Wednesday, 27 July 2011


Coreopsis Tinctoria plants
Some years ago, in the spring, I travelled around to both main stream and more specialized garden centres looking to establish a dye garden.  I had in my hand a list of suitable plants with both their common and Latin names, so as to be able to easily find exactly what I was looking for.  It was a somewhat difficult task.  Many mainstream garden centres had front of store staff with little knowledge.  The more specialized garden centres  just didn't carry many of the plants  I was looking for, although they had a few of them. Several referred me to Richter's Seeds, as the best place for me to find what I was looking for.  They were right.

Coreopsis Tinctoria
I've had great luck with many dye plants over the years, but the one that has eluded me is Coreopsis Tinctoria.  I've found a great number of varieties of Coreopsis out there but never actual Coreopsis Tinctoria.  Tinctoria usually means that the plant will have very good dye properties.  I'm thinking that the current trend to low maintenance, highly hardy perennial gardens may discourage plants like Coreopsis Tinctoria, since it's an annual.   The only place I'd been able to find them was Richter's, which indeed does have a more than amazing selection of wild flowers, herbs etc.  I would highly recommend them as I've had spectacular service from them over the years.  I've had problems in the past with getting Coreopsis Tinctoria seeds to actually germinate and if they do, staying alive long enough to get them in the ground.

Coreopsis Tinctoria all red mutant flowers
This year, my Coreopsis seeds germinated beautifully.  Not so in the past, but research suggests that they actually germinate in the fall and overwinter as rosettes, before flowering in the summer.   I'll plant next year's crop this fall to see if it works.   However, I got seedings this spring. They survived and I stuck them in the ground.  They loved our nasty, cold, wet spring and they flourished.    They are a bit leggy, with delicate leaves and pretty bi-coloured flowers.  Each morning, I pop out and pick all the flowers which are fully opened, tossing them in the freezer for future use.  I will leave a few flowers to go to seed, for next year.  Several Two of the flowers have virtually no yellow on them.  The petals are the deep red/burgandy colour of the centres.   I'm also letting these go to seed and planting them separately.   If they carry on the burgandy colour to their offspring, it would be interesting to see if there is a colour difference in the dye.

Some variety of perennial Coreopsis
I've some perennial Coreopsis in the garden as well, both a double and a single flowered type.  I'm also collecting these flowers to use as a comparison with the Coreopsis Tinctoria to see if it is worth the extra effort.     Regular Coreopsis give yellows with alum and oranges with iron mordants.   Coreopsis Tinctoria is supposed to give deep, rich oranges with only alum.   I guess we shall see later this summer when the plants stop flowering and I have enough stored flowers with which to dye.

I treat my dye plants as I would any other crop plant I grow.  When the fruit or in this case the flowers are are ripe, I harvest them for the purpose.  I won't wait until the flowers dye back  in case it lessens the pigment. Instead, I have flowerless dye plants.  I was once told, that this was a little odd.  However that is the purpose that I grew the flowers for, so I use them that way.  Anything else would feel odd to me :)


Leigh said...

What pretty little flowers! I've got coreopsis on my list for someday. I'll have to take your advice on planting them.

Sharon said...

Oooh, your plants are lovely, as is your new blog look.