I find a collection of plants that thrive in the sunny location- and our weather this summer has provided the perfect conditions for growing. The owner has offered everything- ‘take what I want’ and climbing through this amazing forest of plants, I try and decide what to gather without disturbing this wonderful environment.
Seasoned professionals in the natural dye world recommend that only 1/3 of a plant’s blooms should be harvested at a time so you do not damage it.
Some plants are easy to for me to identify- other’s I am not sure and without the owner there to ask, I test things by picking a berry or bloom and rub it between my fingers to see if color emerges. Berries on the hedges that grow directly in front of the house, turn my fingers dark purple. This makes me pretty excited. I have been looking for a blue all summer!
My friend and I pick berries and I also collected pink hydrangeas, as well as cone flowers and marigolds to add to my stash. Both, I've found dry out nicely and still produce good color when rehydrated in a dye bath.
We return to Steph's house with bags of plant material and sit down outside to look at her garden. Steph and her husband, Jack also have the 'green-thumb'! There house is situated on a sunny bluff that over looks the river and their vegetable gardens thrive. Asparagus, tomatoes, beans, peas, peppers, all the makings for good food that they tend, eat, can and save for winter. These two are great cooks! Each time I visit, a new garden bed is built, diminishing their lawn and creating more and more vegetables.
As I hunt in my neighborhood, I find little of this hedge. Perhaps its use as a natural wall has lost its popularity. I do find a few varieties around Como Lake.
This 1.6 mile route that circles this man-made lake is one of my daily walks and has been a test for me all summer long, ethically as I know it's frowned upon to harvest from public lands. Como Lake is a host to many native plants that the park board has added to naturally restore the land. Each time you circle the lake, you notice the landscape evolve and change each day. Its a great tool to see what's blooming and ready during the year- and then find it in a willing gardener's yard, but sometimes the temptation to gather is still there:).
So, I find Aronia- another hedge that is available in a nearby yard. It's an interesting dye- the berries when picked are full of fluid and soon your arms are dripping with juice. The dye is a mix of purples and greens, different from privet but a great addition to my palette.