Way up here in the frozen north I get a bad case of zone envy from time to time. Seeing all the crepe myrtles, lace cap hydrangeas, China roses, and azaleas on garden blogger's sites makes me nostalgic for the years I lived in northern Alabama and grew those wonderful plants.
Not being able to grow the different hydrangeas is especially frustrating this time of year. I have the lovely Annabell and she is beginning to bloom, still a little more variety would be nice. Then, coming home last evening I caught a glimpse of the common elderberry that makes it's home in pastures and in hedgerows all over our county. This is as nice as any lacecap and it blooms at approximately the same time as many hydrangea. Elderberry blooms may not come in pinks and blues, but the flowers are as large as my hand and they have the added attraction of producing fruit for the birds.
I believe these will serve the purpose nicely and carry me through until Annabell blooms. Maybe this year I'll even grab a few berries and try making a pie.
I'm considering adding one of the hybrid elderberries to my yard. Sambucus Black Lace would be a good choice with its finely cut black foliage to add interest even when the shrub is not in bloom. Black Lace will also do a nice job substituting for the Japanese maples I can't grow. If anyone of you grow any of the Sambucus in your garden, please let me now what your experience has been.
A little folklore about he elderberry. In ancient times the elderberry was considered charmed and anyone who burned its wood would be plagued by bad luck. Children whispered stories of unlucky folks who fell asleep under the elderberry and were carried away to the realm of the faeries. Flutes made from the wood created enchanted music and charms worn round the neck would ward off evil. Sounds like a useful bush to have, just don't set your lounge chairs beneath it or you could fall asleep and wake up with the faeries:)