Pink Flowering Currant – Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum

Pink flowering currant is one of the easiest of all our native plants to grow. It tolerates a broad range of conditions-sand, clay, wet, dry, sun or partial shade, acid or neutral soils. It is a modestly good-looking shrub that can be accommodated by small city gardens of our chapter area. Its broad, two- to three-inch-wide lobed and scalloped leaves are attractive. It is deciduous in the wild, dropping its leaves by late summer when running low on water, but when irrigated in a garden it tends to hang onto them. I recommend withholding water by midsummer to encourage it to shed its leaves so you can enjoy its pendant panicles of warm pink flowers on bare branches in the dead of winter-usually January or February-and its good form, pleasing bark and buds. The flowers are followed by quarter-inch diameter glaucous, blue-black berries insipid to human taste but eagerly consumed by birds. The seeds are excreted over wide areas, resulting in occasional seedlings volunteering in our gardens.

With all its virtues and ease of cultivation, you would expect this to be a popular plant in local gardens. I have frequently seen it in Tasmanian, New Zealand, and English gardens-why isn’t it more commonly planted here? Is there an apprehension that native plants are difficult to grow or that they require special conditions? Some do, but not this one. Maybe you just hadn’t previously thought of this plant as an appropriate subject for your San Francisco garden. Well, now you know!