Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Nothing rhymes with borage

I knew this day would come, the day inspiration deserted me. I was warned that I would run out of puns, and like a fickle trader, pretty soon people would see the signs and switch to another new, young, fresh blog. Today I've run dry. Borage, you have beaten me. But I soldier on in the hope that there are some die hards out there still feeling the hapless love...

I was really excited when I planted borage seeds back on 6 April. I sowed a line in compost formulated for seeds, in a wooden half barrel container, £14 extravegance from Riverside garden centre, complete with handles.

The young leaves quickly appeared and soon accompanied the unseasonal warmth in a glass of Pimms, their rumoured cucumber flavour proving joyously true.

Left - borage, middle - rocket, right - dill

But I'd never taken the trouble to understand just what a beast the plant becomes, and it wasn't until it had engulfed the helpless rocket and razed the dill to the ground that I realised I'd been misled. All the talk in books was about the flowers. How pretty they look in an ice cube, that they're edible and refreshing. Rubbish. Like living with a newborn and only telling people about the cuddles.

Borage is a beast and make no mistake. It needs its own home, it needs attention, watering and space. At least, that's my experience.If you don't, this is what happens:

This is part neglect part anger. Does that make me a bad person? Well, in gardening circles yes. Probably not in the company of dishonest police officers, politicians or journalists (sorry, this is the last time I'll reference 'the scandal'. I should probably start a separate blog to unleash my views the unholy trinity - although I do know a few good coppers, have worked for one good and one crazy politician, and once fancied a journalist. But she was on the magazine so that doesn't count).

I digress. Borage. Yes, overblown strumpet of a plant (is it ok to use that word in the 21st century, in a jovial context?). Yes it's seductive, but afterwards I felt cheated. Here was the promise:

My good friend Emma gave me a top tip from her good friend's book that we tried out. Put a borage flower in wine and it'll turn from bluey-purple (I'm sure there's a proper name for it) into pink. Well, it didn't. And it tasted of, well, wine. Humph.

The wine was good though...


Anonymous said...

I grew borage this year from seeds much to the "oh no don't" comments from friends. You are right it is a beast. It grew to enormous proportions. The bees just loved it but a couple of weeks ago I had to pull it up as it was blocking the light to other plants. Some of the flowers were pink which looked so out of place with the true blue. I am told it will come back next year all on its own accord!

elaine rickett said...


Bridget said...

Yes, I agree with you. I let lots of it self seed in the polytunnel and just today I pulled out loads of it as it was just taking over. I chop it up and put in with with the Comfrey and Nettle liquid feed. Revenge!

Esther Montgomery said...

I don't drink pimms and the leaves are prickly. The flowers are lovely, really, really lovely (though you have to lie on the ground and look up to see them). I don't have anything to freeze flowers in - nor a particular need for ice-cubes. But I still like borage.

(If you make cakes you can crystalise the flowers as if they are violets.)

Anonymous said...

Once when I had a farmer's market space borage was a plant we sold. (My partner grew them.) But now the guilt, thinking of the unsuspecting customers, their wrecks of gardens, it's overpowering...must find beer...

Hapless gardener said...

Loving all the comments, thanks everyone.

Elaine - I spent ages trying to come up with a witty headline that used porridge, but alas...any ideas?!

I'm liking the revenge idea Bridget, quite a concoction!

Esther, it looks like you will take a lot more persuading to break your borage habit. You really must love the flowers! I agree though, they are stunning to look at (as long as you ignore the stem) and I'm intrigued by the thought of crystalising them

Linniew - i hope the beer has helped (although it probably made the guilt worse?!) If anyone comes back at you, just pass on Bridget's tip above...

The Hapless Kitchen Gardener

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I only feel hapless because some people make it look easy to grow 10 ft marrows or a banquet of greens whereas my courgettes got nabbed by killer slugs and I only got one raspberry. So tips and stories from people less hapless than I are more than welcome. As a disclaimer though, none of my comments should be taken as expert advice on which you can rely! © Unless stated otherwise, and with the exception of guest content where that guest retains copyright, all photos and posts are the copyright of Tom Carpen and may not be used without permission.