What IS that plant?

I was just out dismantling an elderberry – it’s Sambucus nigra ‘Guincho Purple’, now starting to get that apricot look to the foliage before it drops.  It’s not that I don’t like the plant, I love elderberries, but I have a fabulous buckthorn to put there: Rhamnus alaternus ‘Argenteovariegata’.  It’ll be a brighter look to the corner, and it’s not like I’ll be without the European elderberry.  I have f. lacinata in back, and its marketed purple-leaf selection ‘Black Lace’ in a pot; I also have a weak-growing variegated selection whose name escapes me at the moment.

Elderberries are wonderful shrubs and so forgiving of being whacked back (I expect ‘Guincho Purple’ to come back, and I’ll probably keep it a 3-foot shrub size instead of the 15 feet it has reached).  Working on the elderberry at this time of year inevitably made me think of when we usually see it in its native habitat:  May in England.  The hedgerows are full of white blooms, from the plate-shaped elderberry to bunches of hawthorn to the lacecap look of Viburnum opulus.  It’s a beautiful site, even alongside A roads, which can be quite freewaylike, although not as much as M roads.

I’d be able to pick out an elderberry at almost any time of year, but some plants can get me stumped if I’ve only seen them, for example, on late-spring tours of England or Ireland.  The first time I saw Luma apiculata, I was amazed.  We were in a private garden in County Wexford that is no longer open.  It was June.  A small tree with multiple trunks (such an elegant look) caught our eye; the bark was patchy and fuzzy – like a staghorn sumac.  It was gorgeous.

Fast-forward to a visit to Dan Hinkley’s garden Windcliff last July.  I was taking the Ladew folks around, and as we walked down the drive, there was a lovely shrub that had small sparkly white flowers.  Of course people wanted to know what it was; I stared at it and thought “I know what you are…what are you?”

Fast-forward again to about a month ago, when suddenly, unbidden, it came to me:  I had seen a small Luma apiculata without its fuzzy bark (it actually goes through a period where it sheds its bark) and in bloom.  I’m so proud of myself.  If I had a Luma apiculata, I could see each and every one of its seasons.  I wonder where I’d plant it.


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