Elecampagne

Inula helenium’

Elecampagne is a very hardy perennial plant.  Its roots are used as an herb and as a dye. The leaves of elecampagne are very large and long and it is a very showy green leafy plant in the garden.  For a few years I had this planted in a very dry, poor soil and shaded area, because I was giving this plant less importance that others.  It lived and subsisted, which speaks to it’s hardiness, but it did not grow large, multiply and bloom as it did as soon as I moved it out into sun and better soil. 

Plant the seeds in sun and after danger of frost, or better, start in potting soil and then transplant out.  I have found that I have better luck with germination in potting soil than I have in my soil outside, even when I think I have kept it moist and conditions were right.  I don’t know if the soil gets too dry, hot or hard or what, but oft-times the seeds prefer not to grow when seeded directly in the ground for me, and I know it wasn’ t a problem with the seeds! 

To use the roots as a dye, just pound the roots open with a hammer and put in a pot with water and simmer.  Old Scottish texts said that a blue dye could be obtained from elecampagne, but they must have been referring to the gray color, because these roots cannot give a blue dye.

I found that the roots are quite aromatic!  They smelled as if they should be a base of a men’s cologne and were still fragrant after boiling.  I obtained a rich gray color easily, like the gray I received from Hopi Black Dye Sunflower seeds, on wool.