Easy to grow and hardy, these must be the most beautiful soft fruits. Turn them into quivering transluscent rosy jelliws or scