Golden Currant (Ribes aureum) is a decidous, berry producing shrub in the Ribes (currant family) that is especially well suited to serve as an HOA friendly food producing shrub. With it’s fragrant, profuse, yellow and red blooms in the spring, pretty, lobed leaves, and vibrant red fall color, this shrub provides enough beauty to keep your square neighbors from raising an eyebrow if you grow this in even the most conservative suburban front yards, and also provides you with an abundance of delicious, sweet berries that you can’t readily find in a grocery store.
For a long time, currants and gooseberries were illegal to grow in most states in the US. The law was established in order to reduce the spread of white pine blister rust, which currants and gooseberries are alternate hosts for. Because the fungus requires both currents and pines to complete it’s lifecycle, eliminating currants from the landscape helped to reduce the ability of the fungus to reproduce and spread. But now currants and gooseberries are back, much to homesteader’s benefits, because they make amazing fruit shrubs (but you might not want to plant them next to your favorite pine tree).
Native to North America, ranging from parts of Canada down to Mexico and spanning most of the United States, Golden Currant stands out from the rest because it doesn’t require a ton of water. In fact, if fruit production isn’t super important to you, it can even be considered to be moderately xeric, though for good fruit you’ll probably want to water it more in the low-moderate water range. It can also do okay in part shade, though it prefers full sun. In Colorado, it grows about 3-5′ tall and wide, though it may grow bigger in other places judging from what I’ve read (Colorado is kind of a special place to garden), and is hardy up to a zone 4. They are fairly easy to grow, and establish well from bare root.
The berries of the Golden Currant are sweet enough to eat fresh, which is pretty awesome for a native currant. It was an important source of food for indiginous peoples, and is beloved by birds. You’ll want to net these if you want to save a significant amount of berries from the birds. On the bright side, they may be fairly deer and rabbit resistant (I’ve heard different things), so if either of those are pests you deal with, this might be a good choice. Berries are commonly eaten raw, dried, or made into jams and other preserves. They range in color from red to almost black purple.
You can expect blooms in spring, though exactly when in spring depends on your location. Here in Colorado you’re looking at around April, but they may come earlier in warmer locations with longer growing seasons. Another name for Golden Currant is Clove Currant, because of the spicy fragrance of the blooms. The blooms are sort of tubular in shape, mostly yellow with some red. The yellow blooms are the shrub’s name sake. Pollinators, including the loveley and elusive humming bird, love the flowers of the Golden Current. They are a great plant if providing early spring pollen to the bees is important to you.
Golden Currants make good hedges and specimen plants. They’re nice around patios because of their fragrant blooms, and are good for attracting wildlife. We plan on putting some Golden Currants into our front flower bed, where we currently have mums planted, along with some random shasta daisies and herbs. The bed looks messy and blah at best most of the year, and I figure that some shrubs will provide better year round structure and give us a little more privacy on our front patio. We don’t want to get rid of our mums and daisies though, instead we’re going to extend our front flower bed out (slowly decreasing our turf area) and plant the mums and daisies in front of the currants. I’m excited to try currants! I’ve never had them before!
(Note: Clove Currant is technically Ribes odoratum, but the two plants are similar enough that the names are frequently interchanged)
Have you grown golden currant? Do you want to? What’s your experience with them? Let us know in the comments!
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