Eco printing Perennial Geranium


Before the July- August garden begins to blooms its gaudy head off and I get carried away taking photos, I thought I might present some of the last of my June eco print images. Artist and blog visitor Julie Shackson inspired me to share more about printing with geraniums, a topic I touched on only briefly last post. If not published now, those geranium photos would most likely sink unseen into the pile of 3000+ already on this iPad.

Hoarding issues, folks? Thank you, Julie, for encouraging me to divest. I have promised myself that whatever else I might hoard, I will not hoard knowledge that might assist or inspire others.

One of my favourite plants is the Cranesbill (above) or Perennial Geranium (Geranium macrorrhizum” or “Big Root geranium”.) The “geranium” part derives from Greek “gerano” meaning “heron” (or “crane” ) so named because the seed pod is a capsule, shaped long and pointy like a beak ( “bill”). The pods “dehisce”, which means they explode open and fire their seeds into the air like wee projectiles. In my garden, the purple flowered geranium have virtually replaced grass in some areas, growing “dwarfly” in a mat of leaves covered with little elfin flowers and defying the mower by their speedy regrowth. These and the “album” ( pale-pinky-white) geranium make wonderful drought-tolerant ground cover in sun, shade or semi shade. I let them romp and replace unwanted plants- if there is any such thing…Either plant is perfect in dry rooty areas under trees. And it is pretty-well evergreen here in Zone 4 USDA. ( Garden talk today, my lifelong passion…I have grown a garden in every place I have lived in my 72 years – and there lies the true root of my newer passion for natural dyes)

As eco prints, geraniums are stars. They were among the first I used for prints on cotton and linen, which, as substrates, I now know are not as easy to print as silk and wool. This June 2011 eco print (below) shows leaf and flower prints, the latter being the blue and purple marks on the alum-mordanted vintage linen. The blooms print quite well, though not in flower forms but in patches of blue or purple – unlike the leaves which can be relied on to print realistically (if that is your aim).



Geranium print colours vary with the season and even the month. Deep under snow in January, the leaves remain green but they print in the khahi-brown range:


The same January Under Snow Priint dipped in iron liquor (rusty nails in vinegar). Thanks to Amelia Poole for this tip. (See Refs pages)


In late April – early May, yellows emerge:


The buds print beautifully – see below. Blue patches have leaked from an iris print!

With iron, one can shift the colours from yellows to deep grey-purplish-charcoals with some original yellows holding their own as luminous passages ( Honestly, my photos cannot do justice to the nuanced colours and forms in many of my eco prints. I am certain other artists would agree re the difficulty of taking a good photo.) A tiny blue stain or two leaking from an iris bloom in the paper layer above in the steamer offers an inspired near-complement as foil to the geranium leaf colour. The iron liquor induces near-lavenders from the yellows of the initial print. The shadow effects are delightful, I think.

As the season progresses, the geranium leaf prints become greener, especially on cotton rag paper. This print is from August 2012:


Later last year, I made some little journals like the one above using the geranium leaf printed papers as soft covers. The colours continue to glow in soft but bright shades. Coreopsis verticillata sent some pigment way down through a couple of paper layers in the steamer. Coreopsis contains powerful pigment! I try to plan accordingly. Here it is welcome, providing a tad of red-orange complementarity to enhance the greens. I love the contrasts of forms and colours in this print and I enjoy the challenge of manipulating the materials and the processes to obtain certain outcomes. I look forward to trying more prints with geraniums as the season advances. .


Finally, “Forest Floor”, a deep green geranium leaf print on a silk habotai panel, one of my botanical scrolls series. The silk was immersion-dyed a cinnamon colour first in a lichen bath (Parmelia saxatilis), then with safflower, (oops – vice versa, actually), overprinted with geranium leaf, iron dipped and embroidered. (The lichen was foraged from the forest floor of a wee plot of Boreal land my daughter owns, so it was responsibly foraged, IOW) The colours in the photo seem to be picking up mostly the cinnamon lichen and yellow safflower dyes; in the real world, this work shows a wide range of rich greens besides cinnamon.



I hope you will try some geranium prints and find them rewarding as I do.

Dear Readers, I know this post is not about soils! Will get there… trying to track down some Leda (Blue) clay, a chief soil constituent hereabouts in the Ottawa Valley. And hoping to make good on my promise to experiment with water soluble glues for attaching plants to substrates for eco prints. Has anyone tried that?







10 thoughts on “Eco printing Perennial Geranium

    1. You made gum arabic, Celia???? Do tell!! I had only gum tragacanth on hand so used that to make iris green paint/inkk/whatever. It got it in a big jug from a business here that deals in leather craft. It is used to condition leather, I understand. Much cheaper than ordering tiny pots online.

  1. Thank you Wendy! I’m blown away by the variety of colour and print definition you’ve achieved. It so happens that I have a garden full of different sub-species of geranium, so I shall be happily experimenting with these. I also love the delicate tracery of leaves on the wild form (known as Herb Robert) so these might be worth trying. I love your book-binding too; it really suits the pattern of the leaves.

    1. Hi Julie

      I have a few varities of geranium, also, but am not sure what they all are. Must try printin them all together to see what happens. I do remember Herb Robert from my life in England – have not noticed it here but I know is is around. I wll look for it now that you have mentioned it. I like the fact that the blooms print, too, and the seed heads. TOOOOO much fun, Juile!


  2. Hiya, I was wondering if you ecoprint, using the boiling method or the steaming method, and if so for how long???Your prints are so lovely!

    1. The tutorials on my blog answer those questions directly. Otherwise, look at the Cloud of tags and follow the links. Blog is unlike a book – it is more of a meandering experience for the reader.
      Thanks for visiting,


  3. I also love geranium prints but so far have only tried them in late autumn early winter…thanks for your lovely posts

    1. Thank you, Sue. Geranium does give me bright yellow prints early in the season but progressively deeper as the monthe pass. Modify with iron for darker versions


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