They appear as twelve-foot verdant mounded walls, punctuated with outreaching fronds topped by saucer-shaped white blooms. I walk beneath the blooms and they shower me with tiny flowers, more ephemeral than stardust, more fragrant than a rose garden (sometimes less is more). This is the sign of late spring, this tells us that summer approaches, with its long days and dog nights of sleeping with the window open and waking with the rooster.

The shade of the elder is a cool respite even now from the blaze of the afternoon sun, the cloying heat that enervates as it empowers the brazen tomato with deep roots and branches splayed. The elder shades the tadpoles in their puddle from the 3 o’clock sun and the mama frog calls her reverberating thanks as the sun sinks beyond the waving branches.

The elder gives more than it takes, spreading by strange just-below-the-surface branches that might be roots but become branches when they touch the air. It grows in all directions like a three-dimensional ripple in slow motion, the ancient rhythm of the elder’s elders.

It’s got more uses than my experience or knowledge allow me to talk about, but someone has already done that for the world (always fact-check!). I’ve not observed the insects that make their way to its composite clusters of flowers, but will keep my eye on it as I am able.

This is a photoblog – I hope to have pictures of these spectacular sentinels of the garden soon.

3 thoughts on “Elderberry”

  1. Truly a beautiful word picture! It is a wonderful example of descriptive writing that you could show your students! I love the vocabulary. This description painted a picture in my mind. I didn’t know that elderberries were Sambuca. As a long time reader of Vegetarian Times, I have read about sambuca, and now I have the connection. Thanks for the link, I enjoyed both articles.


    1. Exactly! Sambucus canadensis is the name of one of our more prolific native elders – the American black elderberry. I’m curious about what Vegetarian Times has to say? I do hope to harvest some of the flowers – but we’ll see if time allows. If not the flowers, then the berries. The green leaves should make a nice mulch for some of the beds too. Each part, a purpose; each purpose, many parts.


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