Today’s post is by natural dye educator and dye garden founder, Donna Brown.
Donna and fellow dye gardener, Janét, met with Jen Bousselot last week. Jen is an instructor at Colorado State University in the Horticulture and Landscape Architecture Department.
She also volunteers at DBG Chatfield Farms every Friday morning in the Market Garden. We wanted to get advice about some things we were noticing in the garden, and Jen was kind enough to come check things out and give her expert advice.
Some of the Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus ) leaves have lost their color, and spots of red to purple are showing up. Jen explained that the discoloration in the lowest leaves is from phosphorus deficiency resulting from colder temperatures, when the phosphorus is less available to the plants. The newer leaves are fine, and the problem should go away as the temperatures warm. There is adequate phosphorus in the soil — no need to supplement what is there. If we should decide to remove some of those less attractive leaves, we should take care not to remove more than 30% of the leaves on any individual plant. The red-to-purple color evident on those lower leaves is from the anthocyanin showing through where there is less chlorophyll present. The good news is small flower buds are starting to develop!
The Dyer’s rocket or Weld (Reseda luteola) and the Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) have areas of white, frothy material. This is protective material generated by spittlebugs (a type of aphid larvae). It is not particularly harmful, and that material can be hosed off with a strong spray of water. Needless to say, we will have hoses spraying during our work day on Thursday!
The hollyhock ( Alcea rosea) plants are growing well and have become a snack for beetles this early in the season. The plant on the bottom right of the picture below is a second-year hollyhock. According to Jen, we might get more dye substance from plants that have been fed on (hence stressed) by beetles. So, for now, we will share our hollyhock leaves with the beetles. That will NOT be the case when they start feeding on our precious flowers!
Thanks to Jen for her time and expertise to give the garden a check-up, and advice on how to better care for our dye garden plants.