TINTA. Botanical Dyes and Prints, Straight from the Garden

TINTA. Botanical Dyes and Prints, Straight from the Garden

When I founded Masagana Flower Farm & Studio in 2018, all I was planning to do were grow flowers and make bridal bouquets with it. My flower farm in southeast Manitoba is tiny but it is living up to its name, every year I have an abundance of flowers that my CSA (community supported agriculture) subscribers gets to enjoy. Not every stem finds a home though, I check every single plant daily to make sure that I am harvesting each flower at the right stage, and there are days when a stem is too short or a flower is too open to sell to a customer, and it stays behind my shop. The flowers that didn’t make the cut (pun intended!) for selling ended up in the compost. The practice of composting is great but I still cringed every time I threw away flowers that summer. So, after that growing season, I told myself that in the future I am only going to plant flowers that meets at least two of the following categories: good as fresh cut, hold its color and shape very well when dried, or known as a botanical dye source. I was surprised at my Google search results; I am already growing most of the varieties that came up. After attending an Eco-print workshop and reading about plant dyes, I felt ready to try them myself this summer.

I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject, but I hope to be an inspiration for you to be extra curious next time you walk around your own garden. Some plants and flowers have colors that are very suitable for eco-printing and dyeing. These activities are fun projects to take on with or without kids around. Here’s a simple method you can try.

You need:
100% cotton white material like t-shirt you don’t mind getting stained or small pieces of fabric. Washed with mild soap. No need to dry when using right away.
Marigold flowers and leaves, pansies, violets, cosmos, borage (flowers, stems and leaves)

Mallet or pestle
How to:

1. Place the wet fabric on a flat, firm and even surface.
2. Put the flowers, leaves and stems on the top half of the fabric and fold the bottom half over, covering all of the plant materials.
3. Start pounding the pieces with a mallet or pestle. Depending how thick your fabric is or the blossoms you are using, you should see the pigments right away. Repeat the process until everything are pounded.
4. Unfold the fabric, take the flowers, stems or leaves (and throw in the compost) and hang to dry, away from the direct sun.
5. Once dried, wash the fabric and hang to dry again, away from the sun.
6. Ta-da! Enjoy your first eco-print project.

Gardening offers a lot of opportunities to learn about the plants, the climate we live in and discover our own creativity. Projects like eco-printing helps me see my garden as a multi-faceted landscape. When I started reading about botanical dyes, I realized how bad industrial dyeing is to our watershed, and that it is one of the top polluters in the world. It also dawned on me that I never think twice about the origin of the colors I love, let alone the difference between synthetic and naturally occurring ones. A DIY project like this reconnects me to the natural world and offered me hope at the beginning of the pandemic when I sowed seeds for this year’s dye garden. I am saving every bits of spent flowers from the garden these days, drying every single blooms. God forbid we have another stay at home order in the fall and winter, but if we do, my summer flowers (and Zoom classes) are going to keep me company (and sane!).

Lourdes Still is the founder and co-owner of Masagana Flower Farm & Studio in SE Manitoba. She believes that no matter how long and cold Manitoba winters are, we can still cultivate beauty and harvest bountifully in the heart of Canada. She will be offering Botanical Dyeing Workshop in August. To hear more about this Filipino-owned flower farm, visit her website at www(dot)masaganaflowerfarm(dot)com; like or follow on Facebook or Instagram by searching masaganaflowerfarm.