Nature of fashion garden walk

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If you enjoyed the nature of fashion exhibition, here is a little more about some of the the plants used in fashion, which you can find growing at Killerton.

Natural plant dyes

Dyeing is a traditional craft that anyone can try at home. It is quite amazing how many different plant materials can be used, from onion skins to oak galls. The garden at Killerton is full of flowers, leaves, bark and even roots that can be used for dyeing fabrics.

The formal borders contain many natural dye plants. One of the most famous is indigo (Indigofera), the colour of denim jeans. It has been used in the UK for hundreds of years since being introduced from India.

The walnut tree (Juglans nigra) from North America, which can be found growing near the chapel grounds, produces a brownish-black dye that was once used as hair dye by early settlers. The husks contain juglone, plumbagin and tannin, all natural chemicals still used for dyes in handicrafts today. The tannin in the walnuts acts as a mordant, helping in the dyeing process.

Natural plant fibres

Plants are the source of many fibres that are used for clothing and textiles in fashion. Common but lesser known plants for natural fibres found at Killerton are bamboo (Phyllostachys) and stinging nettle (Urtica dioica).

Bamboo is a fantastically versatile plant material in fashion that has historically been used for structural garments such as corsets and bustles. Recently its fibres have started to be used for textiles and clothing which need to be durable. Many of the linen outfits found on our high street today are made from bamboo fibre.

Another recent development in the fashion industry has been the increased use of stinging nettles for textiles. The use of nettles in clothing dates back over 2,000 years. German Army uniforms were made from nettle during World War I due to the shortage of cotton. More recently, textile companies in Austria, Germany and Italy have started to produce commercial nettle fabrics.

Seasonal inspiration

The beautiful hillside garden at Killerton is forever changing and always provides inspiration for creative designers, from the variety of colours and forms in the summer borders to the fiery autumn colours later in the year.

Many of the pieces in this year's nature of fashion exhibition have been inspired by the garden and plants at Killerton.

‘Drop in’ garden guided walks

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from March to October, meet a member of our garden team at 2pm by the garden gate. Follow them on an informal stroll through the garden and discover even more about the natural dyes and fibres growing at Killerton.