Grow Currants and Gooseberries - Genus Ribes
Spring Flowering Currant and Gooseberry Shrubs
Gooseberries and Currants are closely related members of the genus of plants called Ribes. (Pronounced like "Rye-bees") Alhough many people grow currants and gooseberry plants for their delicious fruit, they are often overlooked as a beautiful flowering landscaping shrubs. Many varieties have showy clusters of bright flowers in early spring that attract birds, bees and butterflies. I like to get the most use from the limited space in my garden, so I try to utilize plants that are ornamental and also benefit wildlife. If they have edible fruit that I can enjoy, even better! On this page you will see why currants and gooseberries are near the top of the list of my favorite spring blooming shrubs.
(Photo of Red Flowering Currant - Ribes Sanguineum by VickiSims)
Golden Currant - Ribes Aureum
The Golden Currant, ribes aureum, is native to a large portion of North America and is very versatile. In addition to these beautiful fragrant yellow blooms in early spring, it is also one of the few North American native currants that has flavorful juicy black fruits that many people enjoy eating. Of course the flowers and berries are also utilized by many species of birds, insects and animals. A selection of this species that is sometimes available for sale in nurseries is called Crandall currant.
(Photo credit: plant_diversity on Flicker - creative commons license)
Ribes Sanguineum - Red Flowering Currant - A Beautiful Pacific Northwest Native
One of the most beautiful native spring flowering shrubs of the Pacific Northwest is ribes sanguineum - the red flowering currant. The flowers in varying shades of pink, from almost white to hot pink and bright red, hang down in a cluster from the leafless branches and begin to open in early spring.
The rufous hummingbirds spend winters in California and migrate northward along the west coast in the spring to their summer nesting range which extends all the way to Alaska. As spring weather creeps northward, their migration is synchronized with the opening of the flowers of the red flowering currant which provides them with a valuable nectar source. Although the fruit is non-toxic and therefore technically edible, most people would consider it unpalatable, so the berries are best left for the wildlife to enjoy. Nonetheless, this is one of my favorite currant shrubs because of the beautiful flowers and the hummingbirds they attract. The beauty of the flowers has made it a popular ornamental shrub in other parts of the world, particularly in the UK where the climate is similar to the US Pacific Northwest where the red flowering currant grows naturally.
(Photo credit: minette_layne on Flicker - creative commons license)
Hummingbird Feeders - Attract Hummingbirds with Hummingbird Feeders
If you want to attract hummingbirds, North American native currants and gooseberries are an excellent natural source of food for these beautiful little birds. If you want to see hummingbirds after the flowers on your currant or gooseberry have faded, it may help to hang up a hummingbird feeder. The best recipe for hummingbird nectar is one part granulated cane sugar dissolved into 4 parts water. Never use artificial sweeteners or honey. The feeders are brightly colored to attract hummingbirds so red food coloring is entirely unnecessary and may be harmful. Be sure to clean the feeders thoroughly and replace with fresh nectar every 3 or 4 days, especially in hot weather. Hang the feeder in the shade so it doesn't get too hot and in a location that is out of the reach of cats. Cats can and do kill hummingbirds!
This Hummzinger hummingbird feeder give you a great view of all of the hummingbirds feeding.
Garden Currant Flowers - Cultivated Currants in Bloom
Most of the currants that are grown for their fruit have much less conspicuous flowers, but they are still attractive. Since these plants originated in Europe and Asia where there are no hummingbirds, the plants have no need for large colorful flowers to attract them as pollinators. Instead of creating big flowers, the currants and gooseberries of Asia and Europe use their energy to make large tasty berries instead. I have some garden currents that I grow for their fruit in my garden and I have seen the hummingbirds visit them, but they are more readily attracted to the large, brightly colored flowers of the North American native currants and gooseberries. Garden currants are available in three colors - red, white and black. White currants are a variant of red currants and are usually considered the same species. Red and black currants each have their own distinctive flavor with the black currants having the strongest flavor.
(Photo credit: hurricanemaine on Flicker - creative commons license)
Jostaberry Flowers - A Currant Gooseberry Hybrid
Jostaberries are a hybrid between currants and gooseberries and have colorful spring flowers that resemble tiny fuchsias.
(Photo credit: paulspace on Flicker - creative commons license)
Fuchsia-flowered Gooseberry - Ribes speciosum
The flowers of this North American native gooseberry look like miniature fuchsia flowers. Unfortunately the berries, although the berries are edible, they not very tasty. Another ribes to enjoy for the flowers and the wildlife they attract.
(Photo credit: ocparks on Flicker - creative commons license)
Watch an Anna's Hummingbird Feeding at a Fuchsia Flowered Gooseberry - This video shows how beautiful the flowers are on this shrub and how they attract humming
Currant And Gooseberry Trivia
Currants and Gooseberries are in the plant genus Ribes
Ribes are native to the Northern Hemisphere
Gooseberry bushes have thorns
Currant bushes do NOT have thorns
Hummingbirds like currant and gooseberry flowers
Most currants and gooseberries grown for their fruit are native to Europe
Red Currant Fruit - Ribes Rubrum
Cultivated Red Garden Currants
Most of the tastiest currants that are grown for their fruit have been cultivated from species that are native to Europe and Asia. Currant berries are much more commonly grown there than they are in North America. Although the flowers aren't as showy, the fruit is ornamental, delicious and nutritious. The bright berries of the red currant are especially beautiful.
Perfect Red Currant available from Direct Gardening
Black Currant Fruit - Ribes nigrum
Cultivated Black Garden Currants
The species of black currants usually sold for their fruit is Ribes nigrum. They are native to northern Europe and Asia. The dark fruits make a showy display on the shrubs against the green of the foliage. Black currants have a stronger flavor than red or white currants.
Black Consort Currant available from Direct Gardening
Cultivated Garden Gooseberries
Like currants, cultivated garden gooseberries are a more popular fruit in their native Europe than they are in North America, but if you are a North American gardener, they might be a fruit you may want to try growing. Gooseberry Pies are delicious!
Pixwell gooseberry available from Direct Gardening
Red Colossal Gooseberry available from Direct Gardening
A Gooseberry-Currant Hybrid
If you can't decide between growing currants or gooseberries, Jostaberries are a hybrid cross between the two, having a larger sized fruit like a gooseberry, but without the thorns!
Jostaberry available from Direct Gardening
Planting and Growing Gooseberries and Currants
Information about Growing Currants and Gooseberries - Books to help you grow currants and gooseberries
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