Last year I adventured to grow three varieties of Indigo.
All of the same species, "Persicaria Tinctoria" a member of the knotweed family. Before you let a gasp of horror as many associate knotweed as an invasive plant. Please know the conditions in which indigo is harvested reduces, if not completely eradicates the possibility of “Self seeding” unless seed is required.
Winters frost will also knock out the spread of any remaining seed and future plant growth. Even during our milder weather in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, I have yet to see indigo survive a winter. At one stage during the fall months the remains of soaked indigo had started to grow back.. it has since been buried under various other composting materials, so I'm keeping my eyes peeled.
For the purpose of distinguishing the different types I am applying the Japanese names.
Some people believe the pigment between the varieties vary greatly and only one type of indigo is worth growing. I believe - pigment quality depends largely upon: weather, soil, feeding, and general care. Grow Indigo
2019 Bailiwick varieties comprised of:
Senbon: a long leaf indigo with Pink flowers, has heavy stems to withstand outdoor growing. Requires a good prune in the first harvest to encourage bushing and leaf growth. Often seen growing happily outdoors in the USA.
Robust plants with generous pigment barring leaves. Grows up to 4 foot if left unattended!
Kojyoko: a white flowering long leaf indigo. Which readily bushes prior to first harvest. Has tender green stalks making harvest by hand much easier than the aforementioned pink flowering cousin. (Note: this is my take, different soil conditions, weather & environment) there is also an older plant amongst the kojyoko, with crinkled leaf also white flower the name of which I have yet to discover. I have personally grown these two variety for the last four years, under glass, with good results for raw leaf dyeing and pigment making. Average height of 3 ft.
Awa Ai : so named as it comes from the traditional named Awa district of Japan, Ai being short form for Aizome the Japanese word for dyeing with indigo.
AwaAi is a round leaf variety with pink flowers. Round robust foliage. Offers a great deal of pigment. Is grown today in Tokushima by Buaiso (@buaisou_i)
used in their traditional vat method, of composted indigo leaves “sukumo” and for dyeing of handmade paper or "Washi" as can be seen at Awagami Factory. (@awagamifactory) www.awagami.com
Contemplating growing? please read; "Grow Your Own Indigo Pigment Part One" . Click (here)
Much of my information I have come by over the years as has been gratefully received via correspondence and engagement with Brittany Boles. A US based grower and dyer. of Indigo and other botanical colours too. Brittany offers workshops during the summer at various locations in the USA. You can catch up with Brittany on her Indigo Pigment Extraction page on Facebook. To join the conversation go <HERE>
or find Brittany on Instagram @seaspellfiber
🌿Thank you Brittany 🌿