Blessed Thistle


Cnicus benedictus

I always feel like there is a little bit of history in my garden whenever I grow Blessed Thistle.   In the Middle Ages it was widely cultivated in European herb gardens for its medicinal properties.   Since then, it has naturalized in most of Europe.


Blessed Thistle is an erect spiny annual herb that thrives in hot dry weather.  It produces thistle like yellow flowers that are at least and inch and a half in diameter.

Growing Information

Blessed Thistle is very easy to start from seed directly in the garden after the danger of frost has passed.      While it can tolerate poor soil, Blessed Thistle can easily reach two feet in height in well nourished soil.  Plants should be spaced at least a foot apart to avoid crowding.

Each plant yields such a bounty that for personal use one would never need more than half a dozen plants in any given year.


Wear gloves when handling and harvesting this very bristly plant.    Wear safety glasses if you are hanging the plants to dry overhead.

There is an upside to such a prickly plant as a row of it makes a splendid barrier to discourage wildlife traffic though the garden 🙂

If you have room in a freezer, Blessed Thistle is one plant that freeze dries very well.




Borago officinalis

Borage may be famous for its ability to promote bravery, but for my money the best bit about borage is that bees are drawn to its little blue flowers. And as any gardener knows, without bees there would be no gardens at all!


Borage should be at the top of every lazy gardener’s wish list! Why? Because it is that loveliest of things, a genuinely self seeding annual!

Mind you, the new shoots will not pop up in the same neat row where they were planted. Look carefully in the early spring for the tiny round leaves that only bear a passing resemblance to the mature plant.

Growing Information

To Zone 4 as an annual, Zone 5 and up as a self seeding annual

Hardy, upright leafy annual or self seeding annual

Blue flowers, blooms from early summer until first frost if deadheaded

Will grow at least a foot in poor soil, from 2-3 feet when well nourished

Prefers full sun but can get by anywhere

Spreads easily …. you should only need to seed once if you watch for the popup seedlings when you are readying your garden in the spring

Although I have found nothing anywhere to substantiate this, in my garden, all vegetables seem to benefit when this self seeding herb pops up in a bed



I have only ever grown the blue flowered Officanalis because I like the young leaves in salads early in the season.

There is also another blue flowered variety, Borago pygmaea, but as it is not suitable for culinary or medicinal use, I have never tried it here

There is a white variety, Borago Alba, that is often available in greenhouses that can be used for culinary and medicinal purposes, but I do not know how attractive it would be to bees.


Borage is such an easy thing to start from seed that it is surprising that it is not found in more home gardens.

Although Borage is self seeding, if for some reason you do not want to grow it again, it is easily tilled out of the garden in a year or two

If you are looking for a fun little plant for a children’s garden, this would be one of my first picks. It is safe for them to eat. It is easy to germinate, so they can quickly see results. And I think it is a great thing to encourage children to have respect for bees.