Madder music, stronger wine

My pride and joy at the moment is this plant which has clambered up the conservatory wall and attached itself with the infinitesimal minute hooks that make the leaves feel sticky, like the tentacles of a sea anemone.

In Georgia earlier this year the market women were selling small bundles of thin brown roots which they indicated were for dyeing eggs red at Easter. I realised that they must be Caucasian madder roots, the source of the strong red colour that was once in such demand that its cultivation and trade brought wealth, rivalry and collapse to a series of markets across Europe and Asia Minor from classical times to the mid 19th century when intense scientific competition succeeded in replicating the pigment artificially. Once this was achieved the traditional madder industry  withered away, the once-precious roots abandoned... to dye eggs.

I brought home a root bundle in the hope of growing the plant. One alone survived and produced an elegant tangle of weak stems that, like goosegrass (to which it is related) rely on external support. And now it's flowering  tiny yellow stars that don't catch the eye in any way. An altogether modest bloom for a plant with such a vivid history.

(Georgian wine is very potent but my title, from Ernest Dowson's famous poem,  has nothing to do with the plant.)

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