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Grow Currants and Gooseberries - Genus Ribes

Updated on January 05, 2014

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

Ribes-Sanguineum
Ribes-Sanguineum

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!

Perky-Pet Pinch-Waist Glass Hummingbird Feeder 203CP (8oz)
Perky-Pet Pinch-Waist Glass Hummingbird Feeder 203CP (8oz)

This is one of my favorite hummingbird feeders. It is made of glass which is easy to sterilize and the hummingbirds seem to enjoy the perches by the flowers. Holds 8 ounces of hummingbird nectar.

 
Aspects HummZinger HighView 12 oz Hanging Hummingbird Feeder
Aspects HummZinger HighView 12 oz Hanging Hummingbird Feeder

This Hummzinger hummingbird feeder give you a great view of all of the hummingbirds feeding.

 
Perky-Pet 8 oz Window Mount Hummingbird Feeder 217
Perky-Pet 8 oz Window Mount Hummingbird Feeder 217

If you don't have a tree or hook to hang a feeder, this feeder attaches to a window with suction cups for a close-up view of the birds. Especially great for people who live in Condos or Apartments.

 

Garden Currant Flowers - Cultivated Currants in Bloom

Garden-currant-flower
Garden-currant-flower

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

Jostaberry-flower
Jostaberry-flower

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

Fuchsia-flowered-gooseberry
Fuchsia-flowered-gooseberry

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.

Photo Credit:

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.

Photo credit:

Black Consort Currant available from Direct Gardening

Gooseberries

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!

Photo credit:

Pixwell gooseberry available from Direct Gardening

Photo Credit:

Red Colossal Gooseberry available from Direct Gardening

Jostaberries

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!

Photo Credit:

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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    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 4 years ago from Australia

      Berries - so good for you! I haven't tried growing any of these berries yet. My parents grow currants but I haven't had a gooseberry in years.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I like your philosophy of combining beauty with supporting wild life and there is nothing more welcome than those spring blooms. I'd never heard the term "ribes", so your teaching us from the very start....and treat us to pie in the end, what a deal! Beautiful! :)

    • LiteraryMind profile image

      Ellen Gregory 4 years ago from Connecticut, USA

      I never knew currants and gooseberries could have such beautiful flowers. This is an eyeopener. These aren't just beautiful. They are exceptional.

    • leilasi profile image

      Leila 4 years ago from Belgium

      I am happily surprised to learn that these berries have such lovely flowers! They are definately some of the plants on my planting list :-)

    • profile image

      greenpharmacy 4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this beautiful lens... I should include berries to my plant list :-)

    • profile image

      greenpharmacy 4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this beautiful lens... I should include berries to my plant list :-)

    • profile image

      LadyDuck 4 years ago

      I have ribes and goosberries in my garden, they are so nice in Spring and so good in Summer.

    • profile image

      SeattleCars 4 years ago

      I love anything that will bring hummingbirds to my backyard!

    • missmary1960 profile image

      missmary1960 4 years ago

      I do not, but one of my favorite memories of my Grandmother was the currant jelly she always made from her garden's currant bushes. Sweet memories ;)

    • profile image

      anandma 4 years ago

      no i dont ,but throughly enjoyed the lens nevertheless

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I love ribes.

    • VspaBotanicals profile image

      VspaBotanicals 4 years ago

      Beautiful!

    • rattie lm profile image

      rattie lm 4 years ago

      Gooseberries I haven't eaten since I left home. I love them - and blackcurrents!

    • AshleysCorner profile image

      AshleysCorner 4 years ago

      Very interesting and nice lens!

    • captainj88 profile image

      Leah J. Hileman 4 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

      My grandparents grew Gooseberries. I didn't know anything about them other than they taste great fresh and they make good wine. I learned a lot!

    • Michey LM profile image

      Michey LM 4 years ago

      Great informative lens.

      Happy Valentine's Day to you and to people you love. All the Best!

    • Mary Stephenson profile image

      Mary Stephenson 4 years ago from California

      My mother used to have the translucent green gooseberries. I really liked them. I just remember they had thorns, but cannot remember what the flowers looked like.

    • profile image

      JoshK47 4 years ago

      What a beautiful, vibrant lens! Blessed by a SquidAngel!

    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 4 years ago from Kansas

      Now I'm ready for spring gardening!

    • graphite75 profile image

      Tom 4 years ago

      Great lens! I'm so looking forward to gardening this year. I'd love to start growing berries.

    • KarenHC profile image

      Karen 4 years ago from U.S.

      I've eaten wild gooseberries and enjoyed them -- I didn't really know that people also include them in gardens! Great information and images!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      RGREEN1.FINDITBUYIT.INFO

    • ismeedee profile image

      ismeedee 4 years ago

      Lovely, lovely lens!! Really makes me pine for a big garden even more! And, love seeing the hummingbird pics- they are the feature of my latest novel which I'll be publishing soon! Mmm... gooseberry pie! Angel blessings!

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 4 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      This is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful lenses I've seen on Squidoo. Not only that, but your information is so knowledgeable and helpful to those wishing to grow currants or gooseberries. I also learned that gooseberries have thorns and currants don't, which was something I did not know. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      neelpc 4 years ago

      Kelly Bushing

      your information is so knowledgeable and helpful to those wishing to grow currants or gooseberries.

    • Cari Kay 11 profile image

      Kay 4 years ago

      What a beautifully done page. I was not familiar with jostaberries although we've had a few of these others in the past. I think the blooms on the jostaberries are quite beautiful. Blessed!

    • NolanBaich LM profile image

      NolanBaich LM 4 years ago

      Awesome job! I was unaware of currants before this :o

    • Aibrean82 profile image

      Aibrean82 4 years ago

      My grandmother had gooseberries in her garden, and we used to have currants. I miss it!

    • Alessandro Zambon profile image

      Alessandro Zamboni 4 years ago from Italy

      I've a gooseberry in my little garden, and a raspberry. It's great to see them growing and producing fruits each year. This lens is marvellous!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I love to try that pie. Looks delicious.

    • Chantelle Porter profile image

      Chantelle Porter 15 months ago from Chicago

      Lovely article. Sharing.

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