March is the month when our native flowering currant bursts into hot pink, pale pink or frosty white bloom. These big gangley shrubs are drenched in delicate blossoms with a slightly musky odor. Their summer leaves are maple-like, in winter they're not much more than bundles of bare sticks. But plant these shrubs for early spring color, uniquely pretty flowers, and for the fact that they're an early and vital source of nectar for our native Anna's hummingbirds. There are few more stirring early spring scenes than grateful hummingbirds swarming a flowering currant in your back garden.
Plant Ribes sanguineum 'White Icicle' in a little grove of at least three plants to give its ethereal, pure white blooms a real presence in the garden. I once saw a thick band of 'White Icicle' planted along an entry walkway, and the pale, shimmery haze of the blossoms was spectacular. The more vivid watermelon pink kinds like 'King Edward VII' are stand alone plants that show up all the way across the garden. R. sanguineum glutinosum 'Claremont' (below) has soft pink and white blossoms that are particularly pretty.
These Northwest natives prefer full sun but will take partial shade, need well-drained soil, and are drought tolerant after a few years. When first planted, water them during droughty periods; flowering currants do best with little or no fertilizer and they don't need pruning unless you want to control their size.