Natural Dye Notebook :: No. 19, Peach

Posted by Erin Howe on

Prunus persica

I am a lazy composter. More than anything, my compost pile, at the far corner of my property, is a way to keep my family’s food waste out of the landfill. Oh, I know how to compost correctly. I even paid college professors to teach me in detail. I just don’t, preferring instead to dump a load of wood chips on the pile when I remember, and leave it alone most of the time. 

Which leads to some entertainment, actually. We talk a lot about the benefits of being an early bird, being organized and prudent and day-seizing, but I find that laziness and procrastination offer just as many gifts. Work you end up not having to do after all, things that resolve themselves, activities that don’t pan out and you didn’t waste effort on them.

One of these gifts is the variety of plants that grow from my lazy compost pile. I baked a year’s worth of pumpkin bread from vines that grew from that pile. Peonies have volunteered there, and been moved to observation pots under the back porch. Watermelons are a regular feature. But last year, and this, the pile has sprouted a crop of peach trees. The compost pile is an ongoing, delightful, unpredictable character in the story of my farm. 

So of course into the pot went the leaves:

And oh, what a tantalizing yellow that showed up on the cardstock only!

Maybe I could coax it out with more dyestuff and a more basic pH.

When everything came out of the pot a second time, the only difference was with the baking soda dipped cotton:

So that’s a promising direction to go for yellows. 

But then, oh, then I put the bark in the pot.

It created a peach dyebath and I held my breath. The color or intensity of the dyebath doesn’t always indicate what the color on the fabric will be. 

But out they came, peach colored after all:

Very nice! The wool is tangerine colored, and the cotton and silk are just a perfect peach. Of course this whole project is bent toward finding ribbons to complement my peony bouquets in the spring, and when I saw this palette, I remembered this beauty:

She'd work with these colors quite nicely, don't you think?

 A comparison of leaves and bark show us where the action lies:


With peach dye to offer, I think my seedling peach trees can stay. They’re unlikely to make good peaches, since good fruit trees are asexually propagated and seedlings are just wild. But that’s a good thing too, since trees producing peaches must be heavily sprayed here to avoid brown rot. A dye tree won’t have to be. 

My only concern is, what do I say if I ever sell the property? I can see myself now, convincing a buyer. “It comes with a peach tree,” I’ll say, eyes glittering. “No, a dye peach tree.”

That and these swatches would be enough to make me buy the place. 


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