As near as I can tell, this western North American native woody shrub (“discovered” in 1793 by Archibald Menzies, who traveled with Captain George Vancouver’s expeditions to explore the Pacific Northwest’s coastal regions) made its way across the Atlantic and returned decades later with smaller deeper pink flowers, an altered growth habit and numerous named cultivars, including a white form and the ubiquitous King Edward VII.
Ribes sanguineum can’t be missed around the Pacific Northwest this time of year. Gardners, humingbirds, hikers, homeowners and landscape professionals all are devotees of this deciduous beauty — whether the species or named varieties — even hungry deer have “appreciated” my King Edward VII cultivar!
In 1825, Scottish botanist David Douglas brought Ribes sanguineum to the attention of the British horticultural heavyweights. Douglas was working for the newly founded Royal Horticultural Society when he was dispatched to the Pacific Northwest to collect plants for the RHS gardens in Chiswick, a village west of London. The plant Douglas popularized might have looked like the one pictured below blooming in my garden.
According to Monty Don, writing in the online version of the UK’s Daily Mail, Douglas made a number of trips to the northwest, each involving clashes with Native Americans. However, Douglas’ death on his last trip did not come by the hands of Native Americans. He fell into a pit set to trap wild cattle and was gored to death by an animal already captured and waiting below .
Bloom color in the following close-ups of King Edward VII and the species are similar, the parentage is unmistakable. For sure, King Edward has a less sprawling habit than the species, but to my eye both are early spring wonders.