Growing A Dyer’s Garden

I inherited my love of the Dakota prairies. My grandparents homesteaded the land, and my father farmed it. I remember walking through the fields—pre chemicals—when sloughs were left for pheasants, wild roses grew along the edges of fields, and bees and butterflies were busy making the world smile.

I substituted an urban garden for the family farm years ago. But madder, elecampane, our ladies bedstraw, woad, black Hopi sunflowers, and French marigolds are all plants I’d never heard of until I started eco-dyeing and eco-printing. I enlarged my garden plots and planted a dyer’s garden. Some of my horticultural adventures have been successful; others not so much. The woad never came up, the French marigolds are not tall and plentiful like in pictures, and the squirrels stole all the sunflowers. The madder, ladies bedstraw, and elecampane are thriving.

Much of my current work focuses on my Dakota Memories  and my hopes and fears for our prairies. Inspiration for the work evolves from love of the natural world I remember and fear that we as a culture are destroying it.

My urban garden is very personal and critical to this work. It grounds me and reconnects me to my love of the land. Its plants recreate the bright greens of spring growth and the browns, reds, and golds of the harvest. Natural and organic, the past and present come together in my backyard.

(Row 1: madder & cereopsis; Row 2: wild rose & our ladies bedstraw; Row 3: elecampane & black hollyhock)

dyers garden