and medicinal applications. The flowers, in particular, are quite tasty in salads or just as a quick garden snack to cool oneself off on a hot summer day ... and oddly enough, they taste rather like cucumbers! Apparently in certain parts of Europe, people make soup from it along with potatoes (see the Wiki link above).

As for Borage cultivation, it's really an easy plant to get going in a sunny, well-drained area of the garden. Just get a pack of seeds (I've never seen plants for sale, and besides I think it's best direct sown where it is to be grown), plant them according to the instructions (about a 1/2 inch down) either in very early spring or in the fall after frost while the ground is still workable, but unlikely to promote germination. You might have to look a bit for seeds, but I know you can get them from Botanical Interests (where ours came from), and I'm sure Richter's Herbs would have them as well, that great Canadian company has just about anything herbal! They're easy to identify as seedlings because the first true leaves are every bit as hairy as the adult plant, and they don't look anything like the usual garden weeds. You might need to water a bit their first year, but they seem to handle heat and humidity just fine once established. And when you get flowers, make sure to leave quite a few to generate the seeds for next year's show ... at that point, just let them do their thing and they'll happily move around a bit in the garden every year, giving you nice little patches of blue wherever they decide to take up residence. I really can't think of a single even mildly negative thing to say about Borage ... it's a bit of a colonizer, but without ever becoming invasive. Bees and Butterflies love it and flock to it, thus ensuring successful pollination. If this post piques your interest or imagination, do give it a try in your garden ... it will reward you richly, I'm sure!

Photos by Fernymoss, taken on June 24, 2008.


Iowa Gardening Woman said...

Borage has the most beautiful blue bloom, I had it for years, it self seeded, then I did not have any for several years. I planted seeds again this year, mine is not blooming yet but I planted it in late May so it got a late start but will be blooming before long.

boran2 said...

Now those are really interesting looking plants, IVG. And I love the color. Another one that I'll have to look for.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hey there IGW! Good to see you back around these parts again! That really pleases me that there are other IA Borage fans out there growing it! Have ever tried eating the flowers or using them in a salad? They're surprisingly tasty ... And little rivals that blue of the blooms!

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Howdy B2, ya gotta try some, it really is easy. I'd say if you find some seeds this year, I'd wait until fall to plant them somewhere in the garden, then maybe put a marker there (I like to use colored popsicle sticks for that) so you'll remember where to look for it in the spring. I think ours came up in early May this year and now is about 2 1/2 ft tall and blooming away!

BTW, I learned something in that Wiki on it last night ... it's supposed to really enhance the flavor of tomatoes if it's planted just a few feet away from the vines. We gotta try that next year and see happens!

Shady Gardener said...

I've never seen this before. They're beautiful!! :-) Another item to watch for.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Hi again Shady,
I think you could successfully grow this at that far end of your part sun bed and it would do fine. The flowers are tasty, honestly ... but then I'm a big fan of munching Nasturtium blooms too and love their peppery flavor.

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