Blitzing the borage…

In which hopes of borage bite the dust…

Amongst the more virulent members of our garden inhabitants, is a plant, which for the last few years, I have been used to calling borage. It was my mother – usually extremely competent in plant identification, who told me what it was.

Green Alkanet - oh yes it is.

So I have been happily regaling friends over the years, with tales of my rampant borage – how it has the wickedest spiky leaves ever, how it absolutely refuses to be tamed and crops up all over the garden, how it’s roots appear to go down forever, as I’ve never managed to pull one out without it breaking at about a foot in length.

Yesterday, being the sort of gardener who appreciates the efforts of others more than enjoys doing it herself, I finally dusted off the gardening gloves and went out to do the spring weeding – the weather having given us an extra day of glorious sunshine and the guilt at not having tidied up outside having reached action point.

As I once again put on my thickest gloves – the ones I use for pruning roses and cutting out brambles – took courage in my hands and grasped the brittle blackened outer borage leaves, that niggling little thought ran through my brain – could it be that this isn’t the benign, delightfully exuberant borage, the flower that graces Pimms throughout the summer? Is it in fact possible that this is a different plant altogether?

I think you can guess the result.

Having spent time researching it properly, it seems that what I have is indeed not borage, but a quite different specimen going by the name of Green Alkanet.

And yes, Green Alkanet has a monstrously long tap-root, vicious spikes that give you a sting something like a combination of a nettle sting and getting fibreglass stuck in your skin. To call it rampant is to understate its conquering intention – nothing less than total garden domination is its objective.

This little patch of green alkanet might be allowed to stay.

It does have sweet blue flowers and the bees love it – so I’ll let a couple of small patches remain – who am I anyway to think I could stand in its path – but I’m not going to feel half as guilty from now on when I hack at it.

So, having cleared that up, and just as a record of what the extended period of unseasonably hot weather has given us already in the garden…

daffodils - naturally.
weedy bluebells
dog violets hiding amongst the rocks
tulips galore

And a mass of yellow flowers on a shrub that looks like a not terribly spiky holly…

Flowering holly? Pretty though isn't it.

Hope you’re enjoying your own gardening adventures. By the way, how do you grow borage?

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6 thoughts on “Blitzing the borage…

  1. I enjoyed this post, it reminded me of when I had a ‘proper’ garden! Green alkanet is a good bee plant and unwanted ones are good for compost – I think it can be used like comfrey to make a liquid fertiliser too. Borage grows really easily from seed and happily spreads itself around, so once you’ve got it you’ll never be without it again. Pretty prickly plant is berberis – house sparrows used to love ripping mine to bits!

    1. The fact that the bees love it, is probably its saving grace – I’m pretty loath to get rid of plants they rely on – but it is SO rampant, I don’t really think I have any say in it anyway – I don’t use chemicals in the garden, so weeding is down to me, and that stuff is wily.

  2. The yellow flowering shrub looks more like mahonia than berberis to me. We have Tina of green alkanet too, btw. Nasty prickles on the stems that break off in your skin when you pull it up.

  3. I’ve been battling this plant since we moved into our current house in April 2011, and only today learned it’s real name. It appears that the owner previous to the people we bought it from had planted it, on purpose, in a beautiful spot that I tried to use for a vegetable garden this past summer. I just figured I could chop it up with the roto tiller and have a beautiful vegetable garden. As I’m sure you already know, I was very wrong about that. I’ve found that the only way to completely get rid of it is to dig out the entire plant and try to get all the roots, which leaves a sizeable hole in the garden. I’m just going to keep rototilling the vegetable garden until all the root pieces are gone, which will be a long process I’m sure. If you have any tips I’d love to hear them. Thanks.

    1. Hello Mark, I’m sorry to hear that you’ve got this little nasty in your garden – I wish I could give you a neat trick to get rid of it, but so far I think in our garden it’s stalemate – I’m waging pretty continuous war and it fights back relentlessly. What I would say though, is if you see any cropping up anywhere else – get it out as soon as you see it. It spreads! Oh and get yourself a thick pair of gloves – those spines are devilish. Good luck.

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