Back in the summer, a friend of mine served me some delicious pink elderflower cordial. When I asked what she’d put in it, she replied “nothing – it’s from my red elder!” I could scarcely believe my eyes until she showed me a beautiful shrub in her garden, 6ft tall and covered in rich purply-red leaves. I put the red-leafed elderberry on my wish list and promptly forgot about it.
Digging round the freezer and finding a bag of elderflowers that never got made into cordial amongst the frozen apples and runner beans brought back this happy summer memory, in a week that has felt a bit like the start of winter hibernation. A couple of recent hard frosts and quite a bit of tidying up means that summer’s exuberant growth is now a distant memory.
I’m inside sheltering from the rain and admiring my Paperwhite narcissi which have grown incredibly fast and are already flowering – just when I needed a bit of cheering up. They fill the downstairs bathroom with their heady scent – amazing when you think I only started them off six weeks ago!
They’re a lovely contrast to what’s going on outside; where, as the last leaves blow off the trees, it’s the season of drawing back, going back to the earth. It’s an altogether rather ‘earthy’ time of year – and a great time to be planting.
Believe it or not, the soil is still relatively warm. Now that plants have stopped growing above ground, it relieves pressure their roots are under – they can grow away in the still-warm soil unfettered. This was brought home to me as I weeded out some ground elder recently – the contrast between the tiny withered leaves above ground and the fresh white new roots romping away through the soil was remarkable.
Deciduous shrubs and trees, along with fruit trees and bushes will thrive if you plant them between now and Christmas. You can plant pot-grown plants all year round, but if you plant them now they’ll have a whole lot of extra root growth to give them a flying start next year. As I take refuge indoors from the wind and rain, I’m sorting out my winter order of plants, and of course, a red elderberry is top of the list. So why not have a look through the catalogue and get planning? Your garden in 2015 will be all the better for it.