nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Posts Tagged ‘Lily of the Valley

Ground cover

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The autumn rains have begun and already leaves are changing colour. Before the plants go into their winter sleep, I want to pay tribute to the greens of summer. In particular, I love the ground covers in my garden. They create thick carpets of green and provide a backdrop for other garden colour.

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Periwinkle is my favourite ground cover. In early summer blue flowers dot the shiny green foliage. The plant grows well in our very shady yard and makes a good transition from lawn to woodland.

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The  Creeping Jenny in our yard is a transplant from my grandfather’s farm, probably by way of my mom and dad’s property. The flowers are bright yellow and the leaves grow in pairs of gradually smaller size.

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Lily of the Valley grows along the paths in our yard. I love the white flowers and their gentle perfume. Although they are poisonous, the boiled leaves make a pretty grey dye.

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Soon the ground covers in our area will be layers of autumn leaves and then, blankets of fallen snow. My challenge for next year’s garden will be to find another low-growing cover plant to add to my collection. What are your favourite ground covers?

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Copyright Jane Tims 2015

 

Written by jane tims

September 30, 2015 at 12:03 pm

harvesting colour … lily of the valley

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Now that green is the dominant colour outside my door, I am anxious to try dyeing with every plant I see.   I was particularly anxious to see if I could coax colour from the Lily of the Valley crowding around my walkway.

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leaves of Lily of the Valley and Wild Lily of the Valley

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The green leaves in the photo above are from two different plants, the smaller single leaves of Wild Lily of the Valley (Maianthemum canadense) and the larger furled Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis).  The larger Lily of the Valley produces a dye with seasonal qualities – dark green in spring and yellow in fall.

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'pips' of Lily of the Valley

‘pips’ of Lily of the Valley

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The rolled emerging leaves of the Lily of the Valley are called ‘pips’.  The pips squeak as they are collected.  I think they want to be left alone!

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Lily of the Valley, ready to be cut up and set to boil

Lily of the Valley leaves in water

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I cut the leaves into one inch pieces and left them for an hour to simmer in water.  I added some iron to the mix, to serve as a colour modifier – a square-headed nail, a railroad spike and a rusty horseshoe.  The water was pale green at first, but as it began to cool, it became a dark, almost black, green …

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dark dye from Lily of the Valley

dark dye from Lily of the Valley

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Once the water cooled, I strained the liquid and added the wool.  After bringing it to a boil, I let it cool gradually – wool hates sudden changes in temperature …

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wool roving, treated with alum, in the dark Lily of the Valley dye

wool roving, treated with alum, in the dark Lily of the Valley dye

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The resulting colour was dark grey.  I also did a vat without the addition of iron and the result was a slightly paler grey.

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dark grey of wool roving dyed with Lily of the Valley

dark grey of wool roving dyed with Lily of the Valley

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This is my last dyeing experiment with Lily of the Valley.  All the parts of the plant are poisonous with compounds known as glycosides.  Ingested, these compounds have an effect on the heart and can cause fatal circulatory, gastrointestinal and respiratory problems.  If you are a fan of the TV show Breaking Bad, you will know that Walt used Lily of the Valley in a scheme to kill one of his enemies.

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Although I took precautions, doing the boiling outside and disposing of the liquid in the woods, far from our well or the stream, I was not comfortable working with such a poisonous plant.  While the water was boiling, the smell was thick and noxious and my mouth had a metallic taste all day.  I was jittery before I went to bed, convinced that breathing the vapours would be the end of me.  I am fine today, but I don’t recommend using Lily of the Valley as a dye.  The dark grey colour obtained is not worth the risk.  And the lovely scent of the Lily of the Valley flowers is the plant’s first, best use.

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'lily-of-the-valley'

2013 ‘lily-of-the-valley’ Jane Tims

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Copyright  2014  Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

May 30, 2014 at 12:12 pm

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