This magnificent Eucalyptus gunnii in our garden was grown from a seedling planted about 25 years ago & is now over 30 metres high. It is one of the most hardy varieties of eucalyptus & seems to thrive in our climate in the SE of England.
Dyes from eucalyptus leaves & bark can give pretty colours, usually ranging from tan & yellow through to rust & red. I believe there are species that give other colours too. In my experience, a dyebath from leaves or bark tends to take a long time to prepare, as it can take several hours of simmering to extract the colour. However, I have been advised by India Flint, an expert on eucalyptus dyeing, that prolonged simmering may dull the brilliance of the colours & that it is better to simmer for no longer than an hour before straining off the dye liquid. The fibres should then be steeped in the dye solution for several hours. Dyes from eucalyptus will fix without a mordant, although the use of an alum mordant usually deepens the colour.
One of the features of this tree is the way the bark sheds itself in large sections, revealing interesting silver, grey & green patches on the tree trunk. If I don’t manage to get to it first, my husband collects the fallen bark & uses it to start off a fire in his metal brazier. These fires are lit on the pretext of either needing to burn garden waste unsuitable for the compost heap or needing to dispose of letters etc which have our personal details on them. But I think he lights his fires for the sheer pleasure of spending a winter evening alone with his thoughts in the garden, enjoying the warmth of the blaze. And why not? Sometimes I join him & I can understand the attraction of this activity.
Details about my recent dyeings with the bark & leaves from this tree will follow. But don’t expect to see the reds that are apparently possible from this species of eucalyptus. I’m afraid they have eluded me so far. However, according to India Flint, eucalyptus is sensitive to the pH value & the mineral content of the water used for dyeing, so perhaps the reason for my failure to achieve red lies in the mineral content of our local water.