If you do not already have them, Elderberries are a fun addition to your North Texas landscape, and they hold up fairly well in our climate and heat.
Keep in mind that elderberries are fairly large shrubs that can grow to 8 to 10 feet in height and width, so they need to be planted where they have plenty of room. They also have a very loose structure which can sometimes lend itself to the back of a flower bed, rather than the front. They are also deciduous.
When planting elderberries, you will want to plant two varieties to ensure that there is cross-pollination. I planted several Johns and Adams varieties.
Elderberries can be beautiful in the garden for a number of reasons. They typically bloom in late May and into June when most other fruiting plants have finished blooming in North Texas. Their blooms are attention getting with huge bracts of tiny flowers. The bracts are often eight to twelve inches in diameter.
The other attention getter to this plant is its wonderful scent. When in bloom, elderberries produce a very strong vanilla-like scent that can be smelled from far across the yard. It is a truly delicious smell.
Depending upon how active your pollinators have been, the flower bracts transform into little green berries in July. In the photograph above, you can see that only half of this bract was successfully pollinated.
In late July and August, you will be greeted with plentiful bracts of blue or purple berries.
I unfortunately did not get any really good photographs of the ripe berries this year, but we had a lot of them.
If you do not put bird netting over the bushes, you will want to check the fruit often to ensure that you are able to harvest them before the birds get to them.
The birds were particularly aggressive this year given the heat and the drought. These berries have been one of the few sources of moisture for the birds in August. As you can see from the photograph below, the birds got to many of the berries on this bract.
The berries are challenging to clean off the bracts in that the stems have a tendency to find their way into the harvest. It seems that using the tines of a fork to coax the berries off the bract without the stem, is the best technique.
The berries can be eaten fresh, turned into preserves, or used to make wine.