Not even knowing borage was an herb, I purchased my first two plants last summer. Rick and I were leaving the Arcata Saturday market when we passed a vendor with gallon pots of robust plants with fuzzy green leaves and brilliant sapphire flowers. I didn’t recognize them but I knew I had to have one, or, better yet, two. The vendor was busy and mumbled, “Borage,” when I asked her what it was. Borage?
Without bothering to look up its attributes or requirements in my Western Garden Book, I stuck my borage in the ground near the entrance to our garden, next to the Shasta daisies and across from the strawberry bed. The plants didn’t do much last fall and then died off rather quickly come winter.
This spring, however, borage starts sprouted up everywhere! They were in the strawberry bed, in the path to the garden and there were so many of them in the vicinity of the two original plants that I had to dig them up and transplant them to other parts of the yard or they would have suffocated the daisies.
When the borage began to bloom in May I was awed by how lovely my garden looked with all the bright blue stars on dozens of tall healthy plants.
For me borage was merely garden bling, but a friend’s green salad adorned with colorful nasturtiums and borage—both edible—was so “gourmet” that seeing it recently brought home the fact that those pretty little flowers are indeed edible.
When I wrote my column about entering the fair this year, I had pretty much decided that my borage was going to be my ticket to fame. Who, I wondered, even has borage and who could possibly have better-looking borage than me?
When last Wednesday—entry day—came around and I had to choose the one required stalk to enter in the fair, I wandered into the garden around 6 a.m. I was devastated to discover that most of my borage blooms were spent. Seed pods had replaced sapphire star flowers and rust had crept over the leaves. I resorted to cutting a much smaller stalk than I had anticipated from one of this summer’s weaker transplants because it still had a few living flowers.
I deposited my lonely stalk with the Home Arts volunteers at the fairgrounds. At 8 a.m. I was the only borage entry and I began to think maybe I’d managed to pull off a blue ribbon coup. By the time I got to the fair after work Thursday and went looking for my ribbon in the Home Arts building, the borage entries were wilted beyond recognition.
Next to my name was a red ribbon sticker—second place. For a fleeting moment I resented being second, but all things considered, I think I’m pretty darn lucky to have placed at all. Congrats to the borage blue ribbon winner, Heather Hutchinson of Crescent City.