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Follow our progress running the nursery, watching wild bees, keeping honey bees and creating our own bee-haven in south Oxfordshire

Borage all year?

our last borage crop of the season flowering well in September

our last borage crop of the season flowering well in September

At the rosybee site we have been planting borage is different areas for the last four years and, because it self seeds readily, this year there was at least one area in flower right from March onwards.  Each borage plant will flower for about 2 months and then die off (and in a garden you would pull it out as it looks terrible at that stage) but even in a small area I find that a hot spell of weather will encourage more seed to germinate so new plants arrive in unexpected places - but no in an invasive way - just pull out the ones you dont want.

The biggest area of borage is in our 'ploughed' section were we have allocated an acre of ground to growing borage and phacelia as a nectar crop. We last ploughed it in mid-August but I asked my husband to leave a section where I could see a lot of seedlings coming through. The result is that we have a final borage area just beginning to flower right at the end of September. The honeybees are very happy to have this as the only other abundant source flowers around in the hedgerows is the wild ivy.

Borage; one of the very best plants for bees

honeybee on borage

honeybee on borage

At rosybee we plant about half an acre of borage each year, just because its so good for the bees. Its particularly loved by the honeybees - so I am hoping its boosting our honey - but we see plenty of bumblebees on it too.

For this season, I sowed a large section last September and it over-wintered well and started flowering in April. Now it is nearly over but the spring sowing should start to flower in a few weeks.

The honeybees go for the nectar and the bumblebees appear to collect both nectar and pollen, the latter being very pale, almost white.

Each week I try and pick as sunny day and count how many bees/ square meter. The average has been about 6 bees with a ration of 5 honeybees to one bumblebee (mainly bombus pratorum, hypnorum and a few laidarius and terrestris.)  Because of its sheer attractiveness and the number of weeks of flower, those two factors combine to make it one of the best bee-plants we have found. We will combine these stats with the results for all the other plants we grow and aim to publish a ranking towards the end of this year.

our borage patch

our borage patch