More from the Garden

This has not been a good year for me health-wise and it has not been a good year in the garden, either. The weather has been wetter than I have ever known it to be here in the south of England in the Summer – weeks of rain with little sun or warmth. Problems with my hip have meant that gardening is not possible for me, so I have to rely on family and friends for help but there is little they can do against the onslought of slugs, snails, rain and wind.

Not a single self-sown seed from my woad and weld plants has germinated and only one plant resulted from the two successive sowings I made of woad seeds. The weld seeds I sowed germinated fairly well but the seedlings have failed to grow because of the wet and look as if they will never reach a size suitable for transplanting to the dye garden.

Leena Riihela (see link opposite to her website) very kindly sent me some seeds of two varieties of Japanese indigo (Persicaria (formerly Polygonum) tinctoria) and these germinated well, so I was expecting to be able to have a reasonable crop of both round-leaved and pointed-leaved plants. As you can see from the photo below, slugs and snails have attacked my poor plants. Try as I may to locate the culprits, they remain hidden until dusk, when they emerge again for a feast.

On a more positive note, for the first time, I have this year managed to grow Hedge Bedstraw, both from plants and from seed (again from Leena), although it will be several years before I can harvest any roots. The photo below shows the plants in flower.

Another plant I am growing for the first time this year is Sawwort (Serratula tinctoria). This is a native perennial yellow dye plant, thistle-like in appearance, but it was not until this year that I managed to find a source of plants. The rather poor photo below shows one of them beginning to flower. Unless the plants grow more vigorously, I will probably wait until next year before harvesting any for dyeing.

The weld plants in the photo below represent my entire crop for this year. I have only four plants, two bought as seedlings and two grown from plants overwintered from last year.

However, it is not all a tale of woe. My dyer’s chamomile (Anthemis tinctoria), dyer’s broom (Genista tinctoria) and madder (Rubia tinctorum) are all flourishing, as the photos below show. The dyer’s chamomile was grown from seed sown last year and the madder plants were brought two years ago from my old garden. The dyer’s broom was one of the first shrubs I bought for this new garden and it is a plant I love – decorative, an excellent dye source and perennial too!

7 replies
  1. lynda howells
    lynda howells says:

    I had the same problem with my indigo plants…snails in my case. This is the first time l have grown it..can you tell me the ratio of the leaves for a small vat? Doing some investigating………..lyndax

    • Jenny Dean
      Jenny Dean says:

      I’m afraid the only indigo-producing plants I have experience with using from the fresh-leaf stage are woad & Persicaria/Polygonum tinctoria & recipes for both are in “Wild Colour”. I usually collect about a bucket or large bowl full of leaves & start off dyeing small quantities at first until I know the strength of the vat. Or I just use whatever I have & hope for the best! Good luck with your plants, anyway.

  2. Louisa
    Louisa says:

    Sorry you are having such difficulties, Jenny. Hope your hip improves soon. Every year is "win some; lose some" in the garden! We had a very soggy June but July has been quite hot and sunny so things are picking up. The J-indigo is knee-high and the weld is a foot taller than I am! Unfortunately after nearly drowning, now we have to water things every day.
    I would love to have dyer's broom and sawwort in my garden but I can't find a source here in west coast Canada. I could have regular broom though but I'm allergic to the pollen! Oh well. Yellows are easy. Instead I really need more madder and am trying to increase the bed. Too bad they are such scratchy sprawling beasts!

  3. Ladka
    Ladka says:

    Sorry to hear about your hip and snails/slugs/rain problems!
    This year I have some beds in my mum's garden and tried woad, coreopsis and black eyed Susan. What I sowed directly in the garden germinated well only to be eaten by mice as juicy seedlings. I sowed woad several times, also got three seedlings from a friend and, additionally, sowed in plant pots and then transplanted in the garden. All I now have are one large plant that survived of the three seedlings from my friend, two moderate plants from my own seedlings and two poor plants from my later seedlings 🙁  And I dreamed I could start dyeing the blues…  Well, we'll see. The friends woads have less enemies and fare much better, so there is still hope for the blues this year.

  4. Leena
    Leena says:

    Hi Jenny, I'm glad the seeds had germinated well, I hope slugs and snails leave them at some point. Japanese indigo leaves are so soft, they must taste really good. We have also some slugs in the garden but fortunately no snails.
    I had the same trouble with weld this year, they didn't germinate, so I have only two small plants right now. 
    Your dyer's broom is so big, and already flowering, mine are not yet even showing flower buds, but they will come. 
    I hope your hip will become better in time and you'll have sunnier weather for your garden.

  5. Kathy
    Kathy says:

    good morning, sorry to hear about troubles with your hip. I have several european blog friends and they all tell me they have had no summer this year and too much rain
       Here in Missouri usa though we have had too much summer-100s most day and no rain since May
       hope fall will be kinder to both of us Kathy

  6. yvette
    yvette says:

    ooh yes it's so hard to be dependent on other people for the garden…and those snails….I had 2 hegdehogs but they preferred catfood (they were too small when I got them from rescue so they grow up with it and snails were not nice enough)
    I wish you recovery …..

Comments are closed.