A Collection of Currants

Welcome to my new Area of Interest: Ribes, the currants. I won’t call it an obsession yet, because I while I do have several species, I don’t really intend to acquire any more. That could change, of course, but for now I feel like I have a really good collection, so here it is.

My first currant was something I got back in 2015 when I wanted everything to be a food-for-humans-producing plant. It’s a White Imperial currant (Ribes rubrum ‘White Imperial’?) and it’s awesome. I moved it last fall because it needed less scorching afternoon sun. Yeah, that’s a theme.

It’s not doing anything yet so here’s a pic from June 2018. These fruits are delicious and delicate and they stay on the plant for weeks – you don’t have to pick them all at once.

White Imperial currant.

I also had, until the other day, a Jostaberry which is a complex hybrid of Ribes nigrum, R. divaricatum, and R. uva-crispa, the gooseberry.

Jostaberry. Fruits ripen one by one!

I also managed to plant it in a location where it got blasting afternoon sun (GOD why did I do so much of that?!). No one liked the berries. Well, I did, but I didn’t like the little flower end that you have to remove unless you want to chew on a little piece of cardboard every time you eat one. And they ripen one by one so there’s no way to ever harvest enough to make jam or anything unless you have 16 plants. I threw in the towel and removed it. Great plant for a LARGE permaculture garden or for people who enjoy working too hard for marginal edibles.

With those two out of the way, now for more interesting Ribes species.

The first of which is, of all specific epithets, Ribes speciosum. Speciosum means beautiful or showy – this one is also called “Fuchsia-flowered gooseberry” and apparently the hummingbirds totally fall for it. Mine is forming buds:

Ribes speciosum ‘Rana Creek’

I was completely blind to this plant until I visited GardenRiots several weeks ago with my girlfriend who pointed out the flowers and asked me what it was. I knew it was a Ribes but I didn’t think much beyond until Lance made a post on Facebook about it on February 14. What timing! He said something about liking it because it upsets our aesthetic by responding to our climate directly (losing leaves midsummer) and of course I was immediately intrigued: Drought-deciduous?! Sold!

Dog pee protection unit

I ended up planting this pretty near where the Jostaberry was. I think it’ll be a fine spot given that R. speciosum can just go deciduous if it’s too much midsummer afternoon sun. I’d rather have that, than a bunch of scorched leaves. In time, it might get a little shade from the Eucalyptus but that’s a ways off.

Next up is a wee little Ribes malvaceum ‘Dancing Tassels’ from Xera.

From Paul’s description: ” Really excellent form of Chaparral Currant with 3″ soft pink flowers that appear at any point during winter well into spring. An evergreen shrub” AND WE’RE DONE. I mean he had me at “Chaparral” but then there’s all this icing on the cake with the midwinter flowering and being evergreen. It is so cute right now!

Another one from Xera: Ribes sanguineum ‘Xera’s Lime Punch’ is just about to begin its spectacular show.

Ribes sanguineum ‘Xera’s Lime Punch’

This is a spectacular plant that I really, really like. I mean, I love our plain native R. sanguineum and this is just a more interesting form of it. Very worth growing and perfectly climate-adapted. As you can see, I’m not afraid of pink.

The last is another species somewhat new to me: Ribes viburnifolium. Acquired on a whim when my friend August offered to bring me one on a recent trip to Portland. I looked it up: Evergreen, native to Catalina and Baja, dry shade ground cover, smells like wine?! Ok, so I asked him to bring three.

And look, it’s cute. Ribes viburnifolium.

I’m giving the other two to friends who have mature firs in their gardens. Guess which tree I planted mine under…

Yep. Catalina ironwood and Catalina currant. I’m a genius.

Lyonothamnus floribundus ssp. asplenifolius, the Catalina ironwood, of course. How could I not plant them together?!

R. viburnifolium also flowers in midwinter, and the flowers are tiny and really cute. I wonder if hummingbirds will find this – or if they will feel safe that close to the ground (and cats). Perhaps when it’s bigger.

Overall I find this a really interesting group of plants: two are winter deciduous, one is (or can be) summer deciduous, one flowers midwinter and two late winter, then the other two in early to mid-spring. One gives me fruit and the rest all give hummingbirds food. And they’re all perfectly climate-adapted and cool-looking. What’s not to like about Ribes? I guess one could complain about thorns, but I don’t care. They even tolerate dog pee better than many other plants.

Thanks for reading 🙂

4 comments on “A Collection of Currants

  1. Well, let me be the first to indulge your interest/obsession with R. roezlii and R. lobbii. Two more winter, early spring bloomers with evergreen leaves (and thorns). In the interest of furthering my obsession, I’ll have to be on the lookout for R. viburnifolium. I like it !

    1. I loved your post about R. roezlii! I think I probably will have to look for that one too. The fruit! omg.

  2. Great post! Thanks for the introduction to several new (to me) ones. I think you need to plant a black currant too – in comparison they aren’t all that interesting, of course, but damn, they are tasty!

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