Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Elderberry wine anyone.

Now for the boring part. Sambucus is a genus of between 5 and 30 species of shrubs or small trees in the moschatel family, Adoxaceae. It was formerly placed in the honeysuckle family, Caprifoliaceae, but was reclassified due to genetic evidence.
The genus is native in temperate-to-subtropical regions of both the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere. It is more widespread in the Northern Hemisphere. Thank you Wikipedia.

Now let's get this show in the road.

When you think of elderberry most likely you conjure up thoughts of homemade wine or some large, white flowered shrub growing in the road as you drive around the mountains. Few of us think of elderberry as a ornamental plant for the landscape. Or maybe you have seen one in someones garden and it didn't dawn on you to think about what that shrub was.

Sambucus nigra - European Elderberry
S. n. BLACK BEAUTY This plant has outstanding satiny purple-black leaves and is the first elder I ever saw that has pink flowers. Black Beauty is perhaps a plant best reserved for cooler climates, but I grow it out here in the high desert. I have one when you first walk into the nursery that is only a couple years old. Let me say-it gets noticed. The blossoms are scented and smell of grapefruit.

S. n. BLACK LACE is in my opinion the most unique ornamental shrub that stands out in my mind. This beauty has velvet-black leaves that are finely cut and lacy. At first glance moat people mistake this plant for a Japanese maple, but it's not and the big pink flowers prove it.
It is an exciting new plant that comes by way of the breeding program at East Malling Research Station in England.

S. n. MADONNA This selection brightens up the garden having green leaves splashed with gold. Or is it gold leaves splashed with green? This is a slightly slower growing form, good to brighten up the shade garden, though mine is in full sun.

Red-berried , Sambucus racemosa, is native to Eastern Europe and Western Asia. Medium sized, this shrub grows 8 to 12 feet in height. This is a very hardy plant (zone 3).
S. r. 'Sutherland Gold' is a colorful shrub with beautiful, deeply cut, acid yellow foliage, the new foliage has a slight amber tint and if you grow it in the shade it is more lime-yellow. Red berries are quickly eaten by the birds.

There are a few other varieties I will mention, though I do not sell them at the moment.

Sambucus canadensis 'Aurea' There are fewer cultivars of Sambucus canadensis, this one is gold and should be in production at the nursery in 2011.

S. nigra 'Laciniata' A beautiful cut leaf elderberry. Unique, finely dissected deep green foliage. Large flat topped sprays of white flowers. Will grow easily to 10 feet.

S. nigra 'Linearis' Lacy, twisted leaves that are almost threadlike add an interesting texture to this smaller form. I would say 5 feet tall and maybe 5 feet wide. Definitely an interesting texture.

S. racemosa 'Tenuifolia' This is a small, compact, deciduous shrub with finely dissected leaves. In spring, it bears sparse amounts of small, cream flowers, followed by red berries in summer.


  1. YAY for sambucus, I luvluvluv them all - thanks for the lineup!