When I first started to research dye gardens, the initial problem I had was finding them. They’re often a small part of a larger garden, and rarely advertised online. Where they are described, it is often difficult to tell the scale of the garden; whether it is a bed of plants that includes a few plants that could be used, or whether it is a dedicated bed.
Below is a fairly short list of the public dye gardens that I know about. I’ve visited some of them, but not necessarily recently. With the gardens I haven’t visited, I’m relying on details I’ve found online, or on word of mouth. Where details are sketchy, it may be best to check with the site if you’re planning a visit, to save disappointment.
Battersea Park: London SW11 4NJ
Battersea Park is a free to enter, council run park on the south side of the Thames. The dye bed is part of the Herb Garden, one of the Thrive Gardens in Battersea Park.
Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses: Brockwell Park, London, SE24 9BL
The Community Greenhouses are in the centre of Brockwell Park, and are free to enter, but aren’t open every day, so check opening times (details on website). There’s no mention of the dye garden on their website that I could see, but it was still there last summer, and they sometimes have workshops using the plants.
Chelsea Physic Garden: 66 Royal Hospital Road, Chelsea, London, SW3 4HS
London’s oldest botanic garden, housing a collection of over 5000 useful plants. Well worth a visit, even if you have no interest in dye plants. Entrance fee and opening hours apply.
Cordwainers Garden: 182 Mare Street, London, E8 8RE
A community garden based at the London College of Fashion, growing food and flowers as well as dye plants, for the benefit of the local community, wildlife, and the environment.
Cressing Temple Walled Garden: Witham Road, Braintree, Essex, CM77 9PD
The walled garden is part of a larger area with thirteenth century buildings housing historic displays. The walled garden is designed as a Tudor pleasure garden, with a knot garden, water features, and various useful plantings, including the dye beds. Usually free, but check opening hours and for charges on event days.
Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft: Lodge Hill Lane, Ditchling, East Sussex, BN6 8SP
A museum with attached garden. The museum shows work by artists who have lived and worked in the village from the early twentieth century, including the weaver Ethel Mairet. Entrance fee and opening hours apply.
Horniman Museum and Gardens: 100 London Road, London SE23 3PQ
A free to enter museum with a garden attached. The Dye garden is art of the display garden, which also includes a medicinal border and plants used for materials and fibres.
Houghton Lodge: Houghton Lodge Gardens, Houghton, Stockbridge, Hampshire, SO20 6LQ
Privately owned gardens open to the public, their walled garden has herb beds which include medicinal plantings and dye plants. Opening times and admission charges apply.
Lavenham Guildhall: Market Place, Market Lane, Lavenham, Sudbury C010 9QZ
The Guildhall is a Tudor building, owned by the National Trust and open as a museum to the building, the local area, and the cloth trade that was responsible for the regions prosperity in the sixteenth century. Behind the building is a small courtyard garden, which includes beds of dye plants.
Morley College: 61 Westminster Bridge Road, London, SE1 7HT
The Morley College dye garden is tucked away in a corner of a public square behind the college building, and is open to the public, although not immediately obvious to the passer-by. The entrance to the garden is just off King Edward Walk, away from the main road.
Trefriw Woollen Mills: Main Road, Trefriw, Conwy Valley, North Wales, LL27 0NQ
A family textile business with a small mill museum, where you can see the machines responsible for processing the wool from fleece to finished product. The Weavers Garden is a small area at the front of the building with plants used in the process; for dyeing, providing fibres, soaps and textile tools.
Ty Mawr Wybrnant: Penmachno, Betws-y-Coed. Conwy, Wales, LL25 0HU
National Trust sixteenth century stone-built farmhouse, with a Tudor style garden, growing food crops, medicinal plants, strewing herbs and dye plants.
As I say, this is just a list of the gardens that I know about. I don’t believe for a second that there are only twelve dye gardens in the UK, and I’d love to hear of some more; as I do, I’ll add them to the list.