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The Humble Umbel: Grow Elderberries This Year, For You And The Birds

Blackish purple berries.
Like making berry pies? Why not add elderberry to your garden, and next pastry project?

Pies, buckles, tarts and crumbles all call for different sorts of berries, and you may well already be growing raspberries and blackberries for all your baking. Perhaps now is a good time to add another berry to your repertoire: The elderberry!

The American elderberry is a multi-purpose shrub and in its native form, sambucus canadensis, this shrub grows big berries that are great for wine, juices and syrups.

Elderberry bushes grow in part-shade and wet areas, and you'll get a big bushy plants. You can even eat the flowers!

More from All Things Gardening: I Spy A Berry Pie In Your Future: Tips For Growing Raspberry Bushes

When its time to harvest the elderberry fruit, try this method: Cut the umbel when the berries are ripe, and stick the whole twig-and-fruit cluster in the freezer. The next day, take it out and bang it on a counter. All the berries will fall off, and you can toss the twigs.

Another variety, known as the European elderberry, produces a more ornamental shrub. These shrubs grow well in the landscape and look beautiful. Plus, birds and deer also love the small berries.

Q: I've seen some beautiful magnolia trees in bloom around town. What is the best variety for the Waterville area? — Trevor, in Waterville

Waterville is up in the hills in Zone 3 or Zone 4. Magnolias are not that hearty this far north, so look for magnolia stellatta. It has beautiful white, fragrant flowers that do well this far north. Try the "Jan" or "Jane" variety, and protect it from the north or west winds by planting in well-drained, loose soil on the east side of your property.

This magnolia should do well for years to come!

A thin grey line.

All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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