More of my Summer Garden




Before the roses and other early Summer flowers begin to fade, I couldn’t resist the temptation to post a few more photos of my garden at its best. The white rose “Bobbie James” is a rampant climber with the most wonderful fragrance that fills the garden. And the lilies, a Mother’s Day gift from my son, are also heavily scented, so sitting close to these perfumed flowers is is a real delight.

At this time of year, especially when the weather is as hot as it has been recently, I tend to concentrate more on spinning than dyeing. But I do keep an eye on the progress of all my dye plants, so I can harvest them when they are ready. Then the dyepots come out again, so I shall soon be writing some posts about dyes from the garden.

A Beautiful Day









Today is a beautiful day – warm and sunny, with dappled light through the trees and a gentle breeze stirring the foliage. The sights and scents of my garden remind me that Summer is almost here. The bees hum as they move among the flowers and there is a general atmosphere of peace and tranquility. Never mind that there is still so much work to be done to tend the vegetable and fruit crops and keep the flower beds looking attractive – today is a time for enjoying the garden. The work can wait until another day.










 In late Spring and Summer, my workshop becomes increasingly difficult to access, as the roses and other shrubs spread themselves over the path and encroach on the doorway.











 These are my woad plants from last year, flowering and preparing to produce the seeds for next year. On the ground below these plants, this year’s seedlings are growing and developing the dye potential for dye vats later in the year.



These are the leafy tops of my madder plants, giving no hint of the amazing colour potential of the roots beneath. Madder cannot be described as an attractive plant but, to me, its qualities as a dye plant amply compensate for all its disadvantages as a garden plant.


tglasses2This photo was uploaded by Colin from WaltonCreative as I am having problems uploading images and he was testing the site for me. Colin designed my blog for me and is also the designer of “Wild Colour”. He is always ready to help when I have problems and usually manages to solve them, so I hope he’ll be able to do so this time – and without too many scathing remarks about my lack of computing skills! I thought I’d leave this image here for a while, as an inspiration to me to try and emulate Colin’s talents as a photographer. The way the light falls through the colours on the glasses looks really lovely.

More Fungi

After another walk in the woods I have discovered more fungi. I have tried to identify them, using a reference book “Mushrooms of Britain & Europe”, but I’d be grateful for any help anyone may be able to offer. And for any hints as to which ones might be useful for dyeing, although most of them look so beautiful where they are that it would be a pity to remove them, unless, of course, they were truly remarkable sources of dye colour & were not rare or protected.

img_1600What is this one? Is it Burnt Polypore (Bjerkandera adusta) or perhaps Many-zoned Polypore (Trametes versicolor)?



img_1711Is this the same species of fungus, but photographed in a different location in different light?  In “real life” it didn’t look exactly like the one above but perhaps one is more mature than the other?


img_16061Perhaps this might be Phlebia merismioides (P. radiata)?

Whatever it is, it was growing far too high for me to reach it anyway.



img_1607I know these are unlikely to be suitable for dyeing but they make a pleasing image.





img_1613And the same with this one. Is this perhaps Gymnopilus penetrans?

It looked far too attractive to even consider picking, & was too small anyway for a sample dyebath.

A Walk in the Woods

The woods near where we live are mainly birch & pine woodland, with some oak trees. On bright winter days they are lovely places to walk in for inspiration, with dappled sunlight through the trees & crisp leaves underfoot. This time I was also keeping my eyes open for fungi or other potential sources of dye colour.

Fallen birch bark is abundant & is a useful source of pink & tan shades, especially if one has the patience to separate the inner bark from the outer bark. The leaves of fir trees can be used for yellows & the fallen dried oak leaves give brown shades.






                                                                                                                                                                    These bracket fungi look so beautiful on the tree, it would seem wrong to disturb them, especially as I’m not sure whether they would be suitable for dyeing anyway.

I think the lower bracket fungus is a birch polypore (Piptoporus betulinus). I read recently that the Ice Man, whose body was discovered buried in ice in the Swiss Alps, after lying there for over 4000 years, was apparently carrying some fragments of birch polypore, attached to his clothing by leather thongs. It is thought that he was carrying these fragments for medicinal purposes, as birch polypore is considered to have anti-bacterial properties. In the past, it was also dried & used to sharpen razors, hence its alternative common English name, Razor-strop fungus. When we visited the Viking museum at Haithabu in northern Germany some years ago, I was interested to learn that the Vikings used walnut solutions as an anti-bacterial soak for their clothing.

                                                                                                                                              These bracket fungi were very high up on the tree and somewhat out of reach of my camera. They looked quite spectacular, sitting together in splendid isolation above the forest floor.






                                                                                                                                                         Is this another birch polypore? This one is a delicate shade of green, with slightly frilled edges. Or perhaps it has been nibbled?

The pleasure of exploring the woodland & coming across such treasures is a real inspiration during the winter months. The experience is enough in itself, whether or not I  find useful sources of dye colour. Even without new “finds”, there will always be plenty to fill my dyepots & never enough time for all the experiments I’d like to do.

Autumn Colours

All around, as I walk in my garden, I marvel at the glorious colours & scents of Autumn. Somehow this is the time of year when I feel the colours of the natural world seem most closely to resemble the colours produced by natural dyes. Madder reds & corals, logwood purples, the russets of onion skins, the golds & browns of buckthorn bark & rhubarb root – all these are here in my garden, inspiring me to return to my dyepots.