Choosing a new golden elder

Judith Adam

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‘Morden Golden Glow’ golden elder (Photo from Morden Nurseries)

There’s nothing like newly open garden space to make the heart beat faster. I’m still considering what to plant in the large bed in the front garden where a beech tree was taken down. Last week, I decided on ‘Mango Tango’ potentillas, and now I want a fancy shrub to complement their orange and dark red flowers. I’ve been thinking of a lacy golden elder, and have come up with ‘Morden Golden Glow’ (Sambucus racemosa ‘Morden Golden Glow’, 5 x 5 feet / 1.5 x 1.5 m, Zone 3), developed at the Morden Research Station in Manitoba. This is a slightly scaled-down version of ‘Sutherland Gold’ (S. racemosa ‘Sutherland Gold’, 7 x 7 feet / 2 x 2 m, Zone 4), with the added benefit of increased hardiness. Both shrubs have creamy white flowers in spring and finely cut, serrated foliage with a relaxed drape, providing elegant detail in a plant grouping.

The foliage of golden elders is a truly gold, deep yellow all summer when grown in full sun. Shrubs with yellow foliage like golden mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius ‘Aureus’) often show their brightest colour in spring, and then turn toward chartreuse later in summer. ‘Morden Golden Glow’ is more compact and densely branched than ‘Sutherland Gold’, with slightly narrower leaves. ‘Sutherland Gold’ is slightly taller, with more open, architectural branching. It works well in a sunny shrub border with dark evergreens. The woody form and incised leaves of both shrubs have a similar character to cascading cutleaf Japanese maples.

This front bed already has a gold-tipped cedar and a dwarf maroon-red Japanese maple, and both of these will be good colour companions for ‘Morden Golden Glow’. I’ll also add some of the new ‘Blue Chip’ dwarf butterfly bushes. And now, for some serious thought about what blue and purple perennials to include. This front garden planting is going to end up looking like a box of Smarties, and that’s fine with me!

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7 thoughts on “Choosing a new golden elder”

  1. Hi. Are the berries of the Morden Golden Glow edible? I can’t find the answer to this question for this particular plant.

  2. Can you please tell me how to root a golden elder? Mine died but my neighbor has a big tree and offered to give me a branch that I’m gonna try to root and plant.

  3. Does anyone know how to propagate a Morden Golden Glow Elder? We’ve taken cuttings and put them ina rooting compound then into vermiculite but no luck. We’ve tried this before with other golden elders & had great success but not so much with the Morden Golden Glow. Thanks.

  4. I planted my Golden Glow Elderberry last year 2013 ,,, and it hasn’t grown to much in a year… the winter was hard on it. This summer, some of the leaves have burnt and are dry. What should I do to help this plant?

    • Sorry to know you’re having problems with this beautiful plant. Golden elder doesn’t enjoy harsh conditions. The finely cut leaves are vulnerable to moisture stress, scorching high heat, and drying winds. In other words, it will grow best in a somewhat protected spot with morning sun, and consistently moist soil with good drainage, The larger green species elders are fairly drought hardy; but the lacy foliage of the yellow cultivars is quite thin, with too much exposed leaf surface to withstand a hot and dry site. Can you possibly move your shrub to a spot with less afternoon sun, and consistent moisture? I’m sure that will trigger resilient growth next summer.

      • I use to have a golden elder against the foundation of my house facing south. It grew so quickly. Ever year I cut it down, and it would be right back up,in no time. That was in Manitoba. I moved to Ottawa last year, and hope to find some here

  5. Hi Beverley,

    I understand your question, and have had a similar experience. Spaces I currently use for piling organic material are under and surrounding mature spruce and pine trees. (It’s convenient that the tree limbs hang low and conceal any mess.) These trees don’t seem to send up roots into this new material on the soil surface. But I once piled organic debris under a maple tree, and it certainly did send fine fibrous roots all through the material. So it makes a difference what kind of tree roots are under the material. Stay away from maple trees!

    — Judith


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