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Graham Rice's New Plants Blog

Graham Rice Garden writer and plantsman Northamptonshire and Pennsylvania

Editor-in-Chief of the RHS Encyclopedia of Perennials; writer for a wide range of newspapers and magazines including The Garden and The Plantsman; member of the RHS Herbaceous Plant Committee and Floral Trials Committee; author of many books on plants and gardens.

  • Date Joined: 18 Oct 2006

Sambucus Black Tower: New for 2011

Posted by Graham Rice on 28 Jul 2011 at 12:43 PM

Sambucus,Black Tower,Eiffel. Image © Seoint NurseriesTwo really impressive dark-leaved elders have come on the market in recent years, first Black Beauty ('Gerda') and then the cut-leaved Black Lace ('Eva'). Both were developed in Britain and now they've been joined by a third, Black Tower ('Eiffel 1').

As you might guess, Black Tower has an unusually vertical habit of growth, expect it to reach about 6-8ft/1.8-2.4m in height with a width of about 3-4ft/0.9-1.2m. So it really does make a tower rather than a slender spire. The shape is just right, if it was more narrow then too much of the branch structure would be revealed.

The foliage is large, and comes in a deepest, darkest burgundy black. What's more, it covers the plant right to the base – there are no bare legs. As you can see in the picture (click to enlarge). The new shoots are green, creating lively highlights, and with its flat heads of pink flowers followed by black berries this is a fine plant as a focus at the back of mixed borders. I'd be inclined to pant a Clematis viticella variety to climb through it.

Like all these new elders Black Tower responds to pruning, but pruning will tend to create a plant that is a little broader in its growth.

It looks as if this might be the last of the elders to come from what used to be the government's East Malling Research Centre where development of new varieties of fruit was the priority. The excellent English Butterfly series of buddlejas came from the same stable and, when I visited many years ago, I remember seeing a great range of elders planted out for assessment. They were also working on lime-tolerant rhododendrons but a round of cuts and re-organisations brought the work to an end.

But these elders are all fine garden plants. You can buy Sambucus Black Tower ('Eiffel 1') from these RHS PlantFinder nurseries and it is also now starting to find its way into garden centres.

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