Reaping the dye harvest
The dye garden at Rhosygilwen has been carefully tended by John and is in full bloom. It seems sad in some ways to cut these beautiful flowers in their full glory, but that’s why they were planted and so that’s what will be done. Because Rhosygilwen is quite a way away from where we live, we have to make the most of our trips there.
Dye plants at home
Reading about woad there is a lot of advice suggesting that it has to be used as-fresh-as-possible and so we have planted a back up patch of woad and of a couple of other plants at home. My experiments to date don’t support this notion though – I have so far happily harvested woad at Rhosygilwen and used it the next day.
I have also tried using frozen woad, and that too has worked, contrary to online opinion. I have about a kilo in the freezer which I am leaving to later in the summer, we’ll see if that still keeps it potency.
Slightly worried to find that purple loosestrife is thought of as a noxious weed in the USA. Butterflies seem to love it. A close relation of yellow loosestrife, which grows so well in Ceredigion, I have not yet had success using this plant this with wool. Alum plus iron mordant on hemp fabric have, though, produced a very pleasing dark military uniform type grey.
The very prolific dyer’s coreopsis has been amazing, I love the delicate flowers and the patterning on them. It’s quite satisfying that many of these plants do flower again after cutting, so there should be harvest well into September.
To keep me going into the latter part of the year, I am also harvesting and drying marigold and coreopsis, it will be interesting to see how well they keep their potency. Fresh they produce very deep vibrant colours.
Not a dye plant this time, but I had read that cinnamon bracket fungus works really well. I found this specimen on an old beech stump at Rhosygilwen, and was pleased to also find some hidden from site under a hedge, so taking that did not seem to be quite so immoral. It must be the right fungus, since it seems to have a dusting of cinnamon upon it. But I have been VERY disappointed with the outcome. More research needed. Shame.