Am I just providing safe-harbour to an enemy?

Cytisus scoparius 'Lilac Time'I couldn’t help but bring it home. It’s just so pretty!

Cytisus ‘Lilac time’ (Cytisus scoparius) is an evergreen shrub with very small leaves. Lilac-pink pea flowers adorn the bush in spring. I bought it in full-flower. It dazzled me with its charms. I failed to notice that it was in fact, a broom.

There are some good things to say about broom. They’re drought-tolerant and colonise disturbed and poorer soils, improving the soil; broom is leguminous, part of the Fabaceae family, and nitrogen-fixing. Broom stops erosion on hillsides. It’s a great food source for butterfly larvae. The flowers can be eaten in a salad. Don’t forget the prettiness!

On the very big downside, New Zealand has major problems with broom and its close cousin gorse (Ulex). Stock won’t eat it and it shades out pasture. It produces up to 30,000 seeds per square metre, every year. It outgrows saplings, effectively destroying crops of plantation trees and therefore is a major burden to the forestry industry. Apparently, only Pinus radiata can grow fast enough to compete with broom and tolerate the harsh herbicide treatments needed to treat sites infested with it. (I have major issues with Pinus radiata…but that’s a whole other post). So yeah, major problem for New Zealand. We’ve even started bringing in biological control agents to try to counter the spread.

So despite the fact that my pretty little shrub’s cousins are terrorising the country, I’ve provided a safe and loving home for this little one. He’ll only last for about 5 years. I will be watching it carefully though and chopping it back regularly to stop it seeding. I’ve planted it next to an outdoor seat framed by pittoporums, at the front of the house. Having it where I can see it every day, I’ll remember to keep it inline and not allow it to open up another invasion-front.

A note on New Zealand broom

New Zealand has a genus of its own broom called Carmichaelia. They are in the same Fabaceae family as the European species, but far-distant cousins.  There are about 20 varieties.

Am I just providing safe-harbour to an enemy? Pretty vs Plague – let me know your thoughts…


  1. Moon Over Martinborough says:

    Whoa! You’re a harbourer!! You might as well be planting… AGAPANTHUS!

  2. Just found your blog by way of Moon over Martinborough. I’m finding my way through the journey of gardening and growing with mixed success. Reading this blog is an inspiration although I admit I’m very much a suck it and see person. Perhaps if I was more diligent in my research I’d do better all round.

    We have gorse that could potentially take over our bush area and I’m not looking forward to this season’s cull. It’s damned hard work and very painful but it must be done if we going to have any garden left in the future.

    Enjoy your broom plant though!

    • Thanks so much for the kind words Julie! There is nothing wrong with being a ‘suck it and see’ gardener. It’s part of the fun. Some people get so tied up in knots about the how, where and whatever of gardening that they become obsessed and crazed…Really…does that sound like a good thing?

      I have a very laissez-faire approach. After years of this, I’m only just getting better at doing things like keeping records etc. I’m happy this way and refuse to be bullied into anything else. Yes, it means occasionally something doesn’t get enough love and attention. But truthfully, I don’t expect my plants to be more high-maintenance than I am.

      Best of luck with your gorse!