Broom or Gorse – the good, the bad and the ugly?

blog broom or gorse_0962a

(****January 19, 2015 – editing the post to mention that the plant that I thought was broom, and had been referred to me locally as broom, is probably gorse. Thank you to Frances for sending me all the links on the two plants.)

Even in January Broom is in bloom on the island. It is plant that is easy to love and hate. It is lovely to see flowers in the dead of winter, however Broom is very invasive and is actually quite a problem. On occasion groups get together to pull out Broom and stop the spread of this invasive plant.

blog broom or gorse_0974aLast year I decided to try to collect some Broom flowers to try dyeing wool with. Rumor has it, it should work. Well what an experience it was collecting the flowers. The spikes on the plants are so sharp that you are constantly being poked, scraped or cut; there was nothing enjoyable about the collection process. By the time we were finished collecting the blooms I had lost interest (probably due to the wounds!), so I dried out the flowers and they are still waiting to be used in a dye pot.

This year I am going to pass on collecting broom for dyeing, instead I will focus on marigolds as a dye plant. Marigolds cause a lot fewer injuries (plus they make my planters look pretty!).

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About Deb

Photographer, artist and artisan splitting time between Alberta and British Columbia, Canada. Check out my new project at www.handmade-canada.com , a site for Canadian handmades and art.
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9 Responses to Broom or Gorse – the good, the bad and the ugly?

  1. I thought as I looked at the first photo there were spikes, Deb I think what you call broom we over here call gorse (Ulex), our broom (Cytisus) here does not have any spikes, the flowers and leaves of both are very similar, gorse here sometimes flowers out of season, like winter, Frances

    • Deb says:

      I just double checked the Pender Island Conservancy site and they actually call it Scotch Broom. I remember seeing it on the Wirral back in the UK but I don’t remember anyone ever calling it by name. It wouldn’t be the first time something was misnamed over here, our city in Alberta is named Red Deer, rumour has it it was named by a Brit……….after seeing an ELK.

  2. Celia Wilson says:

    Hi Deb, thanks for liking my last post on ‘Explore, Find..etc’! I have got a really great yellow from gorse flowers (the spiky plant) – it is the most amazing colour, especially with a little alum which I added after making the brew. I have some dye in a jar which I made in 2008, and which I have kept on the shelf without any colour change taking place. I chop off a branch of gorse, put it in the car and take home. It is a real pest here in rural NZ, you have to keep it trimmed, and I don’t think anyone would mind my taking it off the roadside where it has self seeded. I use pruning clippers and then gardening gloves to protect my fingers from the spikes! The broom (Cytisus) plant also gives a good yellow, but it is not so strong as the gorse. I put the petals in a pot, just cover with water and simmer till the colour is dark – doesn’t take long. I have used the colour on paper as well as fabric. I think the early settlers here used gorse as hedging – which is still done.

    • Deb says:

      I will have to pull out the dried flowers and give it a go. Maybe a project mixing the gorse and arbutus for a dye job straight from the island. Thanks for the comment!

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