I planted an Elder tree

It was a lovely sunny morning yesterday, so I planted an Elder tree (Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’). Likely it will die back and will not attain the heights it is supposed to if it was in a zone 4 or higher garden. That is fine with me – I love the lacy black foliage and planted it next to my Ninebark ‘Diablo’.

I chose this shrub because I have much enjoyed reading about the myths associated with it. Elders were often planted near houses to ward off evil spirits and were widely known for their healing properties.

If you are interested in reading about the folklore surrounding the Elder, there is interesting information in both of these articles, ‘The Spirit of the Elder Tree’ and ‘Elder in Profile’. The Elder also figured prominently in many herbal remedies and many drinks. (See Yolanda Elizabet’s recipe for Elderflower Champagne at her blog, Bliss!

Planted with the Elder are several mementos, including silver earrings, from a relationship that has come to an end. Around the base, I put several seashells and sand which I had brought back from my journeys to San Diego.

Since I have had a hard time letting go and moving on, I felt the need to do something tangible to feel at peace with myself once again.

It is time to focus my energies on nurturing my spirit and putting my passion back into the things that I love doing.

I know now that it doesn’t matter our age, the pain of losing love is just as difficult at age 49 as it was when I was younger. In some ways, I think it might be more so. People who have come to mean much in our life are valuable – they are not so easily replaceable.

Every little girl knows about love. It is only her capacity
to suffer because of it that increases.

(Françoise Sagan)

32 thoughts on “I planted an Elder tree

  1. No Rain says:

    Beautiful tree, beautiful post. One thing I’ve learned in my later years:”Life is a jest; and all things show it,I thought so once; but now I know it.” `John GayAiyana

  2. Tammy says:

    It is harder as we get older Kate and I love how you moved on with your head held high. The tree ceremony was a wonderful idea.Surround yourself with what you love and soar. You will attract love back into your life. XXOO

  3. grannyfiddler says:

    it’s only those who stop feeling who ever stop getting hurt, dear poet-gardener. your grace and dignity encourage those of us who are less gracious and dignified about our pain. i didn’t know that about elders… but i do know that they’re found growing wild here in northern alta, so there are varieties that can take a much more punishing clime than zone 4. with the right microclimate, yours might just thrive. the dark foliage will be spectacular, and set off the brighter things in the garden to their very best advantage- a bit of a parable there, hmmm?

  4. Rowan says:

    The elder is one of my favourite trees, the Elder Mother gives wonderful healing properties – I hope she will help to heal your wounds. I have several books by Glennie Kindred, she is a very knowledgeable lady, the page you linked to is so interesting.

  5. jodi says:

    We have wild elders here too, and earlier this summer I also planted S. ‘Black Lace’, having had a gold-foliaged variety here for four years now. I know that Black Lace will do fine here, and hopefully it will for you. More importantly, dear Kate, I hope it brings you peace and pleasure, and as it grows, more joy and love than you can imagine at present. Blessed be….

  6. self taught artist says:

    kate,i’ve started at the very beginning of your blog to find out what you are about….I LOVE your embroidery…it is so tasteful and delicate, beautiful flowers on white. I wonder are you doing any watercolor paintings these days and have you posted any? I just went through the first month and then some…enjoying your photos, the one of the prairie was beautiful. good stuff, I will be back 🙂

  7. Clare says:

    Hi Kate! I love that you care about the symbolism/myths of plants — this is really cool. I totally believe in all this, and shamans have been working with these energies forever. And putting your earrings and shells and sand in with the elder tree is such a beautiful and empowering ritual for letting go. Losing love is a death — I mean that’s how it feels in our hearts, and I really think you’re right about it getting harder as we get older. I’m glad you’ve got Lytton there with you — he looks like such a sweetpea. Lots of hugs from me and Moose, Kate. I hope you have a relaxing weekend.:)

  8. Kylee says:

    I can sense a healing and strength in your actions and your post, Kate. I know it will still be hard at times, but I’m happy to see you moving on and doing it in such a meaningful way.The Sambucus – lovely, and I must get one! I admire them every time I see one in the nursery, but I’ve not figured out where I’d put it yet.

  9. Jardineira aprendiz says:

    These links have very interesting information about elder. I hope your elder brings you the magic you need!This is a common plant in old gardens in my country, but somehow it became old fashioned when people discovered new exotic garden plants. Now that people are getting some interest in native plants I hope we can see elder again in garden centers. This variety seem to be very beautiful, but I have never seen it live.

  10. Layanee says:

    Dear Kate: It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all! A quote of course but there is truth there and the beauty of love and the hope therein will find you again! Love the Sambucus and I hope it reminds you of the good things a relationship teaches. It is a wonderful cathartic to plant something new isn’t it!

