In A Garden to Dye For (St. Lynn’s, 2014), Chris McLaughlin teaches you how to make the most of your garden by harvesting different plants to create your own clothing dyes. She walks you through each type of plant, explaining where the color comes from and how best to get it for yourself. In the following excerpt, you learn how to turn your pesky Yarrow weeds into an energetic yellow dye.
Yarrow grows anywhere from 1-1/2-3 feet tall and has feathery, aromatic leaves (reminiscent of chamomile) and flat heads bearing tiny, clustered flowers. Among its many medicinal properties, yarrow has been used historically worldwide to control bleeding, cleanse wounds, and promote healing.
In the garden it’s a wildlife magnet, attracting bees, butterflies, birds, you-name-it – all to your little corner of the world.
Yarrow is a hardy, drought-tolerant and deer-resistant perennial that enjoys living in zones 3-10. In other words, perfect for my place. Get a jump on things by starting seeds indoors about 3 weeks before the last frost. The earlier you get them started the more likely you are to see flowers during the first season.
You could just as easily purchase starts from your local garden center or ask a friend for a clump or two of their divisions. Plant it in a sunny spot with well-drained soil as it won’t tolerate wet feet. Both common yarrow or any of the available hybrids will produce color.
Harvest the plant tops from spring through the fall, but don’t just lop them off willy-nilly. Cut the stalks close to the soil, leaving a few inches for new growth. Simmering the flower heads alone will yield yellow; modifiers such as iron will turn to olivey-green shades.
Reprinted with permission from A Garden to Dye For, by Chris McLaughlin and published by St. Lynn’s, 2015.
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