My Indigo diaries 2022 – The Indigo plot (late May) news – Meet the growers … Deborah

The Indigo plot at the Botanics is going live this Saturday with a planting event If you are in the West of Scotland there is still time to join in the fun, You should book a space, it is free but we want to be able to contact you in case there is a change of plan.

We are very excited to see our little plants getting stronger and stronger and ready to fend for themselves in The Botanical Garden. This Saturday we will plant Japanese Indigo, Woad plants and Flax seeds. A very exciting time … I hope you will visit in the summer if you are around. But event if you cant be here in person I want to share the project with you. I hope it will inspire you to grow dye plants in your own surrounding and learn to use them in a sustainable manner to perhaps up-cycle some of your garments?

As well as growing plants in the grounds of The Botanical Garden I wanted to share further afield and I recruited 24 home growers who wanted to give this a go. I share some seeds with most of them and regularly we are coming together on zoom to catch up with our progress. They are gardeners, dyers, artists, or just simply colour lovers … I have asked them to introduce themselves and this month we are discovering Deborah Gray a textile lover and like me a full time self employed artist from the West of Scotland and a wool lover whose natural dying is very close to nature. I met Deborah through my online teaching and we have connected very well indeed. I love her sustainable approach and her deep connection with nature. Deborah set up a dye garden in Oban (Scotland) where she grows a number of dye plants. She grows Indigo and Woad in it.

She talks about her love for a sustainable practise and her work below, all photos are Deborah’s: (photos and words are copyright of Deborah Gray 2022)

Who are you?      Deborah Gray

What do you do ?  I’m a textile artist based in Oban, on the west coast of Scotland. Much of my work reflects the connection between land(scapes) and the materials which grow there – fibres and dye-plants. I am also a tutor, teaching spinning, knitting and natural dyeing both here in Scotland and internationally.  

I am Lead Artist for the EcoCreative Cluster project at The Rockfield Centre, Oban.

What is your connection with dye plants and Indigo? I have been growing and using dye plants since the early 1980’s, including Woad and Japanese Indigo.  I am growing Woad, Weld, Madder and some other dye-plants in my own garden as well as some plants for botanical printing.

In 2021 with a small group of volunteers I established a dedicated dye garden in the grounds of The Rockfield Centre as part of the EcoCreative Cluster project, and we grew and dyed with our first crop of Woad, as well as many other dye plants. We have about 20 different dye-plants in the dye garden. The EcoCreative Cluster project this year will create artworks for The Rockfield Centre themed on the Celtic tree alphabet, using natural dyeing, botanical printing and work using natural pigments on parchment (to be exhibited in January) as well as having workshops and a second series of on-line Artist Conversations with international artists who use natural dyes and materials in their practice.

Where will it grow and how will it be used? This year I am growing Woad at home, and we are growing both Japanese Indigo and Woad for the dye garden. We are growing two types of Japanese Indigo – the long leaf variety and the round leaf variety, and I hope to have enough to compare the dye potential of the two types. The round leaf variety has been much slower to develop so far. The seedlings are still in pots on my sunniest windowsill, but they will move to the dye garden’s cold frames by the end of May and be planted out in a raised bed around the middle of June. The Woad seeds have been planted directly into a bed – they are on the shadier side of the garden this year as I move the plants around the plot each year. Last year’s Woad plants are now about 1.5 metres tall and in full flower, so we should get a good harvest of seeds.

In August, as part of an exhibition at The Rockfield Centre (19th – 29th) I will be doing daily dyeing demonstrations using plants from the dye garden and if the Japanese Indigo is ready by then I will use some. I will also have an indigo dyeing day in September. Last year and earlier this year I ran some Tatakizome (plant hammering) workshops and used Woad leaves successfully, so we may do the same with Japanese Indigo. Depending on how well the plants grow and how much we can harvest I may experiment with drying or freezing leaves for later use and making indigo pigment.

For more information about the EcoCreative Cluster project and dye garden go to Eco Creative Cluster — The Rockfield Centre and follow #ecocreativecluster and #therockfieldcentre on Instagram

Please tag  @deborah.gray7

#TheIndigoPlot at the Botanics


The Indigo Plot at the Botanics is a small dye plants garden in the grounds of the Glasgow Botanical Garden in Scotland (UK). Curated by Textile artist Elisabeth Viguie Culshaw in the spring of 2022, Japanese Indigo (4 varieties), Woad, Weld, Genista, Madder, and Flax are planted, I want to educate and share with the public. Information about planting, growing and using dye plants to created sustainable colour for textile fibre will be shared during the following 24 months.

