Walking in the mud and puddles between showers in an unseasonably warm February I have come across uplifting signs of Spring. There are Crocus’s and daffodils flowering, of course, and carpets of Snowdrops lighten the forest floor even primroses are blossoming.
Elders are starting to produce leaves and dandelions are showing themselves with short necks keeping their heads close to the ground for now. Soon the fields will be glowing with successions of untamed plants which will give plenty of opportunities to experiment for the botanical alchemists amongst us.
The time for planting has begun. My sweet peas have emerged and broad beans and onion seeds are planted. Next it is time to plant Woad, Coreopsis and Weld and then April for the less hardy Persicaria Tinctoria. I plan to grow much more Japanese indigo this year to add to last years harvest with a view to ferment at some point. This won’t be on the scale of Rowland Rickets project though I have been encouraged by a post here to ferment on a much smaller scale. The first harvest is in August which will give me an opportunity to perhaps incorporate it into a workshop. Shibori and a fresh indigo bath could be a happy addition to the the mud resist workshop.
Working with plants as a gardener, grower, cook and mark maker is great for your health. It heightens your awareness of time and sense of place. I go wandering with a deeper appreciation of my environment and a quest to know more about the seemingly endless variety and potential of plants. In Spring plentiful wild plants regarded as weeds can be gathered, including docks, dandelions, nettles (which are also good for soup, gnocchi and butterflies) and brambles which are rich in tannins will between their leaves flowers and roots give a variety of yellows, greens and browns.
My reading has led me to find out other interesting things about wild plants used for dyeing including, that common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is used to stop bleeding and was carried into battle in medieval times. Comfrey, is also known as knitbone, is another addition to the natural medicine chest as a poultice for breaks and bruises, and plantain has leaves which are better for Nettle stings than Dock leaves and are also good for bee stings.