This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
Probably no tree or shrub is better known to the generality of people than the unassuming elder. We look upon it as an intimate sylvan friend, or old woodland acquaintance; and pleasantly remember it in childhood's brief and happy days, where in some neglected spot, it drew our wandering attention to its profusion of flowers or luscious looking fruit. And, although time may have greatly changed us since then yet with some of us I opine our early admira tion for the beautiful has grown with our growth, and ripened with the fulness of years. And happily for those who are so constituted as to faithfully love from first to last, beauteous nature, whose endearing young charms never change. No, kind reader, the same placid features which her children gazed upon in primeval times remain unwrinkled now. And thus it will ever be to all her loyal votaries whose unswerving fealty warms the heart and bends the knee in her consecrated shrine.
But, I find I am wandering away from the fair elder tree, which, to the writer, still remains all my fancy painted it so many years ago.
Sambucus nigra is the euphonious name by which the black elder is technically recognized, and together with its varieties, is well known to the botanist and landscape gardener, who finds them useful and ornamental little trees or shrubs. And as they possess a constitution strong enough to endure ever}" vicissitude of climate, they will flourish under every condition of life. Yet, with all their good qualities, I regret to say, are but seldom seen where they ought to grow. I trust no one will disparage them because they have seen them growing wild in and about the woods, forgetting that the most useful and beautiful trees and shrubs known to science are somewhere growing where nature placed them.
Perhaps the Elder may not appear to some people's ideas as handsome as some other things but, as " beauty is in the eye of the beholder," let me say it, in all possible candor, I have seen many a pretty Elder. When in flower, their lovely white cymes are as interesting and fair to look upon as are most flowering shrubs. Neither do their good looks diminish later on, when bending with heavy clusters of fruit.
I presume most of your readers who are acquainted with them will remember the peculiar cut-leaved S. laciniata, or parsley leaved elder. But the kinds which have lately come to the front, are S. aurea and S. laciniata variegata. The first named, with its bright golden foliage, is one of the most conspicuous and useful shrubs the landscape gardener is at present using. And the second is like unto it, with this difference - it is a silver, cut leaved variety, which produces a fine effect when in contrast with other things.
These very ornamental shrubs the writer recently saw in the shrubberies in various parts of England. I had occasionally seen them at a distance, among other things, too far off to identify, until I had an opportunity to closely inspect them in Selton Park, and other places in the environs of Liverpool.
I am not aware whether they are to be had in the nurseries on this side of the Atlantic or not. But if not already here, they will, I feel assured, be soon found in company with other good things of recent introduction. Then there is the old S. variegata, S. alba punctata, S. pyramidalis and several other kinds, all distinct in habit, and deserving of cultivation. I have an idea that S. aurea and S. laciniata variegata will prove useful adjuncts to the mixed tropical plant beds or borders in the summer season. They would be equally effective, too, as isolated specimens on the lawn.