Below are images about my own dye garden in 2021

My inspiration for dye gardens comes from my Asian travels over the past 15 years.

Out of the visit in 2019 to my Thai friend Mann’s craft dye garden in Sakhon Nakhon (Northern Thailand) I retain a strong sense of belonging. Grand daughter of a French farmer I have always had this attraction for planting but living in Urban Glasgow for the last 30 years have not given me a chance to put this to practise . In his garden, Mann grows rice and other vegetables but also, Indigofera Tinctoria, and many other dye plants. He harvest them and and uses them sustainably in his process with textile.

Below images about Mann’s Indigo dye garden in Northern Thailand

In may 2022 I met Lottie Delamain the garden designer for the fashion revolution “Textile Garden” at the 2022 Chelsea flower show and she shared with me her intense liking for a similar garden in North Vietnam years ago. There is a sense of peace and belonging coming from them. My chosen location for my own dye garden is in the Glasgow Botanical garden, a garden set up by Victorian fathers of the City in the 1870’s to enlighten and educate about plants. My plot is at the top of the garden by the medicinal, dye and herb gardens. It used to be the physical garden, a space where plants were referenced and grown for educative purpose. Such a suitable space.

“From seeds to colour” is a concept that sustainable natural dyers are embracing by growing and foraging for locally grown plants to create a colour pallet in the shades of the rainbow. When talking about dyes, I wanted to pay respect to a 17th century French reformer of the use of Natural dyes. Colbert minister to Louis XIV in his reforms aimed to separate the “Grand Teint dyes” (colourfast dyes) and the “Petit Teint dyes” (more ordinary dyes which sometimes are not as colourfast and need over-dying), today many are confused about the difference between dyes and colours and many novice dyers are using food items such as “Red Cabbage” as a source of dye… those are not dyes but merely fugitive food colour which should be kept to the kitchen. In my garden most plants are “Grand Teint” and I will aim to educate the visitor to that effect. In dye workshops I will use a variety of Natural dyes to create rainbow colours. (See below photos of some of the colours achieved).

I want to produce the colours blue with visitors, participants and volunteers, through growing and processing Japanese Indigo and Woad. But some other traditional dye plants such as Madder, Weld, which are “Grand Teint” and will add other plants such as dye flowers which produce “Petit Teint” dyes. No space will be given in this garden to fugitive dye plants.

The idea of sharing the experience with a group of people made me recruit some volunteers to prepare the grounds, help with the planting and the maintenance of the garden. Some events are due to take place during the summer. Natural dye workshops and demonstrations are planned for early summer, other events are planned too. I will be able to share with your group if you have a desire to discover about Natural dyes. Be in touch. If you click the links below you will read about the experience of some of those growing with me:

Meet Elisabeth from Glasgow:

Meet Deborah from Oban

Meet Nicky from Stirlinshire

My first choice of plant is Persicaria Tinctoria (Japanese Indigo), it is a well suited Indigo plant that will stand Scottish weather. I have grown it in 2021 in Urban Glasgow with a lot of success, in this blog post you can read the story For 2022 I have recruited a number of home growers to share the experience. In the Facebook group you will be able to see their regular update. 25 at home growers with very different background… gardeners, natural dyers, textile artists, Artist… each of them growing 25 plants.

Out of Persicaria you can get a beautiful blue… FRESH LEAVES DYEING AND METHODS WILL BE SHARED WITH PARTICIPANTS . Woad will be a great contrast with a softer blue. Below are images of some pieces dyed with Indigo pigment.

I will be running two workshops about Indigo vat building and dyeing as well as using Fresh leaves Indigo in order to create blue on silk. You can book a space below. The sessions will be ran in the Glasgow Botanical Garden – Kibble Palace both time and are suitable for beginners… I will be offering a visit to The Indigo Plot on the same day.

