Borage – Borago officinalis – A true blue addition to any garden

Borage flowers offer a lovely shade of true blue in the garden.

This herb and its star-shaped flowers are not only beautiful, but extremely useful! I’ve always felt this plant was underrated in our gardens, unlike the past where its qualities were highly valued.

Admiring them as one would any species with a historical pedigree, as an heirloom, cultivated since at least the 1440s, the folklore they encompass states just how much borage was valued. It was said to bring courage to one’s heart. “Borage for courage” as the saying goes. Ancient Celtic people believed borage offered courage in the face of enemies on the battle field. How extraordinary!

Back to our modern times, it’s a courageous companion plant, known for repelling hornworms on tomatoes, offering this plant a serious, if not fashionable comeback.

Borage may be considered an annual herb where I live, but it self seeds easily and appreciates any extra warmth offered by the raised beds in our yard. They’ve settled in quite happily!

The dainty flowers are edible, offering a slight cucumber-like flavour. Use them in soups, salads, sandwiches, or as a substitute for spinach (stuffed into traditional pasta), or as a pretty garnish on the plate. A friend of mine uses them to flavour her pickles, while another makes teas and assorted iced drinks with them.

Thankfully Borage is not a fussy plant and grows well in most soils. I’m happy to report that deer avoid Borage like the plague, likely due to its fuzzy leaves. A real plus in many a gardener’s mind!

If you like to save and share, Borage seeds are easily harvested. Ore, leave them to self sow and every year you can look forward to them gracing the garden once again.

Those showy little blue star-shaped flowers attract bees, butterflies, and all sorts of good pollinators. They’re a wonderful addition to anyone’s garden!

Note:

  1. When planting Borage seeds, the best time to do this is in spring, after any remaining chance of frost. Soak the seeds first in wet paper towel overnight, and then sow them directly into the garden, but not too deep, as half an inch will suffice. Borage will grow to a height of 2- 3 feet.
  2. The oil from Borage seeds is highly valued and plants are now commercially cultivated for skin care products and other items. It’s one of my favourite go-to ingredients for use in my own products.
  3. If you see some of your flowers are pink, then there is likely a deficiency in your soil. Below is a photo from a couple of years ago. I’ve since discovered this is a common site if Borage is growing in dry, gravelly soil. To fix this, simply add some triple-mix or compost. The pink is actually quite pretty, and Borage may even offer white flowers from time to time.

Happy Gardening!

How to grow, pollinate and harvest seeds from an amaryllis – It’s very easy to do!!

amaryllis-vittata-february-2015pistil-and-stigma-for-pollinating-the-amaryllis-karen-sloanPollinating and saving seeds from Amaryllis is very simple. All you need is a light touch.

Step 1: Collect some pollen, (gently), on your finger from the stamen. (see next photo)
Step 2: Dust it lightly on the stigma.
This should be done when the stigma (Pistil) is completely open.

Just a note: Some people use a paint brush to transfer the pollen, but this is not a requirement if you’re very gentle.

 

 

I don’t pollinate any flower with its own pollen. I’ll use the pollen from one flower to pollinate another .

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Unripe seed pod

This is a seed pod that develops not long after, from the pollinated flower that dies back.

Let it mature and turn brown. Then the seed head is ready to harvest.

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Seed pod is ready to harvest.

 

 

 

 

Many people ask me how to bring an Amaryllis  into bloom again…  Here’s my advice:

Don’t dig up your bulbs and stick them in the closet in the fall.  Don’t do it. It doesn’t happen that way in nature! Why anyone started promoting such fiction, I’ll never know.

Seriously, I can’t tell you how much this myth irritates me, and every year I see gardening articles perpetuating this falsehood, repeating it verbatim like parrots, likely by writers who haven’t actually accomplished what they’re proposing you to do..

Because of that, it’s no wonder so many people tell me they’ve given up growing these beauties and can’t get a bulb to re-flower the next year. Purely because something so simple has been made to seem so very complicated…. There’s my rant for today!

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Freshly harvested, plump amaryllis seeds

In any case, bulbs have an internal clock that works very well, with or without our help.

As long as the flower stalks are allowed to die back naturally after flowering, and there has been sufficient water, light and food over the course of the year, (I only give them a bit of very diluted coffee or tea once a month), then you have the secret to getting them to flower again.

amaryllis-wfsMy amaryllis is 130 years old.

It was my originally my great-great grandmother’s plant, a true heirloom, and I cherish it!

It blooms every year, and sometimes twice. I can tell you, it has NEVER seen the inside of a closet!

Treat it as you would any houseplant, all year long, but ease up on the watering in November.

Don’t let your plant completely dry out, but water it once per month until a flower bud starts to emerge. Then water every 10 days or so. After the flowers finish, let the stalks die back naturally. This is very important as this is what provides the bulb with the energy to produce a flower next year… 

If you don’t like the look of the plant while it’s in this semi-dormant state, put it in a room where it’s not so visible. Leaves will die back too, and watering should be lessened again ‘til  mid March when the sun gets higher in the sky, and you’ll see an abundance of new foliage. Water more often, as the cycle has begun again.

Amaryllis vittatum - Wall Flower Studio 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

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