Plant of the month: Why every gardener should plant borage

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20 October 2021

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Our vital garden pollinators love this versatile herb, and its pretty flowers are edible too.

Bees, butterflies and gardeners alike are all drawn to the brilliant blue flowers of borage, also known as starflower. It’s been lifting spirits since the times of the ancient Romans who mentioned it in verse: “I, borage, will always bring courage.”

English statesman Francis Bacon thought it warded off melancholy. Medicinally, the leaves and flowers have been used for depression, as well as fever and coughs, and even to boost breast milk supply, while borage seed oil has been used to treat eczema.

Borage flowers are edible and have traditionally been used to decorate the quintessentially English cocktail Pimm’s. Try freezing the flowers in ice cubes; they look pretty dropped into any kind of drink. Borage leaves have a slight cucumber taste and can be used to make tea or added to a salad.

Quick-growing borage favours a well-drained, sunny spot but it’s not too fussy. You can grow it from seed and chances are you’ll only have to plant it once, as it self-seeds readily and will pop up all over the place. Vegetable gardeners value borage as a companion plant, and some say if you plant it near strawberries, you’ll increase your crop. The leaves are rich in nutrients, so they make a good mulch and are particularly beneficial for your compost.

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