I planted these out about five years ago. They must like our conditions because they are now over three metres tall. These are American elder (sambucus canadensis). I actually wanted Black elder(sambucus nigra) which grows more tree like whereas these will become quite bushy but were all that was available.
Elders are a real medicine chest of a plant. Every part has a use. The leaves when made into a tea are a good insect repellent as well as having fungicidal properties. Very valuable in the vege garden. Elder foliage is well known as a compost activator. Add a few handfuls of leaves to the green waste when building a compost heap and it will break down in half the time to form good friable compost. The flowers are used to brew elderflower "champagne", an aromatic fizzy, clear, sweet wine. They can also be used in elderflower fritters, a favourite of mine. Likewise the elder berries can be brewed to make elderberry wine. Rich sweet and plummy I am told. They also make a rather good jam. The stalks and branches are hollow when dry as the soft pith easily shrinks and is discarded. These were used as simple pipes or straws once as well as flutes. They also were made into popguns and pea-shooters to amuse small boys and annoy small girls.
Lastly, the old Celtic religion believed that each elder was home to a spirit or dryad who, if treated with respect, would protect and guard the area in the vicinity of the tree and bring good fortune. In the Scandinavian areas she was known as the Hylde Moer (tree mother) and to cut down an elder was a sin that would bring bad fortune and death. Even today you might sight a lone elder growing in a field where all other trees have been cleared.
The peaches are almost ready which means the local parrots are late. They have usually destroyed every peach by now. Big red and green Eclectus parrots that fly in from the rain forest. Beautiful birds but very shy. We will pick them all tomorrow (the peaches not the parrots, do try to keep up!) and hopefully get something for ourselves this year. I will try to get some bird netting one day.