I’ve always been a big fan of flowers in the vegetable garden. Besides sprucing up the space, they attract pollinators, which means a bigger harvest. If I have the space, I also like to tuck in a few rows of flowers for cutting. No one will notice the odd row of stems if it’s in the vegetable garden.
For both of these uses, I can’t sing the praises of borage enough. Borage (Borago officinalis), such an ugly, undeserved name. Amethyst Star or Sky Flower would be more fitting. But borage it is.
Borage is an annual herb. Both its flowers and foliage have the scent of cucumbers. It grows about 2 ft. tall and can become top heavy and flop over, but that doesn’t detract from its charm. In the vegetable garden, it tends to rest on whatever is planted next to it.
Pretty much all of the borage plant is edible. The leaves and stems develop scratchy hairs, as they age, and not very pleasant to touch, let alone eat. But the flowers pack enough punch on their own. They start out pink and then turn a periwinkle blue. I’ve heard this color change happens when the flowers are pollinated, but I’ve never been able to confirm that. I can say that the flowers are always being visited by multiple bees, especially bumblebees. While they are there, they are kind enough to visit some of my vegetables, too.
When there is a lull of bee activity, you can cut a few flower stalks for arrangements. Don’t worry, they’ll grow more. I used to stagger plantings of borage, but if I let them go to seed, they seem to plant themselves. They will even come up next year. That’s another bonus of borage; direct sown seed germinates quickly, so there’s no need to start them indoors.
While I keep my borage in the vegetable garden, the plants look just as at home in a cottage garden. It’s hard to find fault with beautiful flowers that are edible and attract pollinators. As I start to winnow down the number of plants I grow, borage is still high on my list.