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Jun
21
2013

What is Brooming?

It’s the most extreme form of ACS (Addicted Conifer Syndrome.) Otherwise sane horitcultural enthusiasts are found skulking around cemeteries and woodlots at odd hours in exotic raiment that often includes climbing saddles and pole saws. They call themselves broomers because they are in search of witches brooms, those odd looking genetic mutations of plant life that could portend a new cultivar, one that they could name after themselves, but just as often end up being called Old Fogey, Piggelmee or State Trooper.

There are stories behind the origin of most new cultivars; this is a place where they can be told.

Here are three brooms called Hibbard, Wilson Park and VW Bug.

 

 

10 comments to “What is Brooming?

  1. Zsolt Mesterhazy commented

    How are brooms are created? I guess nobody knows. Some think it’s a bud mutation. Others think that it’s created by some aberration during fertilization. Josef Schneider of Austria has noticed that around the Dachstein Mountains where he lives the elevation is a factor in that he sees more brooms the higher he climbs. Frantisek Borovec of the Czech Republic thinks the cause is a viral infection. Nobody has a sure answer.

    Over the past five years I’ve published information on about ten thousand brooms and I’ve asked myself what is the fascination with these odd plants? The only conclusion I’ve arrived at is that these people are born collectors and a broom is a pretty convenient way of obtaining a unique plant — as opposed to cross pollinating and waiting and hoping that something new will develop over the years. A witch’s broom is already a unique plant that likely can be propagated in quantity. You don’t have to spend your life hovering over seedbeds waiting for the answer. The broom is ready for your garden, created by the nature.

    My Polish friend, Wiktor Trochonowicz, annotates all descriptions of his brooms with the number cones found on the broom, carefully tracking them because he knows that their seedlings could could yield even new dwarfs.

    If you have a 100 acres you can plant an arboretum. But brooms that become dwarf conifers offer the opportunity for us to create a veritable forest in our own small spaces.

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  2. John Lenart commented

    I’ve been collecting brooms in the boreal forest in Canada’s Yukon for just over 10 years and have had the good fortune to find and collect a Picea mariana broom as a stand alone tree. The portion of the parent tree above the broom evidently died out some years ago, leaving only the broom to grow on.
    The specimen is about 6 feet or 2 meters tall; the well formed, dense, conical broom portion being the top 1/3, its apical shoots growing around 3/4 inch per year. The tree was dug from a bog where permafrost kept the root zone only 8 inches thick so the tree was very easy to remove. After trussing up the rootball we hung the tree from a fiberglass pole to haul it out of the bush. It is now in our yard where it will be well cared for and we look forward to seeing how it will change under cultivated conditions. I am wondering how rare such a find is?

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  3. Zsolt Mesterhazy commented

    John, yours is the first replanted old broom. Forza Klondike!
    Many old low brooms or trees were found also in America by Jerry Morris on the ground or aged, but never heard of replantings of very old motherplants. A usual gardener takes scions first.
    I published in Cesko many “ground brooms” from a Pinus mugo mixtured dwarf forest, which were grown below 1 meter. These are all real brooms and not “deer-brooms”, which were eaten for small bonsai by deers. Usual broomers are taking first scions for graftings in the hope the broom will survive. Replanting of old plants have of course a risk. I will pray for your replanted aged broom!
    (I hope, you have some scions too…)
    Zsolt
    conifertreasury.org

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  4. Ron Elardo commented

    I am fascinated with the fascination of broomers for an aberration of nature, caused by any number of environmental factors, resulting in a plant unlike its parent, yet capable of asexual reproduction through grafting. It is just fascinating.

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  5. tmarder commented

    Can anyone give me some advice about broom propagation. I recently found a broom on a 5ft Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Gracilis’. Whats the next step?

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  6. David Olszyk commented

    Hello, “tmarder;” congratulations on your find. There are actually a number of steps to the process. First, a picture is worth thousands of words. Is the broom attractive? Is it unique enough in a world of miniature Hinoki seedling selections to be worthy of propagation? We also need to be aware that many brooms in the cupressaceae family are created by disease and as such don’t propagate.

    Chamaecyparis obtusa are generally propagated through rooting of cuttings. That would certainly be “a next step” in determining whether the mutation is stable. Most importantly, let’s see what it looks like. I’m interested.

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  7. David Olszyk commented

    Oh yeah! Juvenile foliage, perfectly healthy looking, plus an interesting color. Yup, I’d definitely go forward with that one. Do you know anybody who does cutting work where you are? If not, I can offer some suggestions.

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