It rarely happens to me, that I am just in the right place at the right time. Months ago we were asked if we would help some French friends harvest their grapes. It seemed like a good idea to us and we thought we could roll this assistance into an Autumn holiday. Not long after all these plans were laid, I realised we would be staying not so far from the gardens at Lauris managed by Couleur Garance. It then transpired that whilst we were there Couleur Garance were holding a natural dye forum and fair.
What perfect timing !
Couleur Garance was founded about 20 years ago in part of the terraced gardens of Lauris castle in southern France. The garden’s main aim is to inform everyone about natural dye plants. Plants from around the world are assembled to tell the science of plant dyes, along with how the plants that colour the world.
We got the opportunity to have a guided tour of the Couleur Garance garden given in English. It was fascinating to see all the indigo containing plants from around the world together.
Equally fascinating was to learnt that the reason for the colourants in the madder roots is to act as pest control for the plant. Garance is actually the French word for madder and it was once widely cultivated on the plains around Lauris. Hence the name Couleur Garance.
There were plants I knew and many plants I was not aware of from all corners of the world. Each plant was labelled with it Latin name, it’s family name and the chemical constituent of the colour it contained. There were also blocks of colour indicating the dye colour obtained from thr plant.
A surprise to me was that I could buy a plant of pericaria (indigo) dye originally from China, but grown in France by Couleur Garance. Hopefully I can persuade it that it will like to grow in the North East of England.
Here is the plant shortly to be transported back to the UK.
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Seeing the Couleur Garance garden really inspired me to continue with more natural dyeing. In addition I want to try and learnt just a little more about all the dye plants and their chemistry.