Indigo Dyeing workshop at The Glasgow Botanics – 9th July 2022 from 12:30 to 4:30

Elisabeth started growing Japanese Indigo in Glasgow in 2021 during the pandemic and in 2022 she started The Indigo Plot project which involves growing Japanese Indigo in the grounds of The Glasgow Botanical garden as well as joining forces with 20 “at Home growers in Scotland” . The aim is to share experiences and growing/dyeing tips. During the workshop she will share with you how to set up an Indigo vat from Natural Indigo Pigments from Indian origins. She will share tips on how to maintain it and revive it. You will dye samples of recycled cotton/linen using Shibori folds and recycled household items to create beautiful patterns. You will get the opportunity to create a “cushion size” piece to take home. Finishing techniques will be demonstrated to make sure your own dyed pieces do not crock and vat management will be discussed.


Indigo Dyeing workshop at The Glasgow Botanics – 13th August 12.30pm to 4.30pm

Elisabeth started growing Japanese Indigo in Glasgow in 2021 during the pandemic and in 2022 she started The Indigo Plot project which involves growing Japanese Indigo in the grounds of The Glasgow Botanical garden as well as joining forces with 20 “at Home growers in Scotland” . The aim is to share experiences and growing/dyeing tips. During the workshop she will share with you how to set up an Indigo vat from Natural Indigo Pigments from Indian origins. She will share tips on how to maintain it and revive it. You will dye samples of recycled cotton/linen using Shibori folds and recycled household items to create beautiful patterns. You will get the opportunity to create a “cushion size” piece to take home. Finishing techniques will be demonstrated to make sure your own dyed pieces do not crock and vat management will be discussed.



From 17th September at 2pm for 3 hours and thereafter weekly online on zoom. Spend 3 weeks learning to create beautiful printed fabric using a resist paste technique, stencils and a Natural Pigment Indigo vat. We will learn how to set up a Ferrous vat, maintain it and use it to create multicolour printed fabric. This can be a beginners workshop or a more advance participant. For more information email me on


The plants we are growing at the Plot:

  • Persecaria Tinctoria (japanese Indigo), a South East Asian plant with large leaves, the pigment can be found in the leaves and it grows well in climate country like Scotland. We grow 4 varieties (Long leaves, Senbon, Maruba or broad leaves, Kojkoko) about 500 plants, we will harvest during the summer 2022 to extract pigment, dye with the fresh leaves techniques.
  • Isatis Tinctoria (Woad) an ancient plant used in the West to also produce blue pigment. It is a bi-anual but only produces pigment the first year. We will dye wool from fresh leaves vat.
  • Flax, Linum, a grass that produces linen. We will be growing a good few plants to extract the fiber. I hope we will be able to spin it and weave.
  • Weld, a traditional yellow dye plant also a Grand teint.
  • Genista (reseda) for Yellows
  • Madder or Rubbia Tinctorium or a traditional root plant (Grand teint) used to create a huge range of red shades
  • Dye Flowers (coreopsis, dyers camomile…)

And below the colours we will be dyeing with them:

On the 18th of September we will run a garden visit and a demonstration of using the fresh leaves Indigo. This will be an afternoon for the Glasgow Doors Open days. You wont be able to book a ticket before August but you can register to get news from my Eventbrite platform and you will get an alert…

For booking a free space please just look HERE

I hope that you will be taking part in the activities of the dye garden…

If you would like to register as a volunteer to water or tend the garden please be in touch

Please be in touch or post in our Facebook group

Happy blue dyeing..

Betty x

My Indigo diaries 2022 – The Indigo plot April news – Meet the growers … Nicky

24 Home growers have embarked on that blue path of growing Japanese Indigo in Scotland with me. Small quantities but a big connection. We hope to grow plants, dye blue but also create connections between us and nature, between us as growers, farmers, dyers… I have asked them to write a few words to introduce themselves and talk about their journey as first time Indigo growers.

Please meet Nicky… I met her through my online teaching of botanical printing. She volunteered early and wanted to take part for her own personal reason… read for yourself.

“Hello, I am Nicki Wilkins, (writer, artist, home educator, soul midwife/mentor), living near Dundee, on the east coast of Scotland, and I will be growing my indigo plants at my allotment plot on the west side of Dundee Law with the most beautiful view of the Lomond hills in Fife and the River Tay.

