It’s easy to ignore and disparage because it grows on waste ground or by canal-banks: few people would cultivate it deliberately but according to folklore elder is a special tree because it frames summer. The blossom coming out marks the beginning of summer; the berries mark the end. You can see very easily with elder how the berries map onto the blossom; how the sprays of off-white blooms (the colour of my Mum’s satin wedding-dress) which house quite unfeasible numbers of insects, give way in time to sprays of deliciously purple berries. There’s nothing to match the colour of elderberries, and the wine they make is an equally beautiful dark colour. I am drinking some of last year’s elderberries as we speak, and today I have picked enough to make another batch. I’ve done well out of elder this year as several bottles of elderflower wine are waiting in the cupboard for me to broach them when the time is ripe.
So all of this means that summer must be over. It certainly feels like it: there’s a chill in the garden and I’ve dug out a jumper to wear and tights to put under my socks. But I don’t really mind: unlike some years it feels like we’ve actually had a summer this year. We’ve had oodles of sun and not too much rain – it even seemed to threaten a drought at one point – so I don’t feel cheated. Poor Daniel, on the other hand, hasn’t had a summer at all. He’d barely broken up from college when infection struck, and it looks as if he’ll hardly have recovered by the time he needs to go back.
We have some apples ripening in the garden and I shall probably make wine out of them, too, come the autumn…