When I was back home in Phoenix the other weekend, I took my morning cup of coffee out to the garden to see how things are doing. I had a shock to my not-yet-caffeinated system to see this mess of madder!
Back in spring 2009, I'd planted a whole array of natural dye seeds, and a single madder plant was all that made it to maturity. That first year it was touch and go. Last year, it filled out the entire whiskey barrel. Now it's greenery is completely covering two barrels -- outgrowing the mint, even! -- and a few flower pots to boot.
I couldn't even penetrate the plant enough to get a photo of the reddish roots, but they must be doing well. The flowers are out, though, tiny and greenish. Maybe I can collect some seeds this year so that I have some new plants started when I harvest this one next summer.
And here's what the whorls of scratchy leaves look like. Just fifteen minutes of dealing with this plant scraped me up twice as much as the whole weekend of rock climbing! Does anyone know if you can propagate madder from cuttings, by the way? Can I cut stems and root them in water? Or do I need to layer the stems under soil without cutting?