102. Easter Egg Dyes From the Garden

Years ago, we took the kids on an RV road trip at Easter. Before we left, I planted four plastic veggie packs with grass seed, so that there would be grass for the Easter Bunny to deposit eggs and other goodies into on Easter morning. We have always had real eggs for the outdoor Easter egg hunts. I still get angry when l remember the one horrible Easter morning that spruce budworm pesticides were sprayed over the whole region – our area was sprayed at 5 a.m. But that anger is balanced by the amusement I felt when the eggs were hidden in 30 inches of snow one year. Where did the Easter Bunny find stashing places in snow? I bet some of them weren’t found until the spring thaw.

We love to colour Easter eggs with plant dyes from the garden – such a fun craft to do with children. The time-honoured dye has got to be onion skins, but there are several other lovely, sometimes subtle dyes to be obtained by taking a walk in the garden or forest.

Because I grow a dye garden for my fibre art, I even have the luxury of having real dye plants like madder and dyer’s camomile. In the fall I harvest and dry these dyestuffs.

I pack them around the white or brown eggs, and wrap with netting and elastics or string.

I place them into water and boil until the eggs are hard-cooked.

Lift out with a spoon and plunge into ice water – helps prevent the grey colour around the yolk.

Then, we get to unwrap them.

dyeing easter eggs collage

Aren’t they a delightful surprise?

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91. Buzzing Bushes

I wish I knew how to record my bushes so you could hear them buzzing.

The California Lilacs are buzzing.


A symphony is playing softly in the lavender and rosemary.


And in the indigo.

Those Lithodora are more gorgeous because of their gentle song going on while I water the garden.

Even the colourless raspberries have got a bee party going on.

Maybe D’s mason bee condos have something to do with the buzzing bushes. He must have installed eight of them around the yard. Clearly the vacancy rate is low in this neck of the woods, because we get dozens of minute tenant applications every day, delivered on grains of sand.

Our neighbour has hives. It’s lovely to think, when he gives us a jar of his beautiful honey, that we are eating some of our own plants’ nectar.

In other news, I’m excited about our first gooseberries.


The big bed in the rooftop garden had a renovation a while ago – the surface was overrun with Marchantia liverwort.marchantia

It chokes off the light and holds the water at the surface. I sliced off the top 1.5 inches of soil, and discarded it. Then I mixed a sandy loam with perlite and applied about 3″ of it to the soil to improve the drainage. It seems to have worked – my plants love it and I haven’t seen any of that horrid Marchantia return (so far).

In the greenhouse, the tomatoes are loving their new bedroom, and most of the seedlings have been planted out.

From a gardening friend I learned this neat trick with cinnamon: sprinkle it on the surface to keep mould at bay – it’s antibacterial.


It’s been so very dry here – I don’t think we’ve had rain for the whole month of May. The water storage cistern has to be topped up with town water for flushing toilets and watering the garden. It’s a constant chore to water – more so this year than any other. Not as bad as California, but unusual for southern British Columbia. I’m afraid I’ve lost my new Umbrella Katsura tree to the drought.

But the bees and their comforting hum help me feel better.

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84. Harvest – Whew!

fall wreath with labelFall is the best season!

So inspiring to a fibre artist.cottonwood stand, labelled

But, wo/man! What a big job!

Everything I harvest needs to be processed somehow if we can’t consume it now.

I have canned Harvard beets, cucumber relish, raspberry jam.

Frozen pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, tomato paste, salsa.

