The Borage, the Hornworm, and the Bumble Bee

What do you plant in your garden every year…every single year?

I’ve tried with every garden for our own trinity of tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers. It just seems we use those three items more than any other. Tim loves pickles, I love peppers, and we both love BLTs — I mean tomatoes.

And I always interplant. I love to add color to the garden. Zinnias and cosmos and perennial sages, even lantana, marigold, and nasturtiums. A little surprise of color in the cucumber patch just adds beauty to a summer garden.

My favorite non-veggie vegetable-garden plant is borage. Have you grown it? It’s beautiful! The flowers mimic tomato blossoms in shape, but they are beautifully blue! Not purply blue, like most garden blues, but a brilliant sky blue.

borage blossoms

borage blossoms

I not only plant it in the veggie garden, I put it in the herb garden.

borage

borage

But let me dispell what I feel is a myth. I have read many, many times that borage deters tomato hornworms. I add borage to all of my tomato beds, and I can verify that (at least everywhere I’ve lived) the hornworms may leave the borage alone, but the borage does not keep the hornworms off of the tomatoes!

braconid infected hornworm

braconid infected hornworm

See that ugly guy, covered in parasitic wasps? He’s hanging out on the tomatoes, and behind the tomato plant you can see a nice background of blue borage blossoms. Yeah…he does not care one way or another about the borage.

But I’ll tell you who does care — bumble bees. Bumble bees love borage, and since bumbles also sometimes pollinate tomatoes, it’s a match made in heave (hornworm deterrence aside).

bumble bee on borage

bumble bee on borage

If you have space, please sow some borage seeds. They need little care — water when they feel limp at a minimum, but if they are in the tomato garden, they should get the right amount. They prefer direct seeding, but they will also adapt well to transplanting. They selfseed readily and will come up again next year, but they are easy to pull if they show up where you don’t want them. They benefit from staking, but it’s necessary. The plant is said to taste of cucumber (though I do not recommend you eat it without doing your own research), and the flowers are pretty frozen in ice cubes.

I love borage so much I gave seed to everyone in my Master Gardener class this spring. I hope to see borage in every garden!

So plant some borage! The bumbles will thank you.

bumble bee on borage

bumble bee on borage

*** This personal blog is comprised solely of the opinions, views, projects, and travels of its author, Stacey Morgan Smith. She is lucky enough to have loving family and friends whom she drags along with her on her adventures and whom she puts to work on her little farm. She uses this blog to help promote living in the mountains of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, from Roanoke to the Potomac River.**

2 comments to The Borage, the Hornworm, and the Bumble Bee

  • Joy

    Borage is beautiful! I didn’t plant the package you gave so I wonder if they are still good. I will try planting them 2 years later. How long until they bloom? I would love to see them in my perennial bed, even though they are annuals,since I will probably not have a vegetable garden this year. I am going to buy another package to make sure they grow. Thanks for giving me the web address for your blog. I love the photos! Great color saturation and very sharply focused!

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