Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Plant of the Week: Pink Chapparal Currant


Ribes malvaceum is the princess of the coming Spring reminding us that bare branches and brown clumps of plants will soon become a bounty of flowers buzzing with activity.   She sleeps through late Summer and into Autumn, budding leaves as the rains arrive and sending these long pendulous flower clusters just after we've been surprised by the leaves' abrupt appearance.  And then the flowers open. . .  Sigh.  Such a lovely flash of pink when all else can look so dreary this time of year.  Ribes malvaceum (or its cousin, Ribes sanguineum)  is available in a few varieties, ranging from White Icicle (sanguineum) to Barrie Coates (malvaceum),  a deep crimson which I just spied at the nursery today and cursed the more prepared gardener who had put them all on hold.  Darn!  I love this pink version, however.

ack, overexposed photo!
Sun:  partial shade to sun near the Bay (or coast), partial to full shade farther in.
Soil:  I think you can stretch it a bit- Las Pilitas mentions planting a sanguineum in sand and another in clay with relative success.  But they're pretty good at this stuff.  I'd go with a good combo of the two and call it a day.  Although, I won't tell if you fudge it a bit.
Plant:  after the heat of Summer and before the rains in Winter is best.  
Buy it:  your local nursery can order it if you like, but Las Pilitas' Santa Margarita store has a few in stock or you could try California Flora Nursery, who looks like has a ton of yummy varieties to sample.
Good for:  bird gardens, a bright bit of Spring for us impatient gardeners, shady places, cottage gardens


  1. Yes, it's one of my favorites as well. I do think malvaceum prefers sun, and sanguineum part shade or shade. And both get rust if they get too wet in summer.

    What fun, though, to have something blooming this time of year!

  2. Oh yes, thanks for pointing that out! I tend to mix and match in my foggy paradise and forget such things.

  3. Definitely a favorite! I have a Ribes sanguineum that I bought at the local UCSC plant sale, and the poor thing has been languishing in a pot pending deer fence installation (the deer don't destroy it, but do seem to like to nibble the new shoots). However, as the fence is up, and the sun is blazing this morning, I'm finally going to give it the place in the garden it deserves today! It did get a touch of rust last summer in the shade, so maybe I'll try a spot with morning sun.

  4. I have a Ribes malvaceum 'Ortega Beauty' in a pot in the front yard that is just bullet proof. It gets watered every few weeks during the summer and not at all during the cooler months. Treat it Mean - Keep it Keen! Thanks for the 'Barrie Coate' refresher, that plant always falls off my radar.

  5. The Barrie Coats one sounds interesting. Crimson. I saw a white icicle, it was quite stunning. My malvaceum here in Emeryville is planted full sun and seems to love it, I think it makes a different which side of the hills your on. The sanguineum I saw on my hike were definitely in the shade.

  6. A Ribes indecorum - similar to R. malvaceum - does really well for me, totally outperforming all other Ribes. It's tall and bushy and gets loads of white blossoms very early in the year. R.sanguineum is not too happy here, so far, and R.malvaceum is so-so. I just plant them around the ridge top in various spots, from sun to shade and see what does well where. I agree with Town Mouse's comments too. Ribes are so refreshing in springtime, aren't they?