  11. Ki says:

    You elderberry looks wonderful! Some of the catalogs were touting it as a Japanese maple substitute for zones where the JMs won’t grow. And it indeed does look like a Japanese maple. Very pretty.We had the common elderberry S. candensis which was a mistake because it grew robustly and suckered prolifically, shading and invading other plants around it. I dug it all out but it has sprouted new growth all around the mother plant. I believe I read that the S. nigra didn’t have the bad suckering problem as it is related to the European elderberrys which are apparently much better behaved. Supposedly elderberries have wonderful medicinal properties too.

  12. Marie says:

    Here where I live the Elder grows wild. I have friends who makes champagne from the flowers and non-alcoholicwine from the berries. It taste good, but a little to sweet I think. I can see that you have lost someone dear to you. I agree with you; age does not matter. I wish you well :o)

  13. Ragged Roses says:

    A beautiful post Kate. I planted an Elder in my garden last year and am enjoying it a great deal. Hope the Elder helps to heal your painKim x

  14. Ruth Welter says:

    Kate, I loved the folk lore about the Elder tree. You will certianly have no evil spirits bothering you now. Love the shells at the base.

  15. megan pickwell says:

    May the ritual allow you the freedom to move on Kate. What beautiful dark foliage.hugs Megan xo

  16. Pam Aries says:

    Oh Kate..I am sorry about your relationship..it’s been so long since I’ve even had one! I sort of qiut, after the last 2 I had ended .

  17. Andrea's Garden says:

    You are so right. So many times we forget to focus on ourselves and our needs and get lost in the needs of others who can drain our energy. Much luck that the planting of your elder will help you! Andrea

  18. Alyssa says:

    Wonderful shrub. I too loved its looks and bought 2 this spring. I think mine will die back also but that will probably much prettier and fuller than being taller. Great idea to bury the past while starting something new and including happy memories of your trip as a bit of “fertilizer”.I agree that “people who have come to mean so much in our life are valuable” because they teach us about ourselves. We learn from them. I’m a firm believer that there are hundreds of thousands of men in this world who are “just right” for you. And the fellow who hurt you was not one of them – and he should be replaced. Our hearts are capable of an infinite amount of love that never runs out. And love can be found in the most unexpected times and places!!Ah, the French are so romantically tragic when it comes to love!

  19. LostRoses says:

    Kate, anyone who thinks to edge their trees with seashells deserves someone who appreciates that whimsical spirit. You clever girl, you!

  20. clairesgarden says:

    I have ‘sambucus niger’ envy! its a beautiful plant. and a new take on ‘trace elements’ of metal inthe garden, good idea!

  21. Alison says:

    I’m so very sorry that you are hurting…Glad that you have found a way to let the past rest….

  22. Yolanda Elizabet says:

    Now that my lovely Russian Blue cat Sam Bucus has passed away, I could do with another Elderberry in my life. I love the one you have chosen Kate, very pretty. Great ceremony too, to assist you in healing yourself.Tonight I will raise my glass of elderberry blossom champagne to your good health of body and spirit, Kate!

  23. kate says:

    Aiyana – I love that quote. Thank you.Tammy – It hasn’t been easy, but I am feeling at peace now. I want to be open to new experiences and soar again. Grannyfiddler – I thought of you last night while my fiddle group was here. It was a fantastic night. I am hoping that my Elder survives and thrives here. If they do in Northern Alberta than I should be okay here. I love the dark foliage and how true, there is a parable here. Rowan – I am counting on my Elder mother to help out. Glennie Kindred was a wonderful discovery. I also read about the Rowan tree and wish for one of those too!Jodi -We will have to compare notes about our new Elders as they wind their way through many seasons – hopefully! I think it will bring much joy and peace = reminding me of good things always!Self-taught Artist – Well thank you for reading back to past blog entries. I haven’t posted many watercolours – did one though it isn’t very large. Most of my painting has been of wonderful washes which I then use for altered books. I’m starting a new watercolour flower class in a few weeks where I’m planning to concentrate on painting pictures and not just messing with colour. The prairie at this time of year is breath-takingly beautiful. Clare – I believe it too, more and more, as I read. I needed to do something that was truly empowering along with writing. Lytton is wonderful and I think he’d love a romp with Moose. Curtis – Thank you – I believe it too. Kylee – It was good to do something concrete and I am glad that I did. I think you should get a black Elder too … then we can all compare our experiences. Jardineira aprendiz – I think it’s great that people are going back to growing plants that have been growing for centuries and centuries. All too often, we drop the old to try the new. We are learning that often the old is what does the best. Layanee – I believe in that quote – there is much truth in it. It is cathartic to plant something new.Ki – The common Elder grows here as well, so isn’t all that common. I’ve read too, that the black Elder doesn’t sucker although I have a hunch I’d be pretty tolerant if it did. Marie – I would love to try Elderberry champagne, even if it is a bit sweet. Here’s hoping that mind might flower in great enough quantity to make some champagne!! Ragged Roses – From all I’ve heard, people are really pleased with their Elders. I’m glad to have read that you are enjoying yours too! Ruth – The folklore surrounding the Elder is fascinating. I’m counting on it to bring many good spirits my way. Megan – I have a sense of calm now and I am glad that I did this. A new beginning it feels like – the foliage is a lovely colour. I wonder how well they would do in Sydney!Pam – It’s hard to dust yourself off and try again. Sometimes it just takes a lot of time to heal. Andrea – It is easy often to get caught up in other’s needs and neglect our own. That is why I needed to do something tangible as a reminder for myself. Alyssa – I am curious to hear how your Elders overwinter. I thought it was time to bury the past and start off with some new memories. There has been much I’ve learned over these many months about myself and what I need. Thankfully our hearts are full of infinite love – I can’t imagine going through life without loving. Lost Roses – I love the seashells edging the Elder. They make me smile every time I see them. Thoughts of washes crashing up on shore pass through my mind. I love that. Claire – I think you need to get an Elder too. Let’s hope they like silver … Alison – It is a relief – a letting go – that has been a big help to me.

