Well, did you guess correctly yesterday? The pink flowers were Ribes sanguineum, the humble flowering currant.
I have always had a grudging respect for this plant. It is common and some people hate the smell of the foliage but I have to say that it doesn’t bother me too much. It is tough and reliable and it will grow in almost any soil and put up with the roughest conditions. My respect for it was completed when I saw it growing wild in Oregon where it poked its branches bravely from between rocks and opened its pink flowers as soon as the snow cover had receded. In fact it actually looked better in the wild where the transition from cold to spring was more clearly marked than in our mixed up springs and the flowers were almost unsullied by any sign of foliage.
There are lots of cultivars of this species (though my favourite is the hybrid R. x gordonianum) and some have darker flowers, some are white and there is even a really nasty variegated form that looks as though pigeons are nesting above it. Anyway I saw this the other day and could not resist it. It is labelled as ‘Golden King Edward Vll’ and has soft yellow leaves.
Now I know that I dislike yellow and pink together but I have form with ribes because about 30 years ago I planted Ribes sanguineum ‘Brocklebankii’ which, though by now is probably chopped down, I still actually miss. It has quite bright yellow leaves and the usual pink flowers but what makes it distinct is the rather low, mounding habit – quite distinct from the usual, rather upright habit. I planted it in an east-facing, rather shady spot and it just thrived and, because of the part shade the yellow foliage did not scorch. It was in grey, sticky clay over chalk and seemed perfectly content.
So I looked into this ‘Golden King Edward Vll’ and it doesn’t appear to exist. But there is a ‘Brianjou’ and I am sure that this is what my plant is. Apart from finding no record of the name my plant arrived with, the flowers are not deep enough to correspond with it. This plant is much more upright in habit than ‘Brocklebankii’ and I do not think the leaves are quite such a bright yellow, though leaf colour varies so much with light intensity. But although the leaves are, at present, lime green rather than tart yellow, I like the fact that this shrub will not be quite as boring as the regular ribes once those flowers have faded.
– as long as you don’t mind the smell. Extra marks for being easy!