A Beginner’s Guide to Vegetable Dyes in the Tinctorial Plant Conservatory Garden

Amongst the terraced gardens of the Château de Lauris, the botanical garden belonging to the association Couleur Garance is dedicated to plants used for dying. A site both of discovery and conservation, this Eden of natural dyes permits everyone to understand one of the region’s secular traditions.
By Mélissa Darré

A Botanical Garden Unique in Europe

Created in the eighteenth century, the Tinctorial Plant Conservatory Garden is one of the largest in Europe. Overlooking the Durance valley, more than 250 valuable European and exotic species flourish at the heart of its lush setting of almost 3,500 m2. The ballet of colors of this enchanting space can be appreciated for the duration of a tour, guided or not.

Labeled a "Remarkable Garden" since 2011, the site is a genuine invitation to a voyage of discovery across the continents, where the various plants used by humans for their dyeing properties are on display. Leaves, stems, bark, flowers or roots here give up their dyes, used for painting, food, fashion or cosmetics. This incredible plant environment was designed in 1998 by the specialist Michel Garcia.

A Beginner’s Guide to Vegetable Dyes in the Tinctorial Plant Conservatory Garden
© Couleur Garance

The Couleur Garance Association

Dubbed Couleur Garance, Michel Garcia’s association consists of a handful of enthusiasts striving to renew vegetable dying and develop the garden as a resource center. "This subject is extremely interdisciplinary, since it intersects with chemistry, craft and the environment," says one of the members of the team Marianne Aubry, architect and weaver.

Indeed, between sharing seeds from the garden, the establishment of a digital index of the varieties, the management of a specialized shop and bookstore, or the exhibition of artists working with natural dyes, their approach has no limits. Moreover, it is in line with the town’s heritage, marked by the dyeing tradition for many years.

An Introduction to the Link Between Color and Plants
© Couleur Garance

An Introduction to the Link Between Color and Plants

But it's during introductory and advanced courses under the workshop’s arches that the universe of vegetable colors can be understood in practice. From the bright yellow of weld, to the bright red of madder, via the deep blue of indigo, cotton, wool or silk soon don flamboyant colors using non-polluting techniques.

"The simple fact of being a teacher is rich in itself, and the wealth of exchanges between an extremely varied public is particularly pleasant," explains Marianne. Indeed, every year young and old alike participate in the courses on vegetable dyeing, after walking the alleys of this exceptional garden overlooking the Alpilles.

Introductory and advanced courses
© Couleur Garance
Jardin Conservatoire des Plantes Tinctoriales
Maison Aubert - La Calade
84360 Lauris
Tel : +33 (0)4 90 08 40 48
www.couleur-garance.com

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