Ribes sanguineum ‘Vampire’ is an outstanding selection by Dancing Oaks Nursery.
Photos by Mark Leichty

Forks is a small town on Washington’s beautiful Olympic Peninsula. The town was built by the timber industry but made famous by vampires. Many of you have read the Twilight books by Stephenie Meyer or seen the Twilight movies. Michelle and I spent my birthday weekend in Forks and everywhere you turn, signs refer to the sanguine, mythical creatures. In early spring in the Pacific Northwest, the blood-red flowers of Ribes sanguineum begin to show their colors. This beautiful shrub is native to the coastal mountains and valleys of western North America, from the Pacific Ocean to the western slopes of the Cascades. It ranges from southwestern British Columbia to Southern California from sea level to an elevation of 6,000 feet. The discovery of R. sanguineum by Western explorers is credited to Archibald Menzies, the Scottish surgeon and botanist who served in the Royal Navy under the command of Captain George Vancouver on his voyage around the world on HMS Discovery in the late 1700s. The Douglas fir, Pseudotsuga mensiesii, was jointly named after Menzies and his fellow Scottish botanist David Douglas. Both men made enormous contributions to botanical exploration in the early 19th century.

R. sanguineum is a deciduous multi-stemmed shrub growing 8-10 feet tall in an upright, vase shaped to rounded habit. The leaves have three to five lobes and are deeply veined so that they almost appear crinkled. The timing of the red blooms is perfect for early foraging hummingbirds and other pollinators. It grows in full to partial sun in well drained soil. It is drought resistant once established. One selection that I’m particularly fond of is R. sanguineum ‘Vampire’, introduced by Dancing Oaks Nursery in Monmouth, Oregon. It has 8-inch-long pendant racemes of bright crimson flowers and is extremely floriferous. ‘King Edward Vll’ is also a noteworthy cultivar which received the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society Award of Merit and the even more prestigious “Great Plant Pick” by the Elisabeth Miller Botanical Garden in Seattle. You can’t go wrong with either of these beautiful shrubs.

Mark Leichty is the Director of Business Development at Little Prince of Oregon Nursery near Portland. He is a certified plant geek who enjoys visiting beautiful gardens and garden centers searching for rare and unique plants to satisfy his plant lust. mark@littleprinceoforegon.com