Dried mushrooms and hot peppers.roasting hot peppers

Made roasted jalapeno and cayenne paste.roasted peppers in oil

Made a fabric dye bath out of indigo leaves and lobster mushrooms (I love how the top lobster mushroom actually looks like a lobster tail.)lobster mushrooms

Picked and dried a whole bunch of dye plants for later use in the winter.flowers for dyeing

Dried a raft of herbs (was a great year for herbs with all the heat.)dried herbs

Picked and ate fresh all the grapes.grapes on vine

Made apple pie filling out of our 35 apples from these two little trees:apple trees

Somehow, in all the excitement (!) of building our house these last five years, I completely overlooked the need for a root cellar. To the internet I go – search ‘makeshift root cellar’. Decide to use this old hardware box from F-I-L’s basement, combined with leftover burlap from son’s wedding, to create storage for carrots, beets and potatoes.root cellar box Collage

Our little roof-top vegetable garden was so productive this year. Some of the carrots were so long that when they reached the landscape cloth at the bottom of the boxes, they just started to grow up or wind up like a snail, or push themselves up out of the ground a few inches.

I cleaned the root vegetables and layered them between damp burlap, stored in the garage, the coolest place that doesn’t have vermin.

Made all the eggplants into Baba Ghanoush dip, and froze it.eggplant harvest

Have been picking (and loving!) all the garden flowers, and there are still some brave dahlias, jack-o-lanterns, hydrangeas and even a couple of renegade sweet peas.fall's flowersveggie harvest collage

I’m exhausted from just writing about harvest season. Gotta go to bed!virginia creeper on rocks

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78. Big Garden Tour

This Green House 2.jpgSo, it’s all over. The Botanical Garden Society’s Tour of Private Gardens (ours was one of seven gardens) on Sunday was met with perfect weather, in spite of a 60% chance of rain forecast. Five minutes after the scheduled end of the tour, a few raindrops fell. Good karma was goin’ on.

My last post tells about some of our preparation work.Mary painting sign Today’s post attempts to give you the tour at This Green House experience in pictures.

Mary drew an amazing map for our visitors.This Green House Garden Map jpg She painted signs for our eleven points of interest. I wrote out and laminated informational signs, along with names of some of the interesting plants, mostly in the dye and medicinal gardens. artichoke dye sample

Now, I’ll just throw a bunch of pictures atcha:deer signDear deer.jpg

bear sign

nasties in rotting log

studio yard


quilters' workshop

patio and sky garden

birdcage planter

greenhouse insideMary demonstrated natural dyeing while I demonstrated some sewing in the studio.

mary tour guide dyeing

dye pots at garden tour

dye samples at garden tour

pizza patio

box planted 2.jpgThis Green House



red garden vignette

wilde land

greenhouse signs

lady's mantle

Medicinal garden.jpg

strawberry hills close

kitty resting

My friend brought me a big bouquet of peonies to grace the herb tea and treats table. Aren’t they gorgeous?

pink peonies

garden tour collage.jpg

thank you for visiting


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77. Prep for the Garden Tour

Wilde Land.jpg

Goodness, things are hoppin’ ’round here, as we prepare for the Sunshine Coast Botanical Garden‘s tour of private gardens (Sunday, June 8, 11-4, tix at garden centres).

Mary, our only WWOOFer this year, came to help with final preparations ten days ago, and am I ever glad to have help. She’s a graphic artist back home in Switzerland, so we agreed that she would paint the signsMary painting sign

Dear deer.jpg

garden signs

and draw a tour map for our visitors and do lots of weeding.weeding at this green house

She was game to make woad balls from the plants in the dye garden.making woad balls A lot of work for 2.5 balls (see the little one she’s balancing on her nose?)Mary with woad balls

It’s astounding to me how anxious I am about presenting a beautiful and interesting garden. We’ve only been here for four years, so very few plants are mature. I’ve been working on it flat out for three months now.Medicinal garden.jpg

We’re getting there. So far, it’s been a better-than-average growing year.

D and I have nearly finished the new greenhouse. (Well, almost 95% has been done by D – I’m just doing the stonework around the bottom.) It’s growing those tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, basil and cucumbers to beat the band, as long as I remember to water.

The tour theme this year is Artists and Their Gardens. I have not spent nearly enough time pimping my studio and gallery wall, let alone making art. I do plan to do little dyeing and sewing demos, though.

I’ll be back with a full garden tour when it’s all over.

Wish us luck!


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