Posts Tagged ‘seeds’

New Spring, New Garden

April 10, 2010

Not only a new garden, but a new expanded garden!  We have lots of plans for food-stuffs, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries, for starters, plus the sweet pea seeds that I saved from last year are already sprouting along with some sunflowers, soon to be joined by poppies and cosmos.  Oh, and a clematis.

But more importantly, I’m getting more dye plants this year!  The woad is already planted, and I’ve ordered some supplements:  madder (red), lady’s bedstraw (red), weld (yellow), dyer’s chamomile (yellow), and one I’d never heard of – elecampane.

There’s nothing on elecampane  in either of the dye books I own, or any others I’ve read.  Only a single sentence on the whole of the internet (repeated on many websites, apparently it’s from a book written in 1931 called A Modern Herbal):  “A blue dye has been extracted from the root, bruised and macerated and mingled with ashes and whortleberries.”  On some further research, whortleberries are also known as bilberries, and are a wild relative of blueberries.  The ashes part of the “recipe” makes sense, acidic solutions tend to shift dyes towards the red end of the spectrum, and alkaline towards blue.  But I can’t help wondering about why it also includes blueberries, if there actually is blue dye in the roots at all or if it’s a mordant that works on them better than, say, alum.

I guess I’ll let you know in a year or two.  Gorram root crops (three of my five new plants) need extra time to grow before I can go digging them up.  Which means they’re all going in pots, if we move after I finish school next year I’m darned well taking them with me!

If you’re curious, I ordered the seeds from Horizon Herbs, they were very nice on the phone and have some pretty cool stuff besides the dye plants.  Being a small package, I’m hoping it’ll arrive quickly so I can get planting!

Last year’s woad is now about waist high, it’s quite impressive.  I’m looking forward to seeing the flowers, not so much looking forward to trying to stop the seeds from taking over the neighbourhood.  I’m planning to cut most of them down after they’ve flowered, and put little cotton or cheesecloth bags over the remainders to catch the seeds.

And because I simply can’t post two photo-less posts in a row, here’s a picture of a drawing I did this semester:

Can you guess what it is?

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Mission: Sowing

March 16, 2009

Yesterday I remembered that I had several decent-sized pots in the garage.  Which means (yippee hooray!) that I could plant my woad seeds!  I would have just put them straight into the garden, but we’ve been getting weird cold-warm-cold-warm cycles and while they’re supposed to be over, I’d hate for them to sprout only to be killed by yet another late night frost.  Also, I really like watching the first few weeks of a plant’s life and it’s much easier to  do that when they’re on the window sill in my studio than out in the backyard.

I did three pots, with two rows in each one, so when they sprout I’ll thin them down to two plants in each pot, then separate them when they go into the garden, leaving me with six plants.  According to A Dyer’s Garden, six plants will produce enough dyestuff to dye an ounce of wool.  She’s not very specific though.  I don’t know if that means they’ll produce that much dye over the whole summer or in one harvest session.  I’m guessing the latter, but I’ll just have to wait to find out for sure.