I have been chasing blue (or blue has been chasing me) for most of my life, but it was when my mother died in 2013, and I began to find all her knitted blue blankets tucked away in her home, that I started a poetic relationship with blue. I then began writing about the way the colour blue motifs my midlife journey. My memoir, This Slender Blue Thread, is why I am part of this growing indigo project. I like working with blue!

As an eco-artist, working with the natural materials I forage, I’ve dabbled in printing, cyanotypes, indigo vat building, and currently I am working with wild clay documenting my menopausal journey.

My art practice is grounded in my relationship with the natural world around me, and I enjoy working with plant materials from seed to colour. While I plan on exploring indigo dyeing with paper (the poet in me wants blue paper!), someday I hope to make my own indigo pigment to colour my wild clay balls (dorodangoes=Japanese mud balls).

I like the idea of mapping indigo growing across Scotland and seeing and watching how others work with blue. And just today I got a chance to say hello to my first indigo seedlings! Just thinking about how they carry blue makes me smile.   Come visit me on Instagram.

My Indigo diaries 2022 – Day 24 – Planting Japanese Indigo seeds with a group of “Home” growers in Scotland

On day 24 of my Indigo diaries 2022 I feel so happy about my 1500 planted Indigo seeds so far. From growing in a raised bed in my back garden in 2021, this year I am starting growing an Indigo Plot in the Glasgow Botanical garden and that is definitively upscaling. But I am very excited about the adventure. Off course it means loosing control of the close by site, growing on a bigger scale, in different grounds… a lot of changes. But the great reward will be the sharing of the result. Leaves and dyeing will be dong in a more community level. For that reason I have put a call out for some volunteers who want to share the work and the learning. Advertised in Scotland via Social media and various groups. And 25 people have come forward. Some will help, some will grow at home.

Most of the seeds I planted back in march have germinated and are growing steadily. Strong and tall they are not yet showing their leaves but some really good green tops. An other couple of weeks I will be transplanting them into individual pots and start preparing the grounds at the Glasgow Botanical Garden. But for this i need a helping hand. I am searching for a team of volunteers who will help with the digging, planting, up keeping and then dyeing…

But in the meantime I have found a team of 21 Scottish growers who will join me on the adventure and this post is for them… They come from the 4 corners of Scotland, Mallaig, Edinburgh, Lewis, Inverness, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, the Borders etc… and they are artists, nature lovers, vegetable growers, weavers, and have volunteered a little bit of space to grow Japanese Indigo alongside me. We will share notes, exchange on the process and when the leaves are ready we will learn to process the leaves to use the pigment.

This morning I have sent out to each of them 50 seeds of Persicaria Tinctoria (Japanese Indigo) of the Senbon variety. In a few days we will have an information meeting on zoom to get to know each other, talk about the project and learn about how to grow it.

But for now some basic instruction on how to plan Japanese Indigo seeds to get them to germinate:

You need:

  • Some planting trays with small holes (around 5 x 5 cms) that will sit on top of a watering trays.
  • Some planting compost
  • Some Japanese Indigo seeds (multiple of 5)
  • A light/warm corner to seat your trays for a few weeks (out of the draft)
  • Some small pots for transplanting your seeds when they are big enough to mature outside (green house/cold frame).
  • A corner in the garden with a good light space that will get a lot of sun and near a water access, Indigo likes a lot of water to grow… a lot of sunlight for pigment.

How to proceed to get germination:

1 – Add a good layer of compost into each holes of the planting tray. Use a little glass upside down to push the compost down nice and compact. Use a pencil to push down a little hole in the middle.

2 – Drop down 5 seeds together and a little compost on top. They will germinate together and grow like a bushy little plant. Japanese Indigo plant like company.

3 – Make sure the compost is kept humid but not watery. It is better to water from the underneath. I use a watering tray with something like foam under the planting tray.

4 – You seeds should germinate in anything between 5 to 12 days. Depending on how much light and how warm it is.

5 – Your seeds will then take another two to three weeks to get more mature (make sure they are watered.) and can be transferred to small pots.

6 – If your trays are sitting indoors by a window the small seedlings will grow towards the glass. I keep turning them around every couple of days to make them grow straight.

7 – Our aim is to have the seedlings strong enough to be outdoors to get stronger in May and get planted outside in the bed/pot they will en up in.

Have fund…