Madder Springs Forth

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It’s another beautiful spring afternoon and I’ve just been out in the front garden checking my Madder plants. More about Madder here http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubia_tinctorum.I’ve had them in the ground near on three years now. Each year they sprout out of the ground look lush and green and take over their allocated garden nook and then die back to brittle, detritus. In the picture you can see them phoenix-like, bursting forth from the warming ground. They are weirdly clingy plants that grab at your hands and clothes with their rough foliage, but its not the apparent, green leaves that I am interested in.

I am especially excited about this years appearance because three years in, is the minimum time to harvest their roots, cut them into small sections and dry them to prepare them to make an ancient red dye. I am leaving some in the ground so they can continue to expand their planty empire, regardless of the horrendous sacking which will occur. This rather uninspiring photo below, which looks like odd coloured coffee grinds is what I hope to grind the roots into and then embark on some ambient temperature dyeing.
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From my studies I think I have determined that low temperatures and more alkaline waters have a great deal to do with getting reds, rather than browns and oranges. I also know that South Australian soils seem to have a lot of limestone in them, hence calcium carbonate, which I am led to believe is also important for redder reds in the natural dyeing process. I also built a small limestone drywall around my front garden plot (you can see some of the rocks in the first picture) so that these plants might partake in some of their mineral goodness. Do you get the idea I really would like red, reds? The truth will be in the testing.

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