Tag Archives: japanese indigo

IS & JI planted, add water & wait for heat

5 Jun

This week we hit 100+. I’ve finished as much planting as I can in Fort Indigo. The fences have been newly painted and hopefully will withstand the armadillo and possum incursions for grubs. The indigo bed was enlarged at the expense of a madder bed. This year I am mixing Japanese Indigo and Indigofera Suffruticosa in the same bed. The IS will shade the JI and the two have played well together when I trim the IS limbs up. Plus I have the added bonus that the JI beta enzyme appears to work with the SI leaves when the two are crushed together. More on that later this season.

Smaller earlier planted IS compared to spoiled IS seedlings held in pots to grow.
Before the mulch the plants, both IS and JI, are placed by irrigation emitters to ensure water available in the hot season
Mulch in place, fence in place, now we wait for growth to kick in.
For comparison, two & three year IS bushes happily growing under the eaves facing East. Note the new seedlings for this year.

So, if all goes well I will continue to practice with my indigo extraction and blender vats this summer. And, even more importantly I will have an Indigofera Suffruticosa seed crop this fall.

When one experiments

22 Aug

I was trying for indirubin red with Japanese indigo….no success…yet!

Fresh leaves-chopped

Bring to boil in double boiler-will push to grey

Add the cloth as water bubbles, cloth should turn red as bubbles hit cloth.

Notes also said add more vinegar to push the red.

Now….no red but a very good moss green. Lightfastness still to be tested.

Samples

V= left overnight in vinegar

O= left overnight in JI stew + vinegar

Right hand sample pulled from pot & rinsed immediately.

Negative research is good. I will try again with a different method. This recipe boggled my mind as I don’t think of a process of Japanese Indigo with boiled water.

New tools-Dried Indigo

27 May

I’ve shared photos of my Japanese Indigo leaf harvest before so some of this is repeat for some readers. For other readers this is worth repeating. My Japanese Indigo crop sprouted in February, way early for the Texas Hill Country. Sprouts came from discarded seeds and root stock left on the ground last season. This bonus crop is now in the way of planting new seedlings. So time to try new harvesting tools and drying methods with this bonus crop. I can tell by it’s height and leaf size as it goes to seed it is not as vigorous as new annuals. So it needs to clear the way for this year’s seedlings.

I have electric clippers that I use in garden trimming (arthritis slows me down). Will they work faster than scissors? Caution….

The clippers worked well. I tried drying the leaves in the same set up I have for a different Indigo but I went back to my bundle and hang method. Why? The May winds blow over my temporary setup. For now, I’ve secured it to a gate. There is no wind to contend with in August and September when I usually harvest. Remember….bonus crop due to the Texas rains last fall & late winter temperatures.

A couple of days will render these bundles to a dry level that will enable me to easily strip off the leaves of the stems. But one always looks for alternatives in one’s circumstances and environment.

Gasp…Japanese Indigo in mid-March in the Hill Country

24 Mar

Truly unusual, indigo in mid-March. When I left on my travels in mid-January I noticed that, for the first time my Japanese Indigo had sprouted on its own. In January. I figured it would freeze back, but come mid-February it had grown well and was holding it own. I left the country again thinking our late February or early March freezes would put it in its place.

Well, I am home now, my husband did defend the plants thru one deep freeze (serious husband points) and the indigo is thriving, even blooming. Normally this time of year I would be turning the soil, enriching it, placing the drip hose and eyeing the seeds figuring out when to start the seed packs.

So, now what do I do? Let it continue to grow till it hits a foot and harvest it? I am tempted to do a pigment extraction. I usually dry & hold. Suggestions are welcome.

This is truly a bonus crop from last year’s seeds left in place. We still have cricket season in the near future. If I do see cricket chomping I will harvest. In the meantime I will dig out my seeds and prep my seedlings to drop in between these early bonus plants.

Winter Garden Chores

12 Jan

Temps here in Texas are just weird this season. Japanese Indigo seeds are sprouting early. Never have they sprouted in January.

Madder root are poking new shoots out rather than going dormant. Mid-January is just not the time for this dye plant behavior.

Being the weather opportunist I had Emerald Landscape local folks out to pull a large perennial flower bed which was past its prime, weed & layout a pad for an indigo pot work area. More to come on this pot install journey later.

After 10 years here our rosemary had gotten old and overgrown and needed to be pulled. Since John & I have also gotten older as well the day of garden muscle help was most welcome.

Since I did not have to wrestle rosemary bushes out of the ground I used this wet day to trim back madder root away from acanthus bushes and save the roots for dyeing. I hate to toss red roots. The gardeners think I am nuts.

Here are the roots after cleaning. I will let them dry for a couple of days and then cut them smaller for further drying.

The garden bed is now prepped for the 3 year root harvest. It has been 4 years since the last harvest. More to come on this harvest later. Where’s my pitchfork?

Blender Blends!

10 Nov

And here are the results of the blender comparison.  My interest was in pushing the use of the beta-glucosidase found in the Japanese Indigo species to affect other varieties of indigo, in this case, Indigofera Suffruticosa.  A paper titled

rβ-Glucosidase in the Indigo Plant: Intracellular Localization and Tissue Specific Expression in Leaves

compiled by a team of Japanese scholars goes thru some of the details of cell structure.  This paper is located on https://academic.oup.com.  I am not a scientist but am using the culture of grandmothers’ knowledge to try this.  One day I will hook up with a scientist to understand WHY this works.

