Borage (Borago officinalis), also known as a starflower, is an annual herb which was introduced to Britain by the Romans, and is native to the Mediterranean region. It is occasionally found on cultivated ground and around the coast in Guernsey, and grows really well in gardens, remaining there from year to year by self-seeding. The plant grows to a height of 60–100 cm, and has bristly or hairy stems and leaves.
Planting Borage in your garden is a great way to attract pollinators, especially bumblebees and honeybees which find the nectar-rich flowers irresistible. The upside-down flowers are no challenge to the acrobatic skills of bees, which are fascinating to watch.
It is believed that Borage can refill its nectaries every few minutes and so is particularly useful for hungry insects. Buff-tailed Bumblebees can ‘buzz-pollinate’ the anthers creating a cloud of pollen that they harvest.
The large black seeds are easy to sow. Plant them in pots now, or wait till April and sow them directly in the ground, about 1 cm deep in well-drained soil in a sunny spot. Growth is rapid and Borage has a long flowering season and will continue till October or November. In Guernsey, self-seeded plants will flower as early as March
New tender leaves have a cucumber-like taste, can be used sparingly in salads or as a garnish, as can the flowers. The plant is also useful as a mulch and in the compost heap as the stems and leaves are rich in calcium and potassium.