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Did you know that yesterday’s bouquets and boutonnieres can be turned into lovely, hand-dyed masterpieces? More homesteaders are discovering the fun and beauty of dyeing their own fabrics, all with Mother Nature’s bounty.

Curl Up and Dye

Dyeing sounds complicated, but it’s super easy and fast with this method. Dye cloth for craft projects and more in just a few hours with minimal fuss.

Materials

Unbleached muslin cloth, at least 2 x 2 feet
Rubber bands or zip ties
Steamer basket
Six cups fresh or dried flower petals

*Note: You’ll have more color with more petals. Try to go for stronger colors like deep red, purple, and yellow over delicate colors like pink. You’ll get more bang for your buck.

Directions

Heat up a pot with your steamer basket over medium heat. Make sure there’s plenty of water! As the steamer heats up, prep your cloth. Smooth out the muslin on a flat surface. Pour the petals liberally over the cloth, ensuring you have an even layer.

Carefully roll up the muslin from one end. Fasten it at least four times with the rubber bands or zip ties.

Once your muslin is rolled up, toss the roll into the steamer. Allow it to steam for at least an hour, adding more water if necessary.

After an hour, remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Gently run the roll under cold water.

Remove the rubber bands or zip ties. Take the muslin outside and shake off the petals. Hang the cloth up to dry. You may need to wash the cloth once more to remove caked-on petals. Be sure you use cold water! Hot water will remove the pigment that you’ve worked so hard for!

The Bottom Line

There are endless ways to use beautifully home-dyed muslin cloth. Some people use it to cover kombucha crocks, while others use it for baby blankets. Avoid waste and produce something gorgeous with natural dyeing to decorate your home.

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A Rose by Any Other Name is a Hellebore

by Gail Kavanagh

Do you want the pleasure of a garden in bloom all year round, even in winter? Look no further than the hellebore, a 3000 year old flowering plant known as the Winter Rose. In Asia, where it originated, the roots were dried and ground to be used as a medicine, but no herbalist would recommend this today as hellebore root is toxic. But as a color feature in the garden, especially in the shady but bare areas beneath trees, hellebore is unsurpassed.

The evergreen shrubs come in several different varieties to suit any purpose, but all share a fairly tolerant nature. Hellebores don’t need much pruning, are happy in places that don’t get much sun and are easy to propagate by dividing the clumps after the flowering season. Just make sure you wear protective gloves in case your skin is sensitive to the roots.

The most common species of hellebore are Helleborus Orientalis and Helleborus Niger. These are also known, respectively, as the Lenten and the Christmas Rose because of their flowering times.

The Lenten Rose, or Helleborus Orientalis, is a compact plant producing large flowers around Easter. The variety of blooms is spectacular; some are soft purple and pink, others are white and green; some are spotted with red; some are striped with other shades. The flowers are good for cutting and look stunning in a vase or flower arrangement. Being such a hardy plant, they will last as cut flowers for a week, especially if you dip the stems in boiling water before arranging them.

The Christmas Rose, or Helleborus Niger, is the one that gives fresh white flowers in the heart of winter, perfect for Christmas decorating. It needs more care than the Lenten Rose, which is a far more hardy plant. But added to these two basic varieties are newer hybrids, which have an even wider variety of color, and a wider range of types suitable for different conditions. One variety, known as Honeyhill Joy, is Helleborus Niger and Corsican Hellebore hybrid, and performs well in cold weather, providing blooms from midwinter into spring.

Traditionally, Hellebores love cool, moist conditions, and need extra care during the summer. For older varieties, plenty of shade is a must, and they need to be kept moist and well mulched to stop the soil around them drying out. But there are newer hybrids, like H.xballardiae which are more tolerant to hot climates. It is always worthwhile to shop around, and discuss with your local plant expert what varieties you can cultivate in your planting zone.
Hellebores can be propagated by seeds as well as clump division, Sometimes you will notice seed pods forming in the center of the flowers. You can catch these seeds by putting a paper bag over the flower, and use them to propagate more plants. However, the plants grown from seed will take several years to flower, so the method of dividing the clumps is better if you don’t want to wait that long.

You don’t have to fuss over hellebores as long as they are happy where they are planted. If they thrive, they are happy, and will flower profusely with little attention required. There will always be a welcome spot of color in the garden, as well as a regular supply of glorious cut flowers for the home.


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