Thursday, 14 May 2009

Young Golden Rod- a surprise

Posted by Helen

Goldenrod in March 2009
Golden rod in flower August 2008
When we were first planting the dye garden I told Enys I wanted Golden Rod. Much against her inclination as a gardener as golden rod spreads fast and can be difficult to control Enys planted golden rod saying "you want golden rod you will have goldenrod- a whole garden of it". Goldenrod as a dye is a fabulous bright light fast yellow and at the very first dye workshop I ever ran someone gave us huge amount of goldenrod which we over dyed in Indigo when it gave a glorious emerald green. So obviously I wanted goldenrod and if I don't have a garden of it the original two plants have spread very considerably and so last week I actually cleared goldenrod which was threatening to choke a dwarf willow and which was looking a bit beleaguered. Enys on a waste not want not principle said to me sternly "are you going to try dyeing with that?" So of course I did as I was told and tried the immature plants for dye. Normally Goldenrod is one of those plants that you dye with when in full flower. The flower heads on their own give the clearest yellow I think but the whole plant gives a golden yellow with perhaps the slightest of green over tones.

Yellow from mature Golden Rod September 2007

I had cleared perhaps a dozen plants about a foot high so I chopped them up very roughly covered with water and heated very slowly and gently for about 12hours. The water was a deep brown to my surprise so I drained off the dye bath and repeated the extraction.
Into the resulting dye bath I put my ubiquitous Teeswater fleece and a 100 g of 18.5micon merino tops which has been in a very weak indigo vat and was dyed a very pale blue with lots of white areas. Both had been mordanted in 8 % alum 7% Cream of tartar.
The Teeswater took the colour first turning a soft pinky purple while the merino looked a rather unpromising grey. After 6 hours or so the merino began to look a greyish purple. Gingerly I added a drop of ammonia to see whether it would brighten the colours and the whole bath went a deep green. This change is rather reminiscent of the colour from elderberries which change from purple to green (and back again) with a pH change.
The resulting colour has proved very difficult to photograph looking blue or grey or even purple against different background.

To my eye it looks a dark turquoise, my husband ( red green deficient in his vision) says to him it looks green. Looking at the merino across the garden it look a dark grey with a green tinge. The odd thing is in all the photos I have taken I cannot get one that looks green. Whatever the colour is it is somewhat a surprise to get it from a plant

Teeswater looking purple against my red gold broom All the photos are of the same merino and Teeswater curls
which later will give bright yellow. I had expected pale or non existent yellow
The chemicals in the plant must change significantly as the plant matures.But why?


  1. Marvelous, Helen! Of course I'll have to try as goldenrod is really invasive and can be found easily around where I live. Hope it gives the same interesting colour on my Jezersko-solčavska ovca wool.

  2. I would love to see the colour you get from it. I also thought it might be worth seeing if it faded.

  3. My golden rod has wander out of the dye plant bed now and into the lawn, but the lawn mower copes with that! I dug around the patch with a spade to cut the roots of this spring and then a fork to remove errant roots. However, I love the flowers and I love the yellow colour it gives.

  4. How interesting!
    I think I have once dyed with goldenrod in June, before it flowers, and gotten pale yellow, but I have never tried it early in the spring.There are so many surprises in natural dyes, thanks for this:)

  5. Hello - I love the colours on your blog and have given you the Bella Award. To find out more go to

  6. Hi Helen

    I've nominated you for the Bella Award for your wonderful blog. Please see this link:

    Best wishes


  7. Thanks Alison -very kind of you.:)

  8. Oh oh oh :-(( I got nothing like your surprise colour, just a yellow very similar to your Yellow from mature Golden Rod September 2007, even more intense, lovely - but yellow. My plants were over half metre high, so twice the height of yours and probably more mature cause the climate in my part of Slovenia might be warmer than yours. It is interesting that immature whole plants (without any flowers or even buds) gave almost the same colour as the one you obtained from flowers only.
    Not the surprising colour yopu got but a nice experiment anyway.

  9. Hi Ladka-that is very interesting.I am just about to try another lot that I cleared yesterday so I will see what happens