Lydian BroomGenista lydia
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Lydian Broom is a spectacular summer-blooming shrub to 2 feet tall, with many slender, arching stems topped with a profusion of brilliant-yellow flowers all through May and June. The green stems create a unique fine visual texture for the rest of the year. It thrives in the hottest and driest places, on sunny slopes, tops of walls, banks and rocky places. Grow it with other Mediterranean plants like lavender, rosemary, catmint and junipers, or mass plant it to brighten those dry places in your garden.
Lydian Broom should be planted in full sun, in hot parts of the garden. It grows well in all well-drained soils, acid or alkaline, preferring gravels and sands over heavy clays and rich soils. It is hardy almost everywhere, if winter conditions are not too wet. It is normally untouched by pests, diseases or deer, and it tolerates salt-spray too, making it perfect for beach cottages. A light trim to remove the tips of the stems after flowering is all the care it needs to look perfect all year round.
Many gardens have hot, dry areas where watering is difficult, and where the sun beats down. Gardeners often abandon these areas to rocks and half-dead grass, but there is a whole range of plants that love growing in these places. Basking in the sun among rocks, or in dry soil, plants that come from places just like that – the Mediterranean – love it and you will love them too. Top of your ‘must have’ for that dry area has to be the Lydian Broom. Not only does it grow readily in those inhospitable places, it fills them with the most glorious golden colors for months of the year. The rest of the time it provides a unique textural contrast, with many green stems, clothed in tiny leaves, making an arching clump of slender lines, with a fine visual texture. You can see immediately where the name ‘broom’ comes from. Few plants deliver so much in the most difficult spots, and do it with such glory as Lydian Broom. Do yourself a favor and use this broom to make a clean sweep of those tricky hot spots, bringing in a splash of liquid gold.
Lydian Broom is a mounding deciduous shrub, with many arching, semi-pendulous slender stems, growing to about 2 feet tall and spreading 3 feet wide. The stems are thin, smooth and dark green, often with 4 or 5 distinct flattened sides. These do a lot of the work of photosynthesis for the plant, because the leaves are so small. They are less than ½ inch long and one-sixteenth of an inch wide, and spaced out widely, ½ an inch apart. They drop in fall without changing color, but you probably won’t notice, so it is more-or-less evergreen. With such small leaves the stems dominate, so that the look is of many arching branches, giving a unique fine texture to this plant, compared to most other garden shrubs. Through May and June small branches sprout from the upper parts of every stem, each carrying 3 or 4 bright yellow flowers. These are pea-like, no more than ½ an inch long, but their profusion means the whole plant becomes a glowing mass of the most striking golden yellow. The flowers are followed by small, inch-long green seed pods.
For hot, dry areas, Lydian Broom is unbeatable. Plant it in rock gardens, at the top of walls, on rocky slopes, beside steps, in the front of shrub beds, and in planter boxes. It is perfect for mass planting and ground cover, spacing plants 18 to 24 inches apart for a continuous mass of green or gold, depending on the season.
Lydian Broom is hardy in zone 4, and thrives all the way into zone 9. Soil moisture (or the lack of it) is more important than cold temperatures, and winter losses are usually due to wet ground, not cold.
Lydian Broom loves a place in the sun – it can’t get too much, and it isn’t going to be happy when planted in anything else, so avoid shady places entirely. It grows in all well-drained soils, the drier and poorer the better, with gravel and rocks preferred over rich shrub beds. It tolerates both acid and alkaline conditions. Avoid heavy clays and wet places.
This plant is almost never bothered by pests or diseases of any consequence, and deer leave it alone too. Once established it is very drought tolerant, and no place is too hot for it. It also tolerates salt spray, and sandy places at the beach are just fine. You can leave it to live its own life, but a trim after flowering will remove the seed pods, neaten the plant, and encourage new growth and new flowers for next year. Trim the stems to below where they have flowered. No other care is ever needed for this low-maintenance plant.
Lydian Broom, Genista lydia, is part of the flora of the Mediterranean, where poor soil is populated by tough, drought-resistant plants. It grows wild in the Balkans, Greece, Turkey and in Syria. It is also known as woadwaxen, which is more-correctly the name of a similar plant, Genista tinctoria, traditionally used for dying wool (as woad once was). ‘Broom’ is a name given to several plants with stiff, slender stems that were used for exactly that purpose, to make brooms for sweeping floors.
You may not have thought about growing Lydian Broom, but you will love it if you do, and it is widely known among the best gardens. Following trials at their grounds, it was given the coveted Award of Garden Merit in 1993, by England’s Royal Horticultural Society, a group of serious gardeners who know their stuff. So you can count on that recommendation and know this is a plant that won’t let you down. You should order now, as Lydian Broom is highly sought after by those in the know, and our plants will soon be gone.