Birkhill House Dye Garden

Birkhill House Dye Garden

From Shetland to South-West Scotland, Trellis is supporting over 500 gardens projects – helping those in need, through horticulture.  Our projects promote health through horticulture - because people grow better in gardens.

One such project is the Birkhill House Dye Garden. Birkhill is a community interest company running crafting sessions for a variety of community groups and animal assisted therapy including work with alpacas.  They use the alpaca fibres in their crafting and wanted to start growing dyes to dye the alpaca and other fibres.

Our fieldworker Emma met the owner of Birkhill, Lara at a conference on Climate Change, which led to a meeting to discuss how Trellis could help.

Project brief

The aim of this project was to establish a natural dye garden, growing plants that were to be used to create dyes, as part of the treatment plan for the recovery, healing, and improvement of wellbeing, for women who have experienced gender-based violence.

A joint approach

Working with Birkhill, we submitted a funding application alongside a local rape crisis charity to run sessions on a weekly basis for 1.5 years to grow the dye garden and run activities making use of the natural dyes.  Three days of field work support was then spread out over several weeks to provide 2-hour therapeutic gardening sessions, and garden design input, to get the garden started and growing with the women attending the sessions. 

Project process

Fieldworker Emma attended on a weekly/fortnightly basis to help with garden design, the creation of tool and seed lists including researching natural dye plants. 

This was followed by a series of therapeutic gardening sessions, run by Emma, to create beds to grow the dye plants, a path, and to grow plants from seed in a polytunnel. The seedlings were then transplanted outside to their beds. 

Each plant grown has potential for use as a natural dyeing agent, which can ultimately be used with home raised? natural sheep and alpaca fibre to create vibrant finished products.  Once the garden was established and producing the foliage, flowers, and roots necessary for the dye processes, the women attending the project were then taught dyeing skills from natural dye experts and fibre artisans.

Project success

The participants gained experience in the process of growing dye plants, fibre processing, and a variety of artistic outputs. The skills gained have helped to improve mental health and the group continue to care for the garden and make use of the dye plants.

This use of creative engagement through gardening and growing has brought a group of women together and supported them in difficult times to grow, learn and work together.


Continuing to Grow

Emma continues to work with Birkhill on a freelance basis, providing support and advice.  The plants continue to flourish under the watchful eye of the participants.

If you would like help to get a garden initiative started, please do get in touch.  We have over 16 years of experience - producing information resources, running events and training that is here to support you to use gardens and nature to benefit health and wellbeing.