Sea Green and Sapphire

A blog about a love of colour, addiction to fabrics and joy of crafting…

Growing My Own Dyes

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My dye plant seedlings

In addition to doing crafty things, I have always loved gardening and plants. When we lived in London, our postage stamp-sized garden was packed full of plants and there really was no more room for anything (in fact there was hardly room for people). Now that we live in the country, I have much more room to play and this spring I even have a newly-restored greenhouse – something which I’ve always dreamt about. So with all this room, am I growing useful things like potatoes, leeks and cabbages? No, it’s much more exciting than that, although not necessarily on the food front (it is possible that my Irish father-in-law, a keen vegetable grower, may might not entirely approve my plans…).

Instead of growing food, most of my space will be dedicated to enhancing my crafty activities (well, there will be a few edibles too). With my recent enthusiasm for natural dyeing, it was inevitable that sooner or later I would have to start growing my own dye plants. I must admit I do have a rather mixed success rate with raising things from seeds. I can do the easy things but anything more difficult usually tends to fail. Or they get eaten by slugs. But I am hoping that having a greenhouse will do the trick and suddenly seeds will start germinating as if by a miracle and slugs and snails don’t find their way in there.

To start with, I decided to grow some classic dye plants like madder (Rubia tinctorum) for reds, weld (Reseda luteola) for yellow and woad (Isatis tinctoria) for blue. In addition, I am growing plants that look pretty in the garden as well (whether they have a chance to look pretty for long before I start picking the flowers for my dye pots is another matter). In this category I am growing things like dyer’s chamomille (Anthemis tinctoria), tickseed (Coreopsis tinctoria), marigolds (Tagetes erecta) and black hollyhock (Althaea rosea var. Nigra).

The first problem appeared only a few days after sowing the seed – someone had gone in there and eaten most of them. I noticed that because my courgette seeds had been neatly eaten in the middle and whoever it was had just left the shells behind. I am assuming it must have been a mouse. Also lots of little holes where my pea seeds had been and foot prints in the plants pots. So I had to sow many of my seeds again. I had expected some trouble but not quite so soon!

But luckily most of the seeds have germinated now and doing pretty well, although so far there’s no sign of weld and dyer’s broom (Genista tinctoria). Woad is not playing ball yet either but that only went in last week, so I am still hopeful. I will keep you updated about the progress…


Author: Heidi

I love colour wherever I find it, in art, photography, gardens, nature. I also love all kinds of fiber arts; spinning, dyeing, knitting, felting, sewing.

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