Monday, April 25, 2016

Class of 2016 -- Ribes aureum, Ribes odoratum, clove currant, golden currant

This clove currant (Ribes aureum) grows on a clay hillside to the east of an eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana). It gets a couple of hours of early morning sun, but is then in shade for the rest of the day. All clove currant photos in this post were taken on 4/22/2016.

I really like clove currant's soft, toothed foliage. I planted both of my clove currants last autumn and was pleasantly surprised to find out that they held onto their leaves into December and started leafing out very early in the spring (February). It just goes to show that not all 'deciduous' shrubs have the same visual impact in the landscape. Something like Vitex agnus-castus (chaste tree) or crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia spp.) could be bare for 5 months of the year, whereas clove currant could have foliage for all but 2 months of the calendar here in Tennessee.

Here's a close-up on the clove currant leaves. Sorry for the flash effect, but it was the only way I could capture any detail on the small insect (bee?) that I noticed resting on one of the leaves.

Why I'm growing Ribes aureum in my garden...

1) Although it is native mainly to western North America, there are fairly significant populations not too far west of here in Arkansas and Missouri, plus waif populations in Tennessee and other parts of the Eastern U.S.

2) The British Beekeepers Association reports that clove currant flowers provide nectar and pollen to bees.

3) UC Davis says that the flowers also attract butterflies and beneficial insects.

4) Missouri Botanical Garden recommends it as one of the best shrubs for heavy clay soils.

5) Pacific Horticulture claims that golden currant fruits are excellent for desserts and jellies. Clove currants are dioecious (meaning cross-pollination must occur between male and female plants in order for the females to produce fruit). Although there are female cultivars like 'Crandall', the straight species plants are generally sold unsexed. I bought two shrubs, but I don't know whether I have two males, two females or one of each. If I get lucky and cross-pollination does occur successfully, then the female shrub should produce fruit. 

Do you grow clove currant? If so, what has been your experience with this plant?

Note: Commenter HKCL mentions below that currant growing is banned or restricted in certain states, such as New Jersey. I could not find an official list of such restrictions in the U.S., so here is a link to a recent unofficial list.