The most valuable and reliable (the squirrels and deer don't seem to care for it) plant I have growing in my dye garden is madder. I started five years ago with four, small plants and look how it has spread!
The impressive leaves are not the dye material, though. The root is harvested and has a orangish-red color.
I cut the root into smaller pieces and let them dry.
A handful of dried roots produces this lovely salmon color in the dyebath. Supposedly, each year the roots get darker. I wonder if I'll get a deeper red from this year's harvest...
I used to think ground squirrels were cute.
Last year, however, we were overrun with them, and they destroyed much of my dye garden.
The marigolds, madder, amaranth, and sunflowers thrived, but the indigo, which unfortunately is an annual, was squirrel food. Wanting to be humane, I tried pouring hot pepper sun-tea around the plants. It discouraged them, but not for long.
This year, I tried seeds, to no avail, and finally bought a few plants. They came in the mail (!) and so far have been undetected by squirrels. The growing season here is so short; I can only hope to get usable indigo this year.
I want to be able to get this blue again. I'm committed to using dyes from only what I can grow or find here.
I also wish I could find these colors in the mushrooms I find in our forest. I've been collecting and experimenting.
So now I just have to figure out a way to discourage the squirrels, without resorting to the slingshot or a pellet gun. Trapping them and releasing them to some other place they'll be unwanted doesn't appeal either. There is a feral cat that showed up a few weeks ago and I spotted her with a squirrel in her mouth...