Borage and Bees
It is sometimes known as Starflower because of the distinctive shape of its flower. However, the other name for Borage reveals why it is considered to be such a wildlife-friendly plant: Bee’s Bread. All sorts of bees will visit this plant. No bee-friendly garden should be without at least one Borage plant. There are three reasons why it is so good for bees: the flower structure makes the nectar very easy to access; it has a long blooming period; and it refills its nectar store extremely quickly (five minutes from being emptied by a bee to refilling!).
Borage is a robust annual. It grows readily from seeds sown directly in the grown, but you will find that it self-seeds extremely easily. Note that Borage leaves are hairy and this might cause skin irritation for a few (so gardening gloves might be a good precaution).
It isn’t just the bees that are attracted to Borage. Predatory insects will be also be attracted – which leads to the next point.
Borage as a Companion Plant
Borage is considered by many gardeners to be a useful companion plant, helping to control other insects that might want to eat the vegetables you are growing. Predatory insects (such as parasitic wasps) that are attracted to a nearby Borage will predate those unwanted insects on your brassicas, strawberries and other plants. Borage is said to repel larvae that might damage cabbages and tomatoes, and it may attract blackfly away from your beans. Mature Borage leaves are high in mineral and nutrient content, making it excellent mulch material.
Borage in Food and Drink
There aren’t many blue food stuffs, so the bright blue flowers of Borage make an attractive addition to a salad or a garnish for a soup. The flowers are quite edible and, if fresh, still contain nectar. There are lots of other culinary uses for Borage, including flavouring vinegars or added to Pimms. Historically, Borage has long been used for herbal remedies. If it’s your thing, you can still find a range of products available: from Borage massage oil to Borage ‘stress-reducing’ drink.