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!