Our Ribes sanguineum (flowering currant) trial is currently bursting into bloom under the watchful gaze of the Woody Trials Assessment Forum.
The forum members are judging this trial on a variety of criteria, including flower colour, size and impact, the length of flowering, growing habit, disease resistance (they can be susceptible to powdery mildew) and autumn colour. The trial’s 31 entries include pink, red and white-flowered cultivars. Each entry has three plants in rows, spaced around 1.2m (4ft) apart. A bark mulch on the bed keeps weeds to a minimum and looks ornamental too.
Ribes are relatively trouble-free, low-maintenance plants that are often planted near forsythia, that other fleeting star of the spring border. Ribes and Forsythia are seen in the nearby Portsmouth Border that runs along the bottom of the Trials Field.
We did a lot of regeneration work in this border over the winter, but this area does not always get the attention it deserves. It contains an array of unusual trees and shrubs, including three dawn redwoods (Metasequoia glyptostroboides).
This tree has a fascinating story. Thought to be extinct and known only in fossils, it was rediscovered in the 1940s growing in central China. An expedition from Boston’s Arnold Arboretum collected seed from these Metasequoia in 1946, and the subsequent seedlings were distributed to botanic gardens throughout North America and Europe. The tree has beautiful feathery foliage that turns bronze in the autumn (one of only a handful of deciduous conifers) and a highly ornamental gnarled trunk. It makes an excellent specimen tree for a medium or large garden and is just one of the delights of the Portsmouth Border.