Elderberry (Sambucus spp.)
Elderberry (Sambucus spp.)
Elderberries offer a unique combination of edibility, beauty, and utility. Rapid growers, these shrubs can reach up to 9 feet or more in a season, showcasing large flower heads in summer that attract pollinators and later produce dark, flavorful berries.
Uses and Benefits: The berries are a kitchen staple for making syrups, jams, and wines, with notable immune-boosting properties. Beyond culinary uses, the stems’ soft pith makes them suitable for crafting instruments or syrup taps. Birds frequent elderberries, enhancing garden biodiversity.
Growth and Care: Thriving in rich, moist soils, elderberries are cold hardy to zone 3. For best fruit production, plant more than one variety to ensure pollination, though some can self-pollinate. In colder climates and shorter growing season Sumbucus nigra has a harder time ripening berries though the plants will survive just fine and produce usable flowers
Coppicing for Biomass: Elderberries respond well to coppicing, a method of cutting back the plant to stimulate new growth. This practice not only rejuvenates the shrub but also provides a sustainable source of biomass, useful for various applications.
Marge- Marge, a seedling of Haschburg (Sambucus nigra), stands out for its productivity on second-year wood, showcasing numerous small berries and a high resistance to eriophyid mites. It uniquely adapts well to various North American climates, proving successful for commercial growers in regions with hot summers and cold winters. Its distinctive traits suggest it may be a hybrid with S. canadensis.
Jumbo- Jumbo is a Sambucus nigra variety discovered in Vermont, characterized by its large, erect cymes. In appearance and vigor, it closely resembles Marge, showcasing a robust, productive nature and proven cold hardiness.
Ranch (Sambucus canadensis) -Ranch elderberry is a robust and prolific variety, outperforming others in drought tolerance and speed of rooting from cuttings. Its stems are sturdy and upright, and the bushes establish quickly, making it a standout choice. While it starts ripening earlier than many varieties and thrives in poor soils, it is not well-suited to alkaline (high pH) soil types. This variety is strongly determinate and an all-around impressive option for a range of settings.
Bob Gordon (Sambucus canadensis)-Bob Gordon elderberry stands out for its exceptional flavor and sweetness, proving to be the top producer in University of Missouri trials. Discovered by Robert Gordon, Charlotte Cooper, and Andrew Thomas in 1999 near Osceola, MO. Its unique hanging berry clusters help deter birds. However, it’s suited for areas at or below 50.7 degrees latitude, as it ripens later than other varieties.
Berry Hill (Sambucus canadensis) Berry Hill, developed in Vermont by Lewis Hill, is a top-tier elderberry variety, notable for its cold hardiness, productivity, and uniform, early ripening. It features stunning clusters of large, deep-red berries and bird-resistant decumbent cymes. Additionally, it stands out as the most tolerant of alkaline soils among S. canadensis varieties.
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