Sandy’s Garden ... Lamb Dyers and Lawns

Sandy Simpson
Sandy Simpson

Some years ago, I fell into conversation with a man in a pub, or to be more accurate, he fell into conversation with me.

His opening gambit being his admiration of the pullover I was wearing. “New, is it?” he enquired. I replied that it was. “Lovely colours,” he continued, approving of the multi-coloured wools from which the garment had been made. I responded sympathetically, for I too had been attracted to the pullover by its vivid colouration. “Made from that new wool, I expect,” he said, inviting the question, “What new wool?” “Why, the stuff a friend of mine has developed,” he enthused. “He has patented a process in which he dips new-born lambs in a vat of very special coloured dye of his own devising … whatever colour he wants … and, believe it or not, the lambs’ wool stays that colour as they grow up. Obviously, other farmers are trying to copy his method: but my friend is by far the biggest lamb dyer in Scotland.”

That man’s story came to mind as I was reading an account in my preferred daily newspaper of an American … who else? … who has a business dyeing drought-stricken lawns to make them green again. No, it’s October, so it’s not an April Fool’s Day story. Apparently, this chap’s business is grass-dyeing. Parts of the United States, in common with other parts of the world, are suffering from the worst droughts in living memory, leading to toast-brown lawns and grassed areas which the owners wish to return to their original, natural green. Enter the star of the paper’s story bearing the liquid to answer the gardeners’ prayers.

But wait. It takes but a moment to discover this advertisement on the internet, and to realise that it is typical of many. “LAWNLIFT™ has been used for years keeping athletic fields, golf courses and resorts around the world looking pristine and green… and now it’s available to the public for residential use. LAWNLIFT™ is perfect for small pet spots, troubled dry areas or entire lawns! Did you know that sprinklers account for more than 50% of the average water bill! Save Hundreds and go green today!” And there’s more in like vein.

So grass dye has been used for years across the pond! Is this why the golf course at Augusta, Georgia always appears totally immaculate for the US Masters? Is this the reason why the lawns of the White House are always perfect for the US President’s summer appearances? And can the ordinary gardener use such products? Here’s an extract from another firm’s advertising. “SpecLawn’s Grass Paint is available in a concentrate solution. Our grass dye can be used to cover grass in the dormant season or for year-round lawn painting. Unlike similar products on the market, our Grass Paint is formulated with a pigment based solution, not a dye, ensuring it will hold its color longer and fade more naturally than traditional dye based turf dyes. Lawn painting is growing like wildfire around the country!” And this is from a Walmart website. “Keep your lawn looking great with Colorback Liquid Grass Colorant. This colorant gives your landscaped areas a rich, vibrant color. It helps retain moisture and prevent weed growth. Colorback Liquid Grass Colorant has been tested and proven environmentally safe for use around your home, children, and pets.”

Perhaps I shall soon be buying grass dye from my nearest Asda, for a UK website, written by Marianne Luke, tells me that, “Grass dye has been used to colour grass and fix visual imperfections of a lawn since the 1950s when it was used to dye grass for Hollywood film sets and golf courses.” She also assures me that I can create my own lawn dye by mixing several different plant nutrients and food colouring. Where have I been hiding all these years?