Each season brings with it a new palette of colors, from different parts of a plant, or from entirely different plants. Depending on where you are in the world, your choice of plants will be directed by those that are native or will grow well in the soil and climate. To maximize their usage, consider using plants that offer a range of properties within themselves: herbs that heal and give color, fruit, and vegetables that offer nutrition as well as pigments. Focus on planting a good number of self-propagating perennial varieties, which do not need replanting each year. And try growing plants that grow back quickly when cut, such as kale and mint. Also, consider having a patch of nettles – they are wonderful at quickly regenerating and seem to thrive when cutting back every now and then. They also offer excellent nitrogen-fixing qualities to enrich your soil. You can also grow natural ingredients for mordants, such as rhubarb, borage or a walnut tree.
It’s good to have a mixture of annuals, with a thought to what colors will be available through each season of the plant’s growth cycle. Consider which part of the plant you will use to extract color. Can you use the leaves, fruit, and nuts, rather than having to dig up the whole plant for its roots? If so, you have a renewable resource at your fingertips. When you’re ready to use your plant, consider where the energy of the plant is during different times of the year. In the cooler months, the energy will be stored in the roots, then it moves up into new leaves. When seeding, the energy and strong color will be in the seeds, and once these dry and fall off, the energy cycles back down into the roots. Go to where the energy of the plant is, for its richest color source.
Aim for a collection of plants that will give you a rainbow of colors to choose from. In temperate climates, you can start by using woad for