Friday, 5 April 2013

A-Z Challenge 2013 - 'E' - Elderberry

My A-Z posts this year are based on my garden – flowers, animals, the birds and the bees, butterflies - with a bit of poetry thrown in. For some letters I am expecting to cheat somewhat – wishing they were here.

E - Elderberry, Earthworm, Earwig

This post has no birds – perhaps this is strange because they do like the elderberries.

In Denmark there is a tradition of a female elf in the elder tree. She leaves it at midnight; strolls around the fields, but returns to it before morning.
Elder Flowers
 The winsome, winsome elder tree,
Beneath whose shade I sit reclin'd;--
It holds a witch within its bark,
A lovely witch who haunts the dark,
And fills with love my mind.

What I did not know about the elder was its association with death, even Wordsworth recognised this.

 The Elder-tree that grew
Beside the well-known Charnel house had then
A dismal look

An unsung hero of any garden is one that works below the ground.

When the earth is turned in spring
The worms are fat as anything.

And birds come flying all around
To eat the worms right off the ground.

They say that the early bird gets the worm but worms take a different view; for them the early worm gets the bird!

Earwigs are readily recognized insect pests in gardens. Although they can devastate seedling vegetables or annual flowers and often seriously damage maturing soft fruit, they also have a beneficial role having been shown to be important predators of aphids.

Female earwig in its nest with eggs
 This nest was found underneath a house brick in a Chester garden.

A silver trail across the monitor;
fresh mouse-droppings beneath the swivel-chair;
the view obscured by rogue japonica.
Released into the wild, where earwigs dare

  • The Elder-Witch – George Borrow
  • Elder-tree – Wordsworth (Growth of a Poet’s Mind – Book VIII)
  • The Worm – Ralph Bergengren
  • Where Earwigs Dare – Matt Harvey

Photo attributions:
  • Earthworm – 2011; by Rob Hille – Public domain
  • Earwig - Nabokov at en.wikipediaCC BY-SA 3.0


DW Rob said...

Never did like creepy-crawlies, Bob.

But I know about elderberry... at lest, I know people used to make wine from it.

Maria Kristina Maano said...

First time I read about elderberries. It was nice to read about the elf :)

I've always wanted to participate in this A-Z challenge. Too bad I missed it again this year :(

Rosalind Adam said...

We have all three in our garden. Personally I much prefer our winsome elderberry bush to the bugs but I accept that they're all needed as part of the vital food chain.

Rosalind Adam is Writing in the Rain

aw said...

An old lady in a village where we used to live made elderberry wine. She was so sweet people thought it must be harmless but many a sore head resulted from over-indulgence. Never made wine from the berries but have made apple and elderberry jelly. Delicious.

Jemima Pett said...

Nice post! I love earthworms, they do great things in my garden. I knew some things about elder, but you've added a couple of folklore bits I didnt know, thanks.

Still don't like earwigs though!

Happy A to Z-ing - and thanks for featuring my book!

Jemima at Jemima's blog

Rednax said...

Used to, Rob? They still do. I have a mate who has bottles of elderberry wine and bottles of elderflower wine! You can't walk home after a bottle of that, I tell you.

Bish Denham said...

Haven't I heard of something called Elderberry wine? And I love earthworms, they are sign of healthy soil.

Sharon said...

Great photos and love the "Dog in Disgrace"!

Jo said...

Used to know someone who made all kinds of wines including elderberry and elderflower. We used to drink it whilst rehearsing a play that required the actors to drink. Only for rehearsals though, when we were actually on stage we didn't get any.

Not too keen on earwigs or worms.


Hart Johnson said...

You had me up until the earwigs. I may quote the Monty Python elderberry line fairly frequently, but I didn't actually know what they looked like before. (I do know they are used for wine). And I like worms fine--they are good for soil, but earwigs are one of those things I have an exaggerated fear response to. I can't think of them without a shiver. Worse than centipedes, even, and that's bad already.

Cassmob (Pauleen) said...

You'd want to keep the earwigs and earthworms away from the elderberry if you were making wine :-)

Pauleen at Tropical Territory
A to Z 2013

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bob .. amazing worm and earwig photos .. and I hadn't realised the Charnel house connection with elderberries ..

Cheers Hilary