Tag Archives: borage

Sometimes both useful and easy.

When I posted about borage two months ago, half of the commenters said they also hadn’t had luck growing it. For some it didn’t reseed itself; for others, the summers were too hot. Kim said, “I have always thought it to be easy,” though she doesn’t have any growing right now.

bee drinking from oregano

The uses of borage was the subject of several comments; a couple of people said they didn’t know what they would do with it if it did thrive. But Cathy wrote, “It is such a captivating plant which attracts bees and creates curiosity from human garden visitors.”

And it is primarily for the bees that I thought to grow it in my Pollinator Garden, and so that I could behold that pretty sight of borage with bees buzzing happily around it. I let the insects make use of the plants, such as the oregano I always grow, but rarely use myself. The bees drink their fill of its nectar and last year I got good pictures of them doing it. So I guess I would use borage as material for my photo art. 🙂

I want the borage for its pretty, often gorgeously blue, flowers. I would like to have a few of those flowers to put in salads or in cold drinks in the summertime. Martha asked if I would be making tea with it — perhaps I would! They say that tea made from the leaves tastes like cucumber. Here is a picture from the Internet of one way I can imagine enjoying those blue accents, come August.

A young friend dug four borage plants from her garden and brought them to me at church just this month. Then the weeks of rain began, so they are still sitting in their pots, but looking very healthy.

I have come to suspect that borage is a bit thirstier than most of the plants in my garden, and that previously it has died from drought. The one I bought and planted this spring is looking good after the recent season of bounty, during which its little roots were surrounded by as much water as they could drink, day after day, no matter where they reached. Once the rains stop — as of this evening, there is no rain at all on the forecast — I may just have to squirt a little extra from my garden hose on the borage, beyond what it gets from the drip irrigation.

It won’t be long before this flower cluster opens, and the bees arrive!
To do their work, to get their sweet drinks, they will find to be the easiest thing.

Trying to befriend borage.

Everyone I have ever talked to about borage tells me how it self-sows enthusiastically. The several plants I’ve set into my garden in the last few years all died without reproducing, almost without blooming. So today when I stopped by a favorite garden center I bought  one more plant… I might beg some from friends again, too, but I wanted to get on with trying.

I bought pansies and poppies and kale and pak choi… last night my friend Sophia gave me seeds and gardening gloves, so I’ll have plenty to do when the rain lets up.

On my way out to the car I noticed a large area near the lot that was planted with borage, and I walked over that way to admire. Of course, this borage was acting normally; it had spread hither and yon and bees were  busy drinking from the underside of the flowers as from umbrellas. I got my first bee picture of 2019 — at least, most of a bee. 🙂

I didn’t make my exit, though, until I’d also explored as far as the two rows of apples on the other side of the lot. This part of the county resembles the fields and vineyards I’m used to, in that yellow flowers are brilliant right now, between rows of trees or grapes, or along roadsides. But instead of the usual mustard, here there was sourgrass (oxalis) blooming for miles and miles.

I knew it was a tiny apple orchard through which I was picking my way, through the mud and dripping grasses (in my church clothes), because — squish! I looked down to see that I had stepped on an apple and broken through its tenderized skin to the thoroughly rotten insides.

The next time I show you a photo of borage,
I hope it will be of a robust plant in my own garden!

Unusual Monastery Visit

This time when I drove to the women’s monastery about an hour from here, it was not for a lecture or a service or for contemplative time; it was for a stint of strenuous gardening. The nuns had put out a call for helpers to get the woodsy place under control after the rainy winter and spring have brought out tall weeds of many sorts.

When I came through the open gate I didn’t see anyone around, so I wandered a bit in the direction of some hammering noise. It was Sister Xenia repairing a rabbit hutch. She took me to find Sister Mary, whose day it was for gardening, and she in turn led me to the area I’d be working in.


“We got the weeds whacked down the other day, and now they need to be raked….This plant that is falling across the path needs to be trimmed back….Ivy is growing all over the quince tree and we want to get it out so the tree will have a better chance of bearing more than the three quinces it did last year.”

I put on my gloves, apron, and bandana to keep hair out of my face, and trimmed the blooming borage, leaving some branches so that the sisters could put the flowers in their salads.

Then the raking – whew! A giant eucalyptus tree stands above the monastery grounds and constantly drops pieces of bark, which combined with oak leaves and various other organic material have made a thick and tangled layer of debris that is turning into duff. On top of that were the strewn grassy weeds.

I pulled and yanked with my rake, and piles of scraped-up stuff grew tall in no time. “Someone” with a truck is now looked for both to haul all these piles away, and bring in some topsoil for the vegetable garden. I didn’t see the vegetable garden, but Sister Xenia said she works in it Wednesdays and Thursdays and maybe I would like to join her once a month or something like that? I always do think I can do anything, once a month. Maybe.

The poor quince tree took a long time. I hope he feels better and more fruitful. The sprucing-up was a challenge because on one side of the tree yard waste has been thrown down for many years, as we were led to understand (I had been joined by Tatiana and her son), creating a sort of man-made terrace. The ground level on that side is a several feet higher than on the other side, so that the tree is sort of growing out of a bank.

When I was below, I scrabbled up the “bank” that was mostly eucalyptus rubble, and stretched my tallest to pull as much ivy as I could from the branches. Sometimes three strands of ivy would be twisted round-and-round a thin branch, but at least this kind of ivy was tender and with care could be torn away.

Rescued quince

Then I walked back up the path to the other side and leaned way out, trying not to fall through the mulch, to pull at the ivy from that direction. After the ivy was gone, the many dead limbs were revealed, so I began pruning them out as well as I could with loppers. Several of them are so big they need to be sawed off, but I didn’t try doing it by myself in a precarious spot like that.

Galium aparine

Sticky weed is one plant that I went to war with at the monastery. Sister Mary called it that; I had never heard a name for it before, maybe because I never even saw it before a couple of years ago. Its usual common name is bedstraw or catchweed; it is Galium aparine. I pulled lots of this icky-sticky vine out of shrubs and flowers and everywhere, and it fought for its survival by depositing sticky little seeds all over my hair, gloves, socks….trying to come home and thrive here, no doubt.

Gardening is always a workout for me these days, given my age and the way the work always seems to have multiplied by the time I get there. A weed is easier to pull when it is small, to give a small example of what I’m talking about. Today was no different in that way, but the tasks I did made me use some different muscles, so I feel well exercised, shall we say.

It was lovely being at the monastery, and I’m glad I could be of use. I might have had some contemplative time while gardening if my mind hadn’t been so engrossed in solving garden problems and keeping my two feet under me. So if I go again, I’ll plan to spend the day and take breaks with the sisters in the church.