Goldenrod isn’t just a pretty flower…

When I recently had a need for yellow scarves, my thoughts went to dyeing my own – another interest of mine.

 scarves may 16 golden

I immediately contacted a friend with whom I’ve shared many a dye bath, inquiring as to the whether she had any goldenrod – my first choice for good yellows.   She didn’t but offered peach leaves…. Hmm… 

I went cruising through my freezer, looking through my stashed dye-stuffs and lo and behold, I found a bag of goldenrod from a few years ago.  (Doesn’t everyone have a bag of goldenrod in their freezer?) 

While I awaited silk scarves to arrive from Dharma Trading Company (8”x72” silk scarves sell for about $3.50 each there), I started the dye bath.  Taking the dark vegetable matter from the bag, I put it in a small pot of water and brought to a boil.  (I always keep my dye pots separate from any other pots and identify them with string wound around the handles.)  Then let it cool and set the pot aside. 

When the scarves arrived, I washed them in dishwashing liquid, rinsed thoroughly and then put into an alum mordanting bath (alum – from the spice rack at the grocery store – about a couple tablespoons full for 10 light weight scarves).  I swished them about, making sure they were well wetted, then let it sit for a couple of hours.  Then I removed the scarves and hung them to dry.

Meanwhile, the dyebath was brought back to boiling for about an hour.  Then I turned off the fire and put in the scarves. I left them 24 hours.  The picture shows what they looked like when removed from the dyebath.  A deep golden.

Scarves goldenrod

Then I rinsed them thorough, then washed in mild laundry detergent, rinsed again and they hung to dry.

Not bad!  A pale golden yellow.  Not the bright yellow I wanted, but beautiful none-the-less.  That’s the way of natural dyeing.  Experimentation. 

May try those peach leaves – mixed with yellow onion skins? – for the next batch. Or … turmeric!  That’s what colors mustard sauce yellow.  I saw some turmeric root at the grocery store – think I’ll get some and experiment.


Planting with Bees

Just last week, between rain events, my daughter and I planted about 250 sq. ft. of garden area for a client.  Since the client didn’t see having time for vegetables this year, she requested ornamentals – plants that would bloom and need little maintenance.

Natives! Are my favorite go-to for that.  The configuration includes two large beds, each 10×13 feet, and includes large sage, oregano, rosemary and marjoram bushes, along with some incredibly invasive mint and a couple of milkweeds.

Hall two may 16

What did we plant?  Since most of the garden has good sun exposure, we chose mostly sun-loving plants like day lilies, Mexican dwarf petunias, blue mistflower, and salvias.  I love mixing day lilies with Mexican feather grass because when the day lilies die back in the winter, the feather grass is there with texture.  The Mexican dwarf petunias make a good front ground with dark evergreen leaves and lovely purple flowers.

Another cluster included Blue Victoria salvias.  The bees certainly found those when we were laying out the plants for positioning.  In fact, we talked to the bees and worked among them when we planted the Salvias.

The milkweeds joined a previous cluster of the same, but different varieties.  And the mistflowers anchored another corner. Another cluster was a mix of gray, fuzzy lamb’s ears paired with purple heart.  Lovely contrast, nestled next to the gray sage.

Zinnias and marigolds were sprinkled about, along with some basil for contrast.

It’ll be fun to go back in a month or so to see how it has filled out.

Along about the end of October, I’ll go in and clean out the die-backs and put in some bulbs for early spring color.


Tips and Tricks – Garden Pests

Following are some things I recommend in my classes.  I like to use non-toxic and easy-to-use solutions to pests.

 Borage planted with tomatoes repels worms

Marigolds planted with tomatoes repels root knot nematodes

Nasturtiums and tansy are reported to deter squash bugs

Some have luck with planting icicle radishes around the squash plants to deter those pesky squash bugs.

Plant lots of rosemary for mosquito control; also yarrow, lavender and mint.

If tomato plants are turning yellow, it may mean lack of magnesium. Dissolve 2 TB epsom salts in a gallon of water, put in a hand sprayer and spray the leaves (top and bottom) of tomatoes – peppers, too. About a week later, if the tomatoes are still not responding, mix the same amount and use to water the tomatoes/peppers.

To repel pests eating plants (e.g., basil, sage, peppers), boil red pepper flakes in water. Strain into a spray bottle and add about 1-2 tsp of dish soap (preferably 7th Generation or Ivory Soap). Shake and spray on the plant leaves.

For fire ants, boil orange peels in water with some whole cloves. Strain into a jar and add the same amount of water.  Pour on the mound. May have to repeat after about a week. It makes the ants go away.