Something ends, something begins – my dye garden after the winter

We have wintered extremely easily this year. At first, it was so warm it could be taken for early autumn. When Yule came and the Earth bounced off the Sun so much, the heat could no longer hold to this place, the snow covered the vegetation thoroughly. Such prepared world and my gardens survived winter really well. It is true that I’ve suffered some losses, but these were plants annual in our climate. I didn’t loose however any of the plants with which I have plans for the upcoming season. Not even a single one. Something ends, but something begins at the same time – this year my dye garden will be much greater and in plural. Yes, I’ll be having two dye gardens!

Something end. Japanese indigo

First change: there won’t be any japanese indigo anymore (Persicaria tinctoria) in my garden. This plant, brought to Europe from China and India in early modern period should find no applications in strictly Medieval Europe dyeing process. I do understand that in the end of the chemical reaction we are getting exactly the same compound in dyeing with woad, indigo or japanese indigo. But going this way I could use modern chemical dyes as well.. From chemical point of view there is no difference. From historical – the difference is huge.

The presence of safflower is also ending. Its cultivation has spread in Europe in the seventeenth century. The second disadvantage was that my clothes and hands were torn whenever I passed its spiky flowers. This plant is worth Zerrikania’s sun indeed.

What begins is my great woad cultivation. This plant was with me whole previous season. I’ve repeated the procedure of woad dyeing a couple of times and reached the point where I use my eyes and hands only to estimate how’s my vat doing. Also, I’ve realised that I’m able to obtain more colour during the process than before – progress comes with time and it is very rewarding. From this season on, this will be the only plant I will obtain blue colour from. This way couple of days ago I sowed my new woad field. Without pre-soaking the seeds or using hotbed. This is a pretty resistant plant and seeds I have are promising – they were collected last year in Southern France so they are fresh and should germinate easily.

Woad, second year

You may say here that woad leaves are less effective than indigo. Or complain the leaves need to be fresh as the indigo precursor is unstable. Yet this is the exact plant that was used in Medieval Europe and if you want to recreate a person living here at that time, your blue textiles should be dyed with woad, not an indigo plant.

Along with the hostorical corectness, comes the wonderful colour it gives. I simply love those sky blue shades. It takes a while to obtain it, yet that is another reason why I like using woad so much. There are no shortcuts, you cannot just heat the water, put you fabric into the cauldron and take it out blue and pretty. This process is more complicated, but also spectacular.

Yet the biggest emotions were associated with dyer’s madder (rubia tinctorum). Last year I sowed a whole batch of seeds and waited till the end of summer for any sings of life. In August I’ve spotted the only plant that germinated. The question is now – why was it just a single plant, not more? All in all, I’ve sowed it to the soil where sweetscented bedstraw (galium odoratum, dyer’s madder relative) grows so the soil conditions were good I think. On the other hand I don’t know two factors that could influence my cultivation – what was the quality of seeds I received and how does madder seeds germination looks like in general? This year I am hoping to collect my own seeds and try to cultivate them so I do hope to solve this issue.

Today, on 2nd of April, my dyer’s madder is not a newborn anymore, but more a toddler. I’ll check how will it be doing by the end of summer and estimate whether its rhizome would be good enough to be divided. Anyway I am focused on expanding my madder cultivation as well. Wish me luck!

In the pictures below you can see my dyer’s madder on 21st of March and 1st of April:

The last plant I waited to wake up after the winter was my dyer’s broom (genista tinctoria). In this case however I am not going to use it for any spectacular dyeing purposes as you can obtain yellow dye from so many other wild flowers. This plant will make my garden decoration only.

This way plants

Tym sposobem Rośliny nieprzystające do realiów średniowiecznej Europy zniknęły z mojego ogrodku, ale pozostawiły po sobie ślad w postaci doświadczeń w pracy z nimi. Na dodatek, zyskały one ziołową ochronę przed szkodnikami. Zeszły rok przyniósł mi kolejny raz tę samą naukę i głupia byłabym gdybym w końcu nie wymieszała ziół z najdroższymi mi uprawami. Zeszłego lata to, inwazja szkodników nawiedziła ogródek barwierski, który rósł w odosobnieniu od ogrodu warzywno – ziołowego. Tego roku urzetowe pole będzie miało miejsce za wstęgą obrośniętą macierzanką, melisą, tymiankiem, szałwią i hyzopem, a drugorocznym roślinom przystawiłam melisę, która wysiała się na ścieżce między grządkami. Taką to, iście wiedźmińską metamorfozę przeszły moje ogródki tego roku. Nie będzie już hodowanych masowo pomidorów i selera. Całą połać oddaję ziołom, roślinom “kociołkowym” i kwiatom. Teraz pozostaje wyglądać, czy świeżo zasiane urzetowe nasiona wykiełkują i uczynić z nich rozsądną rozsadę. To będzie bardzo niebieski rok.

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