Early June is the season when we start to harvest elderflower to make our Elderflower 'Champagne'. Not just any plain elderflower though....purple elderflower! By using this slightly unusual garden cultivar, we produce a bright-pink sparkling wine, perfect for summer parties, BBQs or even weddings.
We harvest from a variety called Sambucus nigra 'Gerda', also sometimes listed as 'Black Beauty' And what a beauty it is, with dark purple foliage and pink florets that almost appear to froth out onto the leaves like the overflow from an over shaken bottle of champagne. For those interested in growing something similar, there is a purple elderflower cultivar, but with finely, cut serrated leaves known as Sambucus nigra 'Black Lace' that is just as gorgeous.
We've harvested from Torre Abbey, a public garden in Torquay, Devon, but we have also planted lots of these shrubs in our garden in Brixham, Devon to hopefully give us an endless supply.
Taking hardwood cuttings of elderflower is easy. Remove healthy 25cm lengths of young branches while the tree is dormant (between Nov and late Feb). Elderflower can be prone to making hollow, pithy stems, which should be avoided. Instead chose young fresh stems with solid wood for propagating. Cut to just below a bud at the base of the cutting. No need for hormone rooting powder/ gel. They strike easily without it. Insert the cutting about two thirds deep into a gritty, well drained compost. Keep the soil moist, but not too damp, and plant out in late spring.
Above - Pink elderflower champagne on left and traditional elderflower on right. Secondary fermentation in bottles before riddling in pupitres to remove sediment and sealing with a champagne cork.
Below, Annabel harvesting pink elderflower from Sambucus nigra 'Black Beauty' at Torre Abbey gardens, Torquay.
Below - Pink sparkling elderflower and plain elderflower. Looking hazy at the moment, as this is prior to riddling in pupitres to remove the sediment and then being sealed with a champagne cork.