As we emerge into spring, I’ve been thinking about this year’s dye garden. Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Petaluma Garden Club about some of the plants that yield natural dye, that are easy to grow in your own garden. There are more than you might think!
- Dyer’s Coreopsis. (Coreopsis tinctoria) This is an easy one. Simple to grow and prolific, you (and your kids) can harvest every blossom and more will regenerate quickly. You’ll have a beautiful golden orange dye from these flowers and they look nice in the garden.
- Hollyhock. (Alexa nigra) These tall-stalked flowers may already be in your flower garden. The darkest red-black flower, Alcea nigra, is best for a bright green dye, but any red flower seems to work. Enjoy the flowers as they bloom, then gather the dried blossoms from the ground and save them for the dyepot.
- Purple Basil. (Ocimum basilicum var. purpurescens) Also a useful culinary herb, you can grow a number of plants and harvest the extra for the dyepot. Use the leaves for greens and grays.
- Japanese Indigo. (Polygonum tictorium) A bushy plant with pink and white flowers, the leaves are used throughout the summer and fall to make a beautiful blue dye.
- Purple Cabbage. (Brassica oleracea) Besides being able to make kimchi and sauerkraut, you’ll have a supply of dye that yields a beautiful lavender, rose pink or turquoise, depending on the ph, which you can shift to the acid side with vinegar (for pink) to the alkaline side with baking soda (for turquoise) or leave neutral (for purple).