Cuttings: Respect your elders

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The Independent Online
THE FUNGAL disease, coral spot (Nectria cinnabarina), can be a determined killer of maples. Tiny, coral-coloured pustules appear on the bark of dead twigs and the fungus can sometimes spread downwards into large healthy branches, killing as it goes. It likes nothing better than a slow-growing Japanese maple that is the pride of someone's garden. Clearly it has expensive tastes.

The dwarf cut-leafed maple, Acer palmatum 'Dissectum', is one of its favourite dishes, and if the infection is serious there is little you can do - except plant something else. You might try the cut-

leafed elder, Sambucus 'Tenuifolia'. It does not have the finesse of the maple, but does make a similarly feathery dome of green foliage. It has no autumn colour, of course, but it is tough - and will not cost you pounds 25 to replace.

If only elder could be used to replace the purple cut-leafed maple] Perhaps it soon will. For, at East Malling Research Station in Kent, Ken Tobutt is working to breed new elders that combine the various ornamental characteristics of the genus. It looks as if the first off the line will be a dwarf yellow cut-leafed elder, made by crossing 'Tenuifolia' with 'Sutherland Gold'. Both are forms of the red- berried elder, Sambucus racemosa, which can be found naturalised in Scotland.

Work is also being done on a variety of the common elder, Sambucus nigra 'Guincho Purple', which has white flowers blushed with vinous pink, over bronze- purple foliage. What a coup it would be to cross the two species and produce a cut-leafed purple elder with the same attractive flowers] One could then forgive

it the lack of autumn colour. And, being an elder and not a Japanese maple, it would be child's play to propagate from cuttings.