Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Really Good Red-flowering Currant Ribes sanguineum

A few years ago our friend Helen Schwantje brought in a bouquet of a spectacular Red-flowering currant from a plant in her garden. I managed to strike a cutting from her plant and now have this form in our garden. It flowered in our garden for the first time this spring and confirmed my suspicions..this is a really good form of Red flowering Currant. I will do my best to take some more cutting this fall and hopefully get them into the nursery trade. Thank you Helen!!!

That of course begs the question do we need another form of Ribes sanguineum in the nursery trade..there are already over thirty cultivars that I have been able to find in catalogues or on websites. Here in Victoria the cultivar 'King Edward VII' is the one your most likely to find in a nursery. This cultivar is from a plant grown in Europe, even though the species is native to our west coast. Given the small gene pool available to old world growers its not terribly surprizing that there are plants that are as good or better than King Edward VII growing in the wild (or in Helen's backyard).

Over a decade ago we found a wonderful pink flowering form in Esquimalt, which we introduced into the nursery trade as "Blushing Victorian". It is very similar in colour to the more widely available "Appleblossom", but flowered a full ten days earlier in our garden this year.

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From left to right, cvs  'Appleblossom', 'Blushing Victorian', 'Dr.Schwantje', 'King Edward VII' and 'White Icicle'.

A list of Ribes sanguineum cultivars. UPDATED APRIL 2014.

1.'Albescens'= “Album’. White flowers.
about 6' tall, the branches arching attractively. The leaves are light green during the growing season, turning beautiful mixtures of yellow, orange and red in fall and early winter. White blossoms touched with pink are displayed on 3-6" slightly drooping stems. Plants that are forced or grown under poly or glass may be pure white.

2.'Appleblossom'Soft pink, moderately vigourous plant similar to Blushing Victorian but blooms about 10 days later.

3.'Atrorubens Select'. A dark pinky red flower.

4. 'Atrosanguineum flore pleno'A double flowered red.

5.'Barrie Coate'. A bushy selection from northern California, now alleged to belong to the type subspecies, rather than the variety glutinosum, . Deep pink blossoms in short, outfacing or only slightly nodding clusters.

6.‘Brokelbankii'Red flowers, followed by yellow foliage. Prone to burning in full sun, but useful in part shade.

7."Blushing Victorian” Introduced by Thimble Farms, Salt Spring Island from a plant found on s. Vancouver Island. Large pink racemes on a large vigourous plant.

8.“Carneaum grandiflorum’ White flowers tinted pink on the outside. Old variety that may be lost to cultivation.

9.'Claremont' A vigorous bright pink form of R.s.glutinosum.

10. 'Diamonds and Rubies' a new introduction from Thimble Farms.  White flowers with a good dash of ruby red at the boutber base of the flower bud and receptacle.

11.'Elk River Red' A form selected for very early in spring blooms of bright rosy-red flowers.

12.“flore pleno’Double flowered red.

13.Ribes x gordonianum This cross between Ribes aureum and R. sanguineum produces a mid-sized shrub about 6 ft. tall and 8 ft. wide. Red flowers with yellow insides are produced in profusion in spring. There is no fruit set. Hybrid between odoratum and sanguineum. Scented. Flowers red outside, inside yellow. Discovered in Ipswich England in 1837. Flowers reddish yellow in racemes followed by edible black fruit.Incorrectly this is often cited as hybrid between Ribes odoratum or R.petraeum and Ribes sanguineum

14.'Gibson Woods'Upright with dark pink/red flowers

15. Ribes sanguineum glutinosum Flowers earlier than sanguineum, usually paler. White form “albidum’ is also recorded.

16. 'Henry Henneman' Also spelled 'Hannaman’s White'. White flowered form

17.‘Inverness White’ A white flowered form of R.s.glutinosum found by Roger Raiche on Inverness Ridge, Marin County, California. Fading flowers have a rosy cast, as the flowering season ages this gives the plant a bicoloured appearance.

18.'King Edward VII' Stout trunked and compact selection. Appears to be quite variable, and I suspect that there are now several clones in the nursery trade under this name. Crimson red.

19.‘Joyce Rose’ One of several cultivars of Ribes sanguineum found and introduced into cultivation by Roger Raiche. Named for his mother, deep pink flowers on arching branches, fast growth and long bloom period. From seed collected on Montara Mtn, San Mateo County, California.

20.‘Lombarti’.White, tinted pink.

21. 'Koja' Compact flowering currant from Denmark with dark red flowers in spring. Sun or light shade.

22.‘Mesa Red’ “the flowers of this selection have more violet in their red”.

23. 'Pink Drops'A sister seedling to Joyce Rose, slower growing and more compact, very free flowering.

24. 'Pink Tails' huge pink flower trusses that tend to fork into two at the tips.  Result is a very large flower truss.  New introduction from Thimble Farms.

25.'Pokey's Pink' (or Poky’s Pink).A chance discovery in the Columbia Gorge with candy pink flowers.

26.'Pulborough Scarlet' Similar flower to King Edward VII, perhaps slightly pinker, but plant is more compact and recommended for smaller gardens.

27.'Pulborough Scarlet Variegated'As the name suggests this is a variegated sport of Pulborough Scarlet. Leaves heavily mottled and streaked with yellow.

27.'Poulsbo Scarlet' Listed by several nurseries, possibly misspelling of Pulborough Scarlet, although some growers list both. Scarlet flowers.

28.‘Roseum’ White, tinted pink.

29.'Red Pimpernel'Strong red colour.

30.‘Spring Showers’ Introduction from Suncrest Nurseries. Their website describes it as “a bushy, roughly vase shaped shrub, about 6' tall in the parent plant. It has fuzzy, bright green leaves and light pink flowers, displayed in pendant clusters up to 8" long. Probably 0-5oF.” Flowers later than Elk River Red.

31. 'Splendens' Similar to Pulborough Scarlet and King Edward VII, originally found in a garden in Ireland.

32'Spring Snow'White flowers appear in pendulous 3 inch long racemes along the length of the stems then produce blackish blue fruits.

33.'Strybing Pink'Soft pink flowers, a good form of R.s. glutinosum

34. 'Thourmaline Bells' a new introduction from Thimble Farms with white flowers that have a touch of tourmaline red at the base of the flower bud receptacles.

35.‘Tranquillon Ridge’ This large selection--10' x 10'--comes from a plant found on Tranquillon Ridge in Santa Barbara. Dark pink flower buds open into medium pink flowers. Does best with some shade.

36. Ribes sanguineum var. sanguineum The subspecies found from British Columbia to northern California

37.'Tydemann's White'Pale pink, almost white flowers.

38.var. glutinosum. The southern most of the two subspecies,

39. 'variegatum' or 'varigata' Leaves have of a misting of cream rather than bars and stripes. As the leaves age the cream mellows to a milky white.

40.‘Ubric' Another name for cv “White Icicle”

41.'White Icicle' Early flowering with large racemes of white flowers and black berries. Verty vigorous grower, branches can be long and unruly, responds well to occasional pruning. Introduced by the UBC botanic garden from a plant found in Victoria, B.C..


  1. My Ribes was a gift to remember my mother by. For the last 2 years it has bloomed in Feb. which is the anniversary of her death, and is still covered in blooms now in April. A real garden treasure.

  2. Thanks for the side-by-side images of the flowers of different varieties - that's really helpful in selecting the one with the right color flowers!