Dye Garden
One of the specialty gardens featured in our Teaching Herb Garden, located at Elm Bank in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
This introduction to Dye Garden Plants was written and reseached by Riekie Sluder, a member of The New England Unit of The Herb Society of America.
This introduction to the Dye Gaden was reseached and written by Riekie Sluder, a member of  The New England Unit of  The Herb Society of America. All rights reserved.  Updated 4.06
The plants in the dye garden were chosen because they produce a rainbow of colors on wool. In general vegetable dyes give soft subtle colors. Usually the material to be dyed needs to be treated with a mordant to allow the dye to be absorbed. Common mordants are alum, chrome, copper and tin. Dying with vegetable matter is more of an art than a science. The actual dye color given by a plant can vary according to that particular growing season, fertility of the soil, part of plant used or time of harvest. Dyer's chamomile (Anthemis tinctoria) is a perennial that has a daisy like yellow flower that blooms in midsummer. It yields a yellow dye when used on wool that has been treated with alum. Dyer's woad (Isatus tinctoria) is a biennial that produces a yellow flower in the spring. Its leaves yield a blue dye. Madder (Rubia tinctoria) has an insignificant flower and a weed like appearance. Its roots yield a red dye to wool treated with alum. 


Buchanan, Rita. A Dyer's Garden: From Plant to Pot, Growing Dyes for Natural Fibers. Colorado: Interweave Press, 1995

________. A Weaver's Garden. Colorado: Interweave Press, 1987.

Cannon, John and Margaret. Dye Plants and Dyeing. Hong Kong: Timber Press, 2003.

Dean, Jenny. Wild Color. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications, 1999.

Kowalchik and Hyltons, editors. Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. Rodale Press Inc, 1998. 

McRae, Bobbi. Colors from Nature: Growing, Collecting and Using Natural Dyes. Vermont: Storey Publishing, 1993.

Ober, Richard, editor. The National Herb Garden Guidebook. Springfield, VA: The Potomac Unit, The Herb Society of America, 1996.

Photo by Godfrey Sluder
A Short History of Dye Plants
Dye Garden - Click on thumbnail to enlarge view.