Red flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum) ranks among the earliest-blooming shrubs in Northwest gardens. Drooping clusters of red, scarlet, pink, or white flowers appear in early March, just as the plant's maplelike leaves are emerging. The first blossoms appear just in time to feed rufous hummingbirds returning from Mexico, and the flowers keep coming through April. In June, blue-black currants (edible, though not particularly tasty) cover the plant.
Choice varieties prized for their flower colors include 'Elk River Red', 'Hannaman's White', 'Pokey's Pink', and 'Pulborough Scarlet'. These deciduous shrubs usually grow 5 to 8 feet tall and wide. Red flowering currant grows well in Sunset climate zones A3, 4-9, and 17.
Look for varieties of red flowering currant at garden centers, or order from Forestfarm ( www.forestfarm.com or 541/846-7269).