What’s happening in the Kitchen Garden at Standen?

The Kitchen Garden at Standen is the place of a real plot to plate story, as produce is carried only metres from where it is harvested to the Barn Café before being made into seasonal dishes. Historically, as soon as the land had been acquired by the Beales, Margaret Beale set about with the beginnings of the Kitchen Garden in 1891. Complete with a number of glasshouses growing fruit and vegetables, her motivation saw the produce supplied to both Standen and the Beale’s London residence. Her love for home-grown produce resonates in the garden today, as Kitchen Gardener Carolyn Hibbert and her dedicated team of volunteers take pride in showing visitors the joys of homegrown produce.

Using natural dyes from the Kitchen Garden

It isn’t just edibles that are grown here at Standen, as the Morris & Co. Inspired by Nature exhibition (running until Sun 10 Nov 2019), saw a dye bed nurtured in the Kitchen Garden.

Hear more from Kitchen Gardener, Carolyn Hibbert.

‘The dye bed in the Kitchen Garden was originally set up to showcase not just culinary herbs, but also those with medicinal, cosmetic and dye properties. With the restoration of more of the Kitchen Garden and the creation of a new smaller herb bed for the café ongoing, the old herb bed has gradually been converted into a dye plant bed. This has coincided with our experiments in natural dyeing.

These vibrant colours have been produced by natural dyes
close up image of Wool dyed natural giving colours of red, blue, yellow and orange along with a naturally dyed scarf resting on a bench
These vibrant colours have been produced by natural dyes

‘The plants were mainly chosen for their ease of use or the interesting colours they produce. The flowers of dyer’s chamomile (Anthemis tinctoria) and dyer’s coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria) dry well for later use and give good yellows. While St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) gives both green and red shades if harvested at the right time (around St John’s day on 24 June) and dyed in the correct sequence. Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) petals give a yellow colour on wool but a bright pink on cotton. It was originally used to dye the red tape used to tie official documents. It is not light fast, so it was easy to tell if a document had been opened by the colour of the ribbon.

‘We chose woad, madder and weld as they were dyes that William Morris is known to have used. Madder roots (Rubia tinctorum) provide both orange and red shades, but it takes three years to establish before it can be harvested. Woad (Isatis tinctoria) and Japanese indigo (Persicaria tinctoria) give wonderful soft blues, while weld (Reseda luteola) is one of the best dyes for yellows and is overdyed with woad to give Lincoln green. Walnut was also used by Morris, the outer husks around the nut providing a rich brown.

Weld overdyed with madder, madder, walnut, and daffodil dyed wool
orange, red, brown and yellow naturally dyed wool hanging to dry on a wooden stick
Weld overdyed with madder, madder, walnut, and daffodil dyed wool

‘The important thing I have learnt about natural dyeing is not to approach it from a scientific point of view, as the colours are not always reproducible. There are so many factors that can affect the colours you get including the weather, the soil, when you harvest, and the water you use (rain or tap). If you approach natural dyeing with the view that any colour you achieve will be soft and beautiful then you will not be disappointed.’

" The art of dyeing, I am bound to say, is a difficult one, needing for its practice a good craftsman, with plenty of experience. Matching a colour by means of it is an agreeable but somewhat anxious game to play."
- William Morris
Family at Standen looking at autumn pumpkins

Autumn harvest 

See the fruits of the Kitchen Garden’s harvest with autumn tasting days. Fri 4, 11, 18 & 25 Oct, 11am-3pm. Also join us for Apple Day on Sat 12 Oct 2019.

Visitors sitting outside the cafe at Standen House, West Sussex

Enjoy seasonal dishes at Standen 

An 18th-century barn is home to the Barn Café which serves a range of seasonal dishes, and hot and cold drinks. Come and enjoy homemade cakes and hot meals, some made with produce from our Kitchen Garden.