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Gardening in the Rainy Zone.
Pronounced: bo-RAH-go o-fi-seh-NAL-is
Sunset zones: A2, A3; 1-24; H1.
USDA zones: All.
Heat zones: 12-1.
Height: 2 feet (60 cm).
Width: 18 inches (45 cm).
Summer to killing frost.
Cymes of bright blue, star-shaped, nodding flowers, with purple black anthers that form a cone. Flowers fade to pink as they age.
Hairy, lance shaped.
Full sun to partial shade.
Sow seed in situ from early to mid spring. Cover seed with soil.
Rainy Side Notes
Every time I present this seedling to someone, I warn him or her, "Once you have borage, you will always have borage!" It does reseed quite generously, but is easy to keep under control.
An annual that comes from Europe and North Africa, borage has naturalized in many parts of North America. The herb was thought to bring courage to the heart. Added to wine, the Celtics believed borage helped bring courage to face enemies in battle. I imagine the wine gave more courage then the borage did. The “herb of gladness” is how the Welsh thought of borage. The Romans believed that borage flowers had power to lighten the spirits, and the English prescribed borage to ease melancholy.
Borago possibly comes from the Latin word burra, a hairy garment, referring to the hairy leaves. Some plant historians think Borago may be a corruption of the word, corago, another word for courage. Others believe it originated from the Celtic word, barrach, meaning a man of courage.
Utilized medicinally since ancient times, it reportedly has a calming effect when used as a tea. Also used as a diuretic and anti-inflammatory, borage, with its high mucilage composition, helps soothes bronchitis, pleurisy and other maladies.*
I gather the plants for bouquets or use the flowers for garnish. The flowers can be candied or frozen into ice cubes to add a festive touch to punches or iced drinks. Use fresh leaves for cooking or teas, since it will lose its flavor when dried. You can make a delightful drink by adding a small amount of borage leaves and flowers to lemonade. Added to soups, borage adds a hearty flavor. Cast a handful of leaves into about 2 quarts of soup stock to make zestful result. Stems and leaves steeped in boiling water make a pleasant tea. Add color to a salad by garnishing with the blossoms.
Harvest the leaves at any time, but harvest the flowers just as they open. The flowers can be dried face down on a screen for culinary use, or in silica gel for best color retention, but do not use flowers dried in silica for culinary purposes. Borage flowers press beautifully.
I do not use this stout annual herb enough. I love the sky blue flowers that turn pink as the flower ages. There is also a white flowering form, Borago 'Alba', that would be lovely growing in a moonlight garden. Borago 'Variegata' has variegated leaves that may be caused by a viral infection. The flowers of borage are nectar-rich and are a must for a bee garden.
Sow seeds in March in a sunny location. To keep a few plants flowering throughout summer, sow seed again in April and May. The plant grows on almost any soil. Borage tends to get coarse as it ages. As it gets coarse, just pull up the plants and shake for seed to fall out, for next year's plants. Some seed may sprout and bloom before the first frost in autumn. Deadhead back below flower heads or pull plants entirely before seeds form, if you want to reduce the amount of seeding around the garden.
Photographed in author's garden.