Coolgardens Plant of the week #11- Sambucus nigra Purpurea

This falls into the important group of “large bulky shrubs” that many gardens are short of. We see many gardens that have some hedging and trees and then some small perennials and shrubs, but nothing in between. It is the bulky flowering shrubs that typically add the texture and “feel” to a garden. They link the large and small, create the feeling of enclosure and privacy without looming, and if chosen well, extend and develop the colour, texture and interest in the garden. They allow you to create layering of colour, and to achieve year round interest by moving the points of interest around the garden and from foreground to background through the seasons.

There are hundreds to choose from, and most gardens (even small ones) can fit at least a few, so I have started here with a really tough one- purple leaved Sambucus (elder). Pictured below against the porch of my house, it grows pretty thuggishly and can be cut back hard whenever suits- I usually do so in the autumn when the leaves have dropped. I have cut down to ground a number of times and it doesn’t seem to mind. Like almost all purple leaves plants they prefer full sun, but this is a really tough plant and in this case is growing in a pretty shady west-facing courtyard without complaining.

There are more elegant lacy versions- the cut leaved elder Sambucus nigra ‘black lace’ below which is a little bit more fussy about its position- getting rather leggy if not in full sun as in the image below, but nonetheless a delightful alternative to using Acers for those of us not on acid soil- although it does not have the autumn colour, you do have a good flush of pink flowers to make up for it.

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