I have learned to respect my elders… that is, my elder trees, as custom requires. Yes, did you know it is better to ask an elder tree (for permission/forgiveness?) before you cut it?
In folklore, the black elder (Sambucus nigra) is associated with magic and witches. On the one hand it may be a witch in disguise, and on the other hand it is said to protect from evil spirits. It is bad luck to cut it, and not a good idea to use it as firewood. And if you fall asleep under it, you may never wake up…. 😮 However, the red elder (Sambucus racemosa) does not have any of these myths attached to it as far as I know. Nonetheless, just to be on the safe side, I did ask our tree if it wouldn’t mind before snipping a small sprig for my vase this week. 😉
Red Elder (Sambucus racemosa)
Red Elder is quite different to the black, and the leaves are the colour of bronze when they first appear, turning green later. In addition, the round buds appear at the same time as the first leaves. It is quite a stunning plant at this time of year, but blends into the hedgerows later on.
I chose my bronze ikebana vase, with a large florist’s frog in the base to fix the stems. I added some Hellebores at the base, also a plant with dark magic and properties attached to it.
And as a thank you to everyone who commented on my last post ‘Defending Forsythia’, supporting my defence of this cheerful spring-flowering shrub, a sprig of yellow Forsythia to lighten things up a bit! 😃
Thanks to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for encouraging us to find vase materials in our gardens each week to share.
Interesting folklore connected with black elder. You’ve used red elder to great effect in your Ikebana. Lovely!
Thanks Susie. When I saw it unfurling I knew it would look nice in a vase. 😀
I never knew that about black elder. There are lots of scary stories out there.
There are indeed, and many more about elder alone. I find all the old myths quite fascinating!
This is so pretty, Cathy, the elder goes so well with the hellebores and the red vase. S. racemosa is growing wild where we live in Switzerland and it has such a long season. Must take care not to fall asleep underneath it though 😉 Thanks for your letter, I’ll be in touch soon. Love to you all xx
Thanks Annette. We have a few red elder around the edges of the garden and I like the reddish leaves in spring – the berries are really pretty too. Hope all is well with you all. 💕
I didn’t know that about elder trees. Very pretty arrangement 😊
Thank you Cathy. There are so many superstitions about elder trees which makes me wonder if there may in fact be something magical about them!
You never know…
A beautiful combination Cathy, and interesting history.
Thanks Cindy. I enjoy hearing superstitions about plants. Sometimes there may even be a logical reason for them!
Oh I do love this tree and how beautiful it is in spring. We don’t see these here in NY much. And the vase and hellebores complement it perfectly. I miss my forsythia.
Thank you Donna. The hellebores seem to go with everything!
Wonderful color combination with the elder. And the Ikebana is quite striking, well done! The hellebores look like orchids. I like the black elder to make syrup for allergies. Think the witches are working magic on my sinuses?
Thanks Amelia. I haven’t used the berries before, but look forward to the flowers which I will make cordial with and we’ll have our special pancakes with them in. 😃
Elderflower cordial? Do you ferment it like wine? My father made elderberry wine once – complete disaster.
I have made elderflower liqueur using gin and elderflower cordial which is basically a syrup, but have never tried the fermented version of elderflower ‘champagne’, which we probably wouldn’t drink! Never fancied using the berries as they have a very strong flavour and are pretty sour too.
Lovely details about the elder, thank you.
Thanks Rosie. Elders have so many myths attached to them!
Elders are complicated. Some consider the native (here) blue elderberry to be the same species as the American black elderberry, and some consider the American black elderberry to be the same species as the European black elderberry. I use the blue elderberry just like black elderberry, but would like to also grow wild (non cultivar) black elderberry to see what all the fuss is about, and might eventually try a cultivar also. I also intend to procure red elderberry from Washington, actually in just a few days. (I hope they are still dormant there.) European black elderberries would not interest me if ‘Black Lace’ did not live within one of the landscapes here. It has been so fun to work with that I got it ‘Madonna’ as a pollinator so that we can get berries from it. (Try googling ‘Madonna’ and ‘Black Lace’, . . . or maybe not.) All of the other elderberries that I want to grow, blue, black and red, are not ornamental cultivars.
I can’t quite get my head around all the different ones, as I only know the wild European Sambucus nigra, Sambucus racemosa and the cultivated S. nigra ‘Black Lace’. I looked up ‘Madonna’ (not in combination with Black Lace though! LOL) and it looks very attractive with its variegated leaves. 😃
Yes, it is pretty! I would have preferred white variegation to yellow, but this one cost only $4, and a cultivar with white variegation was not available. I am confident that I will enjoy it as much as I enjoy ‘Black Lace’, which I had no intention of enjoying when I first met it. The objective was to get a pollinator for ‘Black Lace’, which has not generated berries yet. I made the mistake of plugging cuttings from both cultivars after pruning them over winter, so now have sixteen copies of ‘Madonna’ and more than thirty-two copies of ‘Black Lace’!
Better safe than sorry…! 😁 But I had better check out the folklore and dark magic attached t hellebores before I make a faux pas… 😉 You have chosen a winning combination today, and the forsythia provides the finishing touch
The hellebores are poisonous, but were used in medicine in the past. I have just read a book about witches which mentions black hellebore as a purge. 😯
Oh yes, that rings a faint bell…
Great title, by the way!!
Enjoyed the title and folklore. 🙂 Handsome arrangement, Cathy, perfecto!
Thank you Eliza. I really enjoyed putting this one together. 😃
A prudent action on your part, Cathy! The folklore associated with various plants (as well as innumerable other things) is always fascinating – one has to wonder how it started, as well as why it took hold. The arrangement is lovely so I’m glad the red elder granted you permission.
I think there is often some logic to these old wives’ tails about plants, and you can see why the superstitions evolved. I am convinced there is so much more than meets the eye to many of our shrubs and flowers!
Regarding your comment about there being more than meets the eye to plants and shrubs, a local blogger friend of mine recently shared an article about extreme high-frequency “cries” plants make when stressed. Both Smithsonian Magazine and Euronews published articles on the research if you’re interested 😉
Thanks Kris. I found one of those articles, but you know I actually read something about that just a day or two ago… not sure where I read it but it may have been the same study. Fascinating! I am about to start a book about biophilia – the connection we make with plant life both physically (via chemical messages) and mentally. There is so much we don’t know! 😃
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Absolutely love this!
Thank you! 😃
I now have more respect for my ‘Elders’ – great history!
😃 I am looking forward to the black elders flowering.
Cathy, thanks for sharing the interesting folklore. Your vase is lovely. I enjoyed joining you this week. I’m hoping to join again in the future. xo
That would be great Alys. It is this Monday meme that has kept my blog alive the past few years!
I’m so glad you’re still blogging, Cathy. It’s always nice to find you here.
A magical and glowing combination of red, pinks, yellow and bronze Cathy. There is a wealth of folklore attached to plants – I really enjoy reading about it. Love your post title 😂
Thank you Anna. I find all the folklore really interesting too. Elder is one of the most mystical. 😃