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Alternative Plant of the Moment End February 2020

Ok, please suspend disbelief as this post was actually posted on the fabled 29th Feb, making the title unusually, if technically true. Sneaking in just under the radar before being considered an early-March alternative plant of the moment.

Ribes laurifolium LN
Ribes laurifolium LN

The mild temperatures - let us not pretend the wind or rain could ever be considered ‘mild’, have brought us a few plants ahead of schedule this year. Lots of herbaceous material simply hasn’t died back as we would expect it to. Consequently, there is actually lots for us to look at and lots of it looking good.

Plenty of shrubs flowering, new leaves appearing on a surprising array of plants and the usual (as well as some less common) herbaceous perennial suspects bursting into life with flowers far softer looking than one might assume safe to survive even a mild frost. Hellebores and Pulmonaria are beautifully offset by bulbs. Camellias scatter colourful petals on the floor around Omphalodes. Everything is moving on at a terrific rate and most appearing to flourish where we might struggle. If only we could get into our gardens without being either blown away, or soaked through!

L-R Helleborus x hybridus, Pulmonaria 'Lewis Palmer', Camellia x williamsii 'E. G. Waterhouse', Omphalodes 'Starry Eyes'.

One plant that I rate really highly, but hardly ever gets any attention is Ribes laurifolium, the Laurel-Leaved Currant. While you can see the Ribes in the flower, the plant generally isn’t similar to most plants you may think of as Flowering Currants.

This species from Asia (China mostly) is more of a wall-shrub or scrambler than a free-stander. It benefits from the physical support of a wall or fence to grow up, but also from the protection from cold winds and the additional warmth to ripen wood for flowering. In the right environment, with a free-draining soil in a fairly sheltered spot, it is an absolute gem, with strapping evergreen foliage offset with beautiful papery green flowers. In the wrong spot, it is pretty horrible, so worth getting it right.

Few plants have the class and poise that this shows so early in the year. Nothing says confidence in its beauty like a green-flowered plant. Flowers in Southern England usually appear on terminal (the end of each shoot) clusters in February-March, being slightly later the further north you travel. Both Male and Female flowered plants exist. I’m not sure that I’ve noticed any difference between male or female plants in terms of quality.

Ribes laurifolium flower details.

Right now it is looking great even if the weather isn’t helping it shine. Some lights are bright enough to burn through even the worst of weather.

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