Borage (Borago officinalis) is growing freely in our pollinator gardens. Some of it re-seeded from last year, and some is growing from seeds I sowed earlier this year. I've been watching the native and honey bees in this plant, and it is always covered with pollinators who are collecting nectar from its bright blue, pink, and purple flowers. I started to wonder about this pretty herb.
Then, while reading "A Sting in the Tale" by biologist and naturalist Dave Goulson, I came across a few paragraphs about the time it takes for flowers to refill their nectar. Nectar, of course, is a little bonus that the plant gives in order to be pollinated. Nectar is usually just a drop at the base of a flower. Once sucked up by a bee, wasp, or butterfly, the flower refills its nectar supply, thus ensuring that the pollinators will come back. Some flowers take as much as 24 hours to replenish the nectar. Borage, on the other hand, apparently takes only two minutes. From Mr. Goulson: "When feeding on borage, bees start revisiting a flower just two minutes after the previous visit." No wonder the bees love it. They can start at one end of the patch, then start again after they've cleaned it out - it's completely refreshed.
My chickens also love borage. When the stalk gets a little large and unwieldy, I just clip it off and throw it whole in to the coop. It's demolished fairly quickly.
We humans are also able to eat borage. The leaves can be sauteed or eaten raw (though cooking will take off the fuzz), and the flowers are often used in salad, candy, or drinks. It's rich in Omega 6 fatty acids, B vitamins, beta-carotene, and fiber.
Furthermore, borage is compatible with most plants, including vegetables, and repels bad bugs such as hornworms.
Another plus of borage is that it reseeds itself so easily and blooms for a very long time, from Spring into Fall. It also creates a good deal of biomass for the compost. It seems to grow easily in any soil, it just needs a sunny spot in your garden.
Lastly, the blue tint of the flowers is welcome in any garden, as blue is a color that is hard to come by in the plant world.
Borage is easy to start from seed. Just mix the seed with a little soil and scatter in your garden. You can find borage seeds at nearly every seed company; I get mine from Renee's Garden and Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Happy Planting!