Monday, March 20, 2017

1887 - Borage, #5 of Root's Honey Plants

Zorn, J., 1796

Finally, a plant A. I. Root promoted that I have  
grown a patch of (10'x10') to treat my bees!   

You know how things usually go when you do something to please an animal - they ignore it. (Maybe that is just cats?) Well, the bee didn't actually turn up their noses but they did not work it heavily.

Somewhere I read in my time-warp readings that borage is good for wet weather nectar when other plants are washed out or something.  I might have that backwards.  When I find it I'll update this post :-) 

Here is the blurb from  A.I. Root's 1887 and 1888 catalogs' Bee Plant section, with Root as the writer.  
Borage. (1887 and 1888)

A strong, hardy, rapidly growing plant, bearing a profusion of blue flowers. It may be sown any time, but will, perhaps, succeed best, at about corn planting time. As it grows tall, and branches out considerably, it should have plenty of room. I know that bees are very busy on it, all the day long, from July until Nov., but I do not know how much honey an acre of it would furnish. 
It is easily tried, because it grows so readily, and if sowed on the ground after early potatoes are dug, you will get a nice crop of fall bloom. Sow broad cast, or in hills like corn.

In 1888 only: Borage is also used as a salad or cooked like a spinach. 
Price 10c. per oz., or 75c per pound.
If wanted by mail, add 18c. per lb. for bag and postage.

Now I'll throw in my experience with growing borage.  
  • First, it is floppy.  
  • Second, it falls over.  
  • Third, rain beats it down.  
So grow it next to something strong, or fill the area with pea sticks.   
It is pretty up close when not covered with mud.
 (Connecticut had a drought in 2017 punctuated with borage flattening rains.)  

Chaumeton, F.P., Flore médicale, 1829




Among the prettiest of those wandering plants which find their most congenial haunts upon rubbish heaps on the outskirts of towns or villages, the borage certainly occupies a prominent place. Plants of such regions are wont to be dull in foliage and flower; but the borage, although its leaves are rough and inelegant, amply compensates for this by the brilliant blue of its five pointed star-like flowers. 

This beautiful blue is, especially among our British plants, very characteristic of the Boraginaceœ, an order of which our borage is the type; we find it in the viper's bugloss (Echium vulgare), the small bugloss (Lycopsis arvensis), the various species of forget-me not (Myosotis), and in the alkanets (Anchusa), which, however, are doubtful natives of our soil; but none of the varying shades presented by these plants are more beautiful than the blue of the borage blossoms.

The uses of borage are, perhaps, open to the charge of being more imaginary than real—that is, if we take into consideration the exaggerated eulogisms bestowed upon it by the older writers.
 "Those of our time," says Gerard, "do use the flowers in sallads, to exhilarate and make the minde glad. There be also many things made of them used everywhere for the comfort of the hart, for the driving away of sorrowe, and increasing the joie of the minde." 

And then he goes on to tell as how " the leaves and flowers of borage put into wine maketh men and women glad and merrie, and driveth away all sadnesse, dulneese, and melancholic"; how "sirrupe made of the flowers of borage comforteth the hart, purgeth melanoholie, quieteth the phrenticke or lanatioke person"; and how "the flowers of borage, made up with sugar, doth all the aforesaid with greater force and effect." 

The use of borage in claret cup and similar beverages at the present day is a relic of the belief in the above "vertues," as well as an agreeable and cooling addition thereto, while its blue flowers floating in the liquid have a pretty appearance.

But the use of borage against melancholy goes mach farther back than the days of Queen Elizabeth. According to Burton, who may be considered an authority on the subject, 
"Helena's commended bowl to exhilarate the heart had no other ingredient, as most of our criticks conjecture, than this of borage;" 
this "commended bowl" being the nepenthes of Homer, which was "of such rare vertue that if taken steept in wine, if wife and children, father and mother, brother and sister, and all thy dearest friends should dye before thy face, thou couldst not grieve nor shed a tear for them".
Incredulous persons might be inclined to regard this cheering property to be rather due to the medium in which the borage was taken, whioh a yet more ancient writer has characterized as that which "maketh glad the heart of man".

As a favourite plant of bees, borage is worthy of somewhat more attention than it generally receives. We know a good beekeeper who has a large bed of it near his hives, and heartily do the winged inhabitants appreciate the attention thus paid them. There are, indeed, few more cheerful combinations of sight and sound than that which is presented by such a borage bed on a bright July afternoon, when tho beautiful blue flowers are in full perfection, and the "murmuring of bees" pervades everything with its soothing hum.                  J. B. Q.