  24. kate says:

    Yolanda Elizabet – I think Sam would like too! I hope that you plant one in his memory. Ah, you are fortunate to have Elderberry champagne. I will be thinking of you – thank you for the thought!

  25. bindi says:

    Hi Kate, the baby elder tree is beautiful. Elders also feature in the last harry potter book as the wood that makes the most powerful wand that can give its owner the gift of life. Letting go is hard. I think its because we imagine this will be the last time. But Kate, why should it be the last. One never knows what surprises are in store for us! My good friend Greg from high school told me that when his grandfather passed away, his grandmother was lonely. But a man whom she had known for years said to her, ‘I have always loved you’, and now they have been together for ten years. She was seventy-four at the time!

  26. Annie in Austin says:

    This tree planting, and dressing the tree with seashells, seems so much more meaningful and forward-looking than ceremonies where you burn mementoes or letters. New life rather than destruction? I like the way you’ve integrated respect for what existed with the resolution to move on. May the pain ease soon, Kate. Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  27. healingmagichands says:

    I like what Annie said, about moving forward. Of course, we often want to burn letters too. . . so sorry you are in pain, hope you heal soon and find a new love.

  28. kate says:

    Hi Bindi – I didn’t know that Elders were in the last Harry Potter book. Elders have such a fascinating history in folklore. I think you are right on about letting go and feeling as if this is the last time. Being open to new experiences seems better than trying to hang onto something that wasn’t working. I like hearing about your friend’s grandmother… surprises are always in store for us. Annie – I hadn’t thought of my tree-planting as being forward looking, but that makes a lot of sense. So does the thought of nurturing new life and looking forward to seeing a plant grow, rather than destroying something that was. It would leave me feeling empty. Healing magic hands – I like what Annie said too. We often do want to burn letters, but so far I’ve wanted to focus on getting to a better place.

  29. Iowa Gardening Woman says:

    What an interesting and inspiring post, while I am not certain if your loss is due to death or divorce, it sounds as if you are overcoming any obstacle put in your path which is what life is about.I planted the same Elder this spring after reading that it was a great substitute for Japanese Maple in zone 4 as Ki mentioned. I had no idea about all the folklore behind the bush, thanks for sharing. Now I will think of that each time I pass the bush. Your party sounds as if everyone had a good time and love the Lytton picture! Nothing soothes a hurting soul more than the company of a four legged friend.

  30. kris says:

    Hi Kate – I enjoyed your stories about the elder trees. I imagine that it was very cathartic to plant mementoes with your elder – and I love the happy sea shells around the base.I think you have a gift for bringing things into your life that help you heal – that nuture your soul – and that bring you joy. It is truly a gift – and one that you share with each of us when we visit your blog or you visit us. I’m sending good thoughts your way, Kate.

  31. kate says:

    IowaGardeningWoman – I was pleased to hear that you’ve planted a Black Elder too. I always love finding out about the plants that I have put in – it makes them more special somehow. The folklore associated with the Elder is quite amazing. I agree, too, that there is nothing quite an animal friend for soothing a hurting soul. Kris – It was truly cathartic to plant the Elder. I am so glad that I did this. The seashells look so welcoming around the base. Thank you for your lovely comments and your good thoughts!

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