covellaOctober 17, 2008

Ribes is a little used shrub but I inherited one from the former owner. for several years it kind of stood still but this year it exloded and put on 24" all around. I don't want to prune all the time so I'm moving it to a place it will be able to fine its size. I haven't found anything on the moisture and feeding requirements on the internet or this forum. does anyone have any info on the likes and dislikes of this foliage shrub?

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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

Dirr has 2 listed in his book. Ribes alpinum he says has "inconspicuous greenish yellow catkins". 3-6' high and wide, fine in any well-drained soil in sun or shade and transplants easily.
Ribes odoratum (native shrub) he calls "a rare gem in the shrub world". States it has fragrant (smells like cloves) golden yellow flowers in early to mid-April. Varied soils, full sun or partial shade. 6-8' high and larger spread.

Since you're calling it a "foliage shrub" I am thinking you are not seeing the yellow flowers? Perhaps you have the non-native variety.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2008 at 7:26PM
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I must have R. alpinum. Many if not all Ribes species are banned from many states because they harbor a virus / rust that attacks evergreen trees. I think they recently lifted the ban in some states because the rust isn't being seen anywhere. In any case, the shrub is really pretty if let to grow naturally and I'm moving it because its way too big to be where it was.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 8:56AM
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White pine blister rust (of which Ribes is a host plant) is still very much present as a problem although less of a concern than it has been in the past. FWIW, since a variety of Ribes are native plants in much of N. America, as well as being popular fruit-bearing shrubs, it is pretty nigh darn near impossible to "ban" them. I grow Ribes odoratum, sanguineum and x gordonianum and my dad grew gooseberries and currants for years. Never seen a sign of rust on any of 'em.

Here's what a forestor/certified arborist has to say on the issue: "The three species most commonly acting as alternate host for the rust (Cronartium ribicola) are Ribes lacustre, Ribes nigrum and Ribes viscosissimum. But most folks feel it will infect all Ribes species.

The history of Ribes production in America is of significant interest. Cultivated currants and gooseberries were first introduced in America in the Massachusetts Bay colony in 1629. By the mid-1800's commercial acreage of currants and newly developed European and American gooseberry crosses such as 'Houghton' and 'Downing' were common in the East. In 1899, reported production in the US reached nearly 7000 acres. In the early 1900's, Ribes species were implicated in the spread of white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola), a devastating disease for white pine trees that was brought into this country on imported nursery tree stock. Ribes, in particular black currants, are a secondary host to this disease, which requires both pine and Ribes to complete its life cycle.

Red currants and gooseberries exhibit varying degrees of susceptibility. In 1912, federal and state governments introduced restrictions on import, planting and cultivation of Ribes species to protect the lucrative timber industry. Soon after, a sweeping federal law was passed banning only black currants, while some northern states passed outright bans on all Ribes species. A program of eradication of both native stands and domestic plantings was implemented, with Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) crews doing much of the work.

The federal law was rescinded in 1966, however today laws regarding Ribes culture remain on the books in many states. While some states allow all species to be cultivated, others continue full or partial bans, geographically, or by selected species, namely black currant. Laws banning Ribes species range from being well to poorly enforced or ignored by state officials. Often restrictions vary by township within a state. Across Virginia, growing black currants is still against the law, and enforcement is conducted in nursery sales. Hybridized cultivars (non-pure black currant) that are resistant to white pine blister rust are now available (and legal) and should be selected.

The early Ribes industry was dealt a great setback because of these bans, and has yet to recover. Variable and often confusing legal issues are still an effective roadblock to development of a viable industry. Nevertheless, the threat of white pine blister rust remains a reality today, and site selection in new plantings should take into account the presence of 5 needle pine species, nursery operations in the area, and neighbor relationships.

As long as there is not a pine nursery nearby growing Ribes will not be a problem. In nature the Ribes species are abundant and are normally just dealt with by Foresters in the management of pine."

Here (PNW), they are semi-drought tolerant - at least R. sanguineum is (as most of our native plants tends to be), needing only a small amount of supplemental irrigation in our droughtiest summers. And it is my experience that shrubs established in the landscape need little, if any, fertilizing. Ever. All I have ever done is mulch, generally with compost.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 2:58PM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

Gardengal, thank you so much for all of that information. Very informative and interesting.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 6:56PM
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yes thanks much Gardengal. I've searched on this question before and didn't find a nurseryman or extension agent nearby who knew anything. Its a pretty shrub - the leaves are like tiny maple leaves and let alone, it almost begins to weep - its airy looking.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2008 at 11:24PM
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