Happy summer

Today is the First day of summer and the sun is shining even if the temperature is 6C or 43F. But that is usual for this time of year and is actually quite warm for the time of year.  Today is an old traditional holiday and we give gifts on this day.  I received a gift myself yesterday when I found some timber that was being thrown out.  I got permission to salvage it and took it to my Allotment garden where it will become more raised beds.

Last fall, well it was November actually, I built some raised beds out of very similar timbers that I also salvaged from a skip.  Since I had some more wood I also knocked together some frames to use as covers.  I just need to get glass or plastic to cover them and then I have the perfect cold frame.  I have also made a primitive deck out of pallet wood, so  mom and I can sit in the sun and admire all our hard work.  I just need to find a good small table.  Or I could build one.

I wish I could say that I have a green thumb, but to be honest I have quite a few miserable failures.  I did sow some seeds about a month ago and although most of them sprouted I tend to leave them to long before I prick them out.  But "better late than never" so today I'm salvaging the rest .  I have pricked out about half of my seedlings, the Sweet Peas (Lathyrus odorous) and the pretty pink Morning Glory (Ipomoea), also an annual of which I save the seeds from every year.  They are doing well and need to go into larger pots.  I also managed to pot the Lily bulbs I bought, Lilium regale, and also the Sarah Bernhardt Peonie which I don't already have in my garden for some strange reason.  I'm going to keep her in a pot for the time being.  I don't want to loose her to the cold.  I was also given some Foxglove (Digitalis) rosettes which grow like weeds in a friends's garden.  I have tried to sow its seed, but never had any luck with getting the plants to flower, so now I'm excited.

I haven't really started the vegetables yet, although I sowed some basil, lettuce and spinach, but I killed some of them off with neglect.  So I need to start those again pretty soon.  This year I'll sow the regulars, carrots, broccoli, beets, cauliflower, lettuce and kale.  I bought seeds of the dark green Italian Nero di Toscana, which tastes amazing.  I want to grow a few plants of this and make chips from it.  And I think I'll try turnips this year.  I had never tasted them until I decided to try them recently and I really, really like them.  Not to forget the most Icelandic of crops, the rutabaga, or swede.  I've only grown it once before, they take up a lot of space, but they are so good when homegrown that it's worth growing a few.

I also sowed some dye plants, and I plan to dedicate a portion of the allotment to those.  Some are perennials and the rest tend to be invasive annuals so I should have plenty of materials in years to come.  I have Madder (Rubia tinctoria), Woad (Isatis tinctoria), Japanese indigo (Polygonum tinctorium), Calleopsis (Coreopsis tinctorium), Dyers Chamomile (Anthemis tinctoria) and Weld (Reseda luteola). I need to plant these on and perhaps sow a few more seed.  I may live to regret this, but I don't think one can have too many dye plants.  Oh, by the way, it it a pretty good indication that a plant is a good dye plant if the second part of the latin name is "tinctoria" (or similar) in the same way that "officinale" designates medicinal plants.


  1. I love coloring my soaps with woad! Is it hard to grow ? Would love to see apost on how to grow some of your dye plants. So many soapers make soaps with artificail colors its hard to find good info.

  2. Happy Summer Ambra :) What a fantastic blog you have! With all of our similar interests you could be my Icelandic cousin - maybe we're related through the German line ;)

    I'm also trying to grow as many as my own natural soap botanicals myself and Madder and Woad seedlings are growing in my conservatory. I'd like to try growing Alkanet as well but seeds/cuttings are extremely hard to get a hold of. Do you have any recommendations for where I could get a hold of some?

    Looking forward to hearing more from you and your blog Xx

  3. Donna - I'm absolutely going to keep you abreast of my dyeing plants. I don't think woad is hard to grow. Check out this site: http://www.woad.org.uk/.

    Tanya - Thank you and let me return the compliment. I am still drooling over your bees, the one thing my husband has refused to indulge me with :) I haven't found Alkanet and my primary source for seeds http://www.wildcolours.co.uk/html/alkanet.html says they are both difficult to find and difficult to germinate. If I should find them I'll let you know.

  4. Growing your own dye plants..that is just totally great, Ambra! You know I favor plant dyes over anything else for soaps. I'm still working on the Usnea-in-oil solution. Haven't ouched it yet and wondering whether it might influence color outcome. I dream of raised beds..some day..some day..I miss my garden and have started planting a friends garden here: carrots, calendula, sunflowers, spinach, hollyhock..flowers galore! Hugs from Ca!

  5. Yes, I'm excited about that. Just spent a whole day with my mom in the allotment digging out perennial weeds and knocking nails out of the new wood. It looks really good, lots of worms probably a result of adding all that horse manure and seaweed last fall. If you have red or very dark Hollyhock, they are excellent to dye from. Haven't tried it in soap, though. I've been trying to germinate some seeds of Alcea nigra and have a couple of plants :)

  6. Haha :) My husband isn't keen on bees either...he flips out and does a crazy arms and hands beating in the air type dance if he spots one buzzing around him ;)

    I also buy my Alkanet from Teresinha at WildColours.co.uk...but I've promised her to send her some info on seeds if I ever get a hold of some! Currently she buys the Alkanet root direct from a supplier in France(?).


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