Spring in the dye garden


I had a query from a lovely reader recently and it caused me to consider what was in my dye garden, which is also the flower and vegie garden, really.  So here is a little taking stock.  Woad is showing its capacity to self sow.  I have gone from struggling to get a seedling out of a hard won pack of seed, to finding I could get it to grow, to this… self sowing in the veggie beds.  Let’s see if these plants manage the summer.


The one-year-old-woad is pretty big.  Pity I didn’t harvest it at the right time.  I still might have another go… but meanwhile some of it is sending up flower heads and the seeds will dye too! This is the woad-and-potato bed beside the peach tree.


This is the woad-greens-rhubarb-you name it bed.  Flower heads rising in the middle top of the picture.


The new raised madder bed, with added pansies, evacuated to this spot when their pot fell apart without warning.  I think the madder already likes this spot. Californian poppies are doing well in the old one.


Speaking of pansies, I’ve been dead heading these regularly to use India Flint’s ice flower method on them.  They are in a yoghurt pot in the freezer, accumulating. I love my pansy dyed thread and have faced the fact that I don’t need kilogrammes of silk thread at this stage and therefore can happily use quite small quantities of dye stuff.  I have also been known to deadhead pansies in public plantings.  But it goes so much better when I don’t have company, as this kind of weirdness may offend one’s friends. In the top of the picture, the weld. Some of it died months back for no obvious reason–the main stem seemed to rot or be nibbled away.  Mysterious!


And there are these pansies too. Only some of them make sense for dye but they are all lovely.  I am in favour of loveliness.


Our E Scoparia has made it through the skeletonising caterpillar season and is now my height!


Black hollyhocks old–


–and new.


Marigold seedlings coming up in a metal tub I salvaged off hard rubbish during winter.


I do use rhubarb leaves to create acidic dye baths, but mostly rhubarb is for eating and not dyeing in our parts! And the rest of my dye garden is out in the suburb and other people’s gardens… I am a dye gleaner.



Filed under Dye Plants, Neighbourhood pleasures

8 responses to “Spring in the dye garden

  1. Jenai Hooke

    Hi, I don’t know if I have just missed it or not but I have been following your blog since the start of the year and I do not know your name…….no matter really, I just wanted to acknowledge you for the most wonderful blog. I subscribe to many but yours is the only one that I get excited about when it comes in and I read every word. I live on the Sunshine Coast hinterland of S.east Queensland where I run a small herd of Alpacas and have a small dye garden for which Indigo dominates. I am the founding member of SCNDIG (Sunshine Coast natural dyers interest group) and after only 18 months we have 60 members. I run natural indigo workshops but love working with all the same dye stuffs that you do. I too spin, knit, crochet & felt. I read your blog and think we must be soul sisters….what you do, your values and your interests are so aligned with mine. Thank you for the spark and connection this blog has bought to me, shining through the noise that the internet has become.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Dear Jenai, your lovely, generous comment has me just speechless. Thanks so much for writing, and for what you’ve said. Your dyer’s group sounds amazing–and really successful too. Which kind of indigo are you growing? How’s it going for you? I have managed to grow woad but had a lot of trouble even growing Japanese indigo. Isn’t it great to find people of like mind and mutual values, however we find one another? I know a lot of people think internet connections are tenuous and surface-deep, but while that is often the case–actually, I am warmed and heartened and inspired and cheered by people I meet on the internet (especially through the blog–and sometimes their blogs) and very touched to find that sometimes that’s mutual. I love that image of this blog singing through the noise to you somehow! Thank yo so much, warmly, Mary


  2. Watch the woad spreading. Probably easy enough to do in your garden, but I know in some parts of the USA it’s a declared weed for it’s rapid spreading. Don’t know it’s status in Oz. Of course using the flower heads to dye should address the problem. Do you use them as an ice dye or directly?


    • Yes, I’ve read about woad’s weedy tendencies and I am pretty committed to making sure I’m not part of the problem. It isn’t declared in my state, possibly because it is just too dry here for woad to make it, or perhaps it’s luck. Last year I had so many seeds I used them as dyes. I have them sitting in stuff, steep and store jars and my fingers are getting itchy…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. norma

    Your garden looks lovely.
    I have heard of woad being invasive but I guess it has to do with the climate. Woad was a major dye in Britain for centuries but despite that I’ve had no success. The plant was about ready to harvest and more or less overnight was eaten by catepillars. Of course, the hens weren’t interested in helping me out there….Oh well, maybe another plant, another year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Norma. There is no doubt it can be invasive in the right circumstances. But like you, I spent two or three years trying to even get a seedling. Everything eats the stuff, at least when it is small. My hens love a caterpillar, as long as it isn’t hairy. The cabbage whites, they find a very tasty morsel. The big fluffy ones known locally as ‘wooly bears’ on the other hand, are a lot bigger and hungrier and the chooks show no interest at all.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m pretty sure it’s the hairiness for our chooks–they just can’t get past it, and I couldn’t either!!


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