The root of 3

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Indy Lifestyle Online
The common elderberry, Sambucus nigra, can be a tough, invasive garden weed but it has close relatives that make first class ornamental shrubs. Among the most handsome - and one of the finest yellow-leaved shrubs - is the golden elder, Sambucus racemosa "Plumosa Aurea". Its foliage is finely divided, almost like a fern, and copper in colour when it first unfurls, fading to a warm, golden yellow.

For the best foliage, cut the elder's branches ruthlessly to ground level in spring. New growth will sprout easily from the base and will carry the fattest, lushest leaves. This annual butchery will also limit the shrubs spread to a size best suited to most gardens. Unchecked, it soon becomes unshapely and twiggy.

It is not difficult to grow but avoid situations that are particularly hot and dry. Without enough moisture at its roots, it will struggle to establish and thrive, and too much intense sunlight can scorch the leaves. The balance between too much and too little sunshine is often a problem with golden shrubs - too much and they burn, too little and the yellow fades to green.

The elder is stunning standing alone and also combines easily with herbaceous plants and other shrubs in borders. It looks particularly good with Hosta "Sum and Substance" and the Autumn fern, Dryopteris erythrosa, because they have equally good foliage in tones of copper and gold.

"Sum and Substance" is an American hosta with heavy, puckered, chartreuse- gold leaves of dinner-plate proportions and lavender flowers on 3ft stems. For the first few years, forget the flowers and channel the plant's energy into building a clump of glorious, slug-resistant (yes, slug-resistant!) leaves. As a contrast to the elder's foliage, they are hard to beat. Like the elder, it will not appreciate drought but is more tolerant of hot sun than many golden hostas.

The Autumn fern is so called because its young fronds take on surprisingly rich shades of coppery gold and red before they fade to green. The effect is not fleeting, for new growth is produced over a long season and the colour lasts well. It is easy to grow, making wide, stunning clumps of large, drooping, triangular fronds almost anywhere, but prefers light shade and a little moisture.

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