Broom?

July 6, 2009 / Local Interest
Italy
broom1One of the joys of spring in Italy is the sight of the fragrant ginestra (pronounced = gee nes’ tra) which appears brightly anywhere it wants. Basically a countryside bush, it will show up along the roads, on hillsides, even on the sides of volcanoes, etc.

A very famous (long!) poem was written in its honor by Giacomo Leopardi, one of the Italian sad-hearted poets. Leopardi was not unlike Lord Byron, but even more melancholy and not as swashbuckling.

The ginestra is also seen in people’s gardens, a wonderful addition to the fragrances of spring and in informal flower arrangements inside.

Beautiful, noble, perfumed ginestra. But do you know its name in English?

BROOM!

What a put down!

broom3

GB

by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

19 Responses to “Broom?”

  1. Margie

    I have vivid memories of looking at beautiful ginestra plants growing on the side of our mountain in Villa Santa Lucia, Abruzzo. I had forgotten the name of the plant, so mille grazie for the refresher! I have never seen this plant in the US. Is it native to Italy only?
    Margie

    Reply
  2. This plant is native to other countries beyond italy, including England, Ireland and France, where Geoffrey of Anjou, father of Henry II of England, frequently tucked a sprig of planta genista (botanic name) in his helmet for good luck. The name Plantagenet has its origins in this plant for this reason.

    The plant is in bloom through much of the year in Italy and elsewhere; I have seen it blooming roadside in mid-winter in England and Ireland.

    Reply
  3. Sally

    I grew up in Oregon,USA. We called it “Scotch Broom”. It was considered a weed especially on the coastline.
    And our variety was not fragrant,it’s odor was unpleasant.
    But it is beautiful. I was surprised to see it in Italy.

    Reply
  4. Anette

    There’s a very good reason why it’s called “broom.” At least in Le Marche, the branches of ginestra were once used to make brooms. I have a very old one in my home there. Ginestra growing wild in the area is protected because it was once so popular as a broom-making material.

    And with good reason – it makes a great broom!

    Reply
  5. Joanny

    I think the name “broom” meaning is loosely translated in English for lack of a better descriptive word—because it “Sweeps” across the landscape, like a wide brush of color on a painting. However its name in Italian ‘ginestra’ sounds so much better then the English translation. The English word ‘Beautiful’! would have been better.

    Joanny

    Reply
  6. Peggy Corrao

    Not so many years ago broom was tied in bundles and was used as… you guessed it, brooms.

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  7. jojo

    Although I’ve seen this incredible blossom at spring in the mountains both of Gargano and Basilicata , never did I hear of the poem. After reading it (several times) the full meaning is not all clear to me. (so many allusions and metaphor, I was lost in the depth 0 Yet i came away feeling that ‘GL’was a passionate and feeling soul. Thank you!
    Grazie…. Una porta di pi├╣ l’amore d’Italia ├Ę stato aperto

    Reply
  8. Peggy Corrao

    Ginestra is also found in a pale pink, but it is less common. It is also fragrant, and often used as a center piece on a long table because of the length of the branches… quite beautiful and delicate.

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  9. Peggy Corrao

    Definitely keep up the good work. It’s GREAT and keeps us coming back for more!!

    Reply
  10. Marianne

    I believe this plant was also used to make fabric which was used to make the Arbereshe daily wear (costumes). We traveled to the Basilicata region (S. Costantino Albanese) and we went to a museum where we saw a large loom. The women used the stalk of this plant plus vegetable dyes to make their native dress. It is quie impressive.

    Reply
  11. Giuseppe

    It is so sad to read the comments about why a plant like “ginestra” should be called “broom” or Scotch broom”, just to suit the English speaking people so short of knowledge and consideration when dealing with foreign names.

    Reply
  12. I was in Capri, Italy, riding on a chair lift to the top. It was the end of June, 2007, and I was in 7th heaven from the perfume rising from this yellow plant! The views were amazing as well! I couldn’t wait to go back down! I asked someone what the yellow flower’s name and was told ginestra. Even though I see broom in London but alas, there’s no perfume.

    Reply
  13. irene mclean

    I grew up with ginestra in Italy, found it again in California, protected species, cannot steal it from the sides of the road, I want to buy a plant, do not know where, scottish broom is different than ginestra it has small leafs, ginestra does not, similar but not the same.

    Reply

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