Let’s play “What was in the fresh leaf blender?” Please note these skeins have not been washed! More to come after washing to see what really sticks.  ANSWERS BELOW!

1. Which skein is blender indigofera suffruticosa?

2. Which skein is blender Japanese Indigo?

3. Which skein is a “blend” of both Japanese Indigo and Indigofera Suffruticosa?

4. Which is the leftover skein for all season?

Please note the @botanicalcolors hoops in use!

Note how the Indigofera Suffruticosa mixed with the Japanese Indigo presents a stronger blue rather than the traditional green of Blender Japanese Indigo

10 day difference for Japanese Indigo seedlings

30 Mar

10 days & temperature increases and sunshine made a big difference. March 17th I planted my Japanese Indigo seeds, by the 27th I had sprouts! I ordered the wrong seed tray. Duh, but seeds planted in new tray sprouted sooner than my old method. I am smarter now despite myself. Next up I will plant my Indigofera Suffruticosa seeds. I’ll throw Cota and Hopi Sunflowers into the mix this year also. Maybe I can beat the birds to the seeds for dye this year.

I am still on bud watch on my older Suffruticosa plants. Will the 3 year old plants live longer? Did the freeze this January take the younger plants out? The drama of gardening continues.

Plus the Texas Persimmon is budding and blooming. Before I know it I will be out picking persimmons in July for the dye.

Sharing a Texas Winter Dye Garden

25 Feb

Today I hosted 3 UT Art Graduate students and showed them the winter dye garden. Even though all outside was frozen or dormant there was plenty of color in the studio to show them. It was a fun 3 hours of give and take and seeing the art world thru their eyes.

The indigo suffruticosa is cut back and dormant but the seed pods were beautiful.

The madder root bed was frozen back but we weeded and looked at the roots gleaming with color.

The Japanese Indigo beds lay fallow waiting for their early spring turning of the soil. Some frozen indigo leaves showed their true colors.

Frozen indigo suffruticosa & test bed sites

9 Dec

After the great Texas blizzard of 2017 the remaining frozen indigo needs some attention. You can see how much indigo remains in the Indigo Suffrucitosa. I will pick and strip them before the winds take them down for me.

My day will be spent slowly trimming more branches in anticipation of the winter winds.

Slow is the operative word as I am still recovering from an October back TLIF surgery. I’ve graduated from my cane, I can start driving in a limited basis and start physical therapy next week to restore my core strength. I had a major victory this morning when I could lace my boots myself. My husband is glad to see me further along the recovery road also. I had a set back earlier this week when I tried to do too much too soon. My body set me straight yesterday. Patience is not one of my virtues. Gardening and the dye pot help some.

Besides harvesting the frozen leaves indigo the seeds have matured and need to be gathered, dried and winnowed.

I am amazed to report that this year’s volunteer crop outside the fence line did not get a nibble this season from the ever insatiable deer herd. Next year I will get more ambitious and purposely plant seed along the irrigation line.

The test bed on the west side did well above my expectations. It was exposed to the hot August and September sun and held up. More will be planted there next year. I think regular irrigation will make that a viable bed for future use.

The Japanese Indigo has gone for the season. The seeds are drying and the bed needs to be cleared.

The critter that cannot be caught waited politely thru the growing season before making an incursion under my Fort Indigo fence. We will continue our quest to capture & relocate the grub digger.

Wishing everyone a Happy Holiday and a New Year as the year draws to an end. If I decide to sell seeds for next spring I will post here. Enjoy your garden dreams for 2018.

End of Season Indigo Chores

25 Oct

We have frost in our Hill Country weather forecast this weekend. With my recent back surgery I can’t go into physical overdrive but with my husband’s help I can pull in both indigo species seeds for drying and trim some Indigo Suffruticosa leaves to dry.

The Japanese Indigo seeds below are set out to dry before separating from blooms. There is another leaf bed to harvest but I am saving those for a John Marshall study group project. Hopefully, the freeze is just a forecast not a reality.

Above are the banana shaped Indigo Suffrucitosa seed pods. See the black seeds peeking at you?

And finally the leaf stripping station. Truly high tech, I strip the leaves off the stems. Easier now rather than later. The fresh leaves will be weighed and after drying I’ll weigh the yield. Like that back brace? It will be my friend for the next 90 days while my bone grafts heal. Oh goodie.

This batch will go into my leaf drying mesh bag and left out for a couple of days. By then the bugs will decamp and I can transfer the batches to rubber tubs for long term drying indoors.

These tubs show dried batches from earlier this year. All are Indigo Suffrucitosa except the lower right hand which is Japanese Indigo.

In the end the process is easy to fit into my lifestream and I can focus on growing the indigos, dry them and run dye pots later. Its all about focus at the proper time. I’ve been collecting quantity stats to see what amount of color I can expect each season. The indigo left on my plants today will probably be my freeze dry stash for the year. We trimmed the plants for the winds so here’s hoping for a dry hard freeze when old man winter does hit.

Here is a photo from last year’s freeze dry experiment. It worked! 100 grams yielded this color on 340 grams of silk. Granted it is not a dark blue but I am testing the process for my Indigo Suffruticosa that works for dried Japanese Indigo. It worked well enough that next time I am cranking up the dry leaf quantity to see how blue I can go with dried indigo, more words on that in another blog entry. And of course, these skeins will go in to get darker.

In the larger scheme of dye life it is about what colors you can grow, the easiest process to use what one harvests and how to get darker colors and fitting it into your daily rhythm. We do it because we can. Enjoy your harvest.

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