Sambucus nigra ‘Golden Tower’

Like anyone with a new garden, I am discovering what will grow and what won’t. The two laburnums that were to stand sentry to the entrance to the lemon meringue garden turned up their toes in the first winter – why? I cannot tell but I suspect it was waterlogging in winter. I gave the till July last year to convince me that they were alive but then they had to go. After digging over the spots I planted two Sambucus nigra Golden Tower in their place. I have planted several Sambucus Black Lace around the garden and they have done well – it is a pretty bleak spot where common elderberry can’t grow!

Golden Tower ‘Jandeboer001’ is relatively new, being introduced in 2005 and is a useful plant. It is supposed to reach 3m high and 1m wide and could be a better plant than the more common yellow-leaved forms of Sambucus racemosa – which often develop burned leaf tips if the soil is dry or the sun too harsh. The leaves are quite finely cut for Sambucus nigra. Yellow-leaved plants are often tricky to place because they need just the right levels of light and finding the ‘Cinderella zone’ can be difficult. If the spot is too bright and dry the leaves can bleach and scorch. If the spot is too shady then the leaves are lime green rather than yellow. A single plant can exhibit both conditions, with green leaves in the centre and scorched leaves at the top.

My Golden Tower are in full sun at present, though they will get a little shade in future years when the hedges grow! But they seem to be coping well. The growth is strong and the young foliage is lime green and matures to a good yellow. Next year I should get some flowers, which will be white, but the berries will be black, which is a shame – and will look awful when the birds deposit their remnants all over the leaves. I think the answer will be to make lots of elderflower cordial.

At present the plants are only 60cm or so high but I expect them to reach 1m by the end of summer. The problem will be to cut out some of the old stems as they age, to keep it looking fresh. ‘Black Tower’ is a dark-leaved elder that is a bit gaunt, in my experience – I have planted a couple and may reassess my opinion of it is it looks nice. But elders love hard pruning and always respond with strong, upright shoots so I think it will be possible to keep it looking fresh as it ages. It is a bit early for a rating but I will risk it.

Geoff’s rating


Garden rating


It should be an easy to grow, hardy, attractive shrub that is a good specimen and perfect as a screen when planted as a row.

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6 Comments on “Sambucus nigra ‘Golden Tower’”

  1. Paddy Tobin
    June 20, 2021 at 4:11 pm #

    It sounds like a good plant and, hopefully, will do well.

  2. tonytomeo
    June 21, 2021 at 5:12 pm #

    All these ornamental elderberries are so . . . ornamental. Are any grown for the berries? There is what I believe to be a ‘Black Lace’ elderberry here that is quite visually appealing. The berries are minimal though, perhaps because of a lack of a pollinator of another variety of the same species. It is supposed to be both visually appealing and productive. Of course, because it is such a visual asset to the landscape, I do not mind that it is not productive. We get plenty of berries from the native blue elderberries.

    • thebikinggardener
      June 21, 2021 at 5:30 pm #

      LOL. I grow Black Lace partly because it is ‘so ornamental’ but also because of the flowers which I use to make pink cordial – and this year pink elderflower ‘champagne’. I have always considered berry production low but that is largely because I cut all the flowers off. I have also planted two non-ornamental (S. nigra) elders that are grown for their berries, bought from Poland, so that will be interesting. These will (I hope) supply berries for elderberry wine but they are too small yet! What do you do with the native blue elderberries?

      • tonytomeo
        June 22, 2021 at 4:30 am #

        Blue elderberries are used just like black elderberries. For several consecutive years my elderberry jelly won second place at the Jelly and Jam Competition of the Santa Cruz Mountain Harvest Festival. (Never a blue ribbon though.) It was funny though, that prior to my use of the berries, no one else bothered to try them. Now, there is competition for them. I can get what I want at work, and will plant more in my own garden later. Except for ornamental cultivars, black elderberries could not be imported here. I do not know why. They may be available now, although I have no use for them.

        • thebikinggardener
          June 22, 2021 at 5:30 pm #

          You are obviously a trendsetter! I think the elderberry thing is one of those bureaucratic oddities.

          • tonytomeo
            June 24, 2021 at 6:27 am #

            I think that black elderberries have always been popular where they grow in other regions. They just are not popular here because they do not grow here. I do not think I started a trend so much as suggested an alternative for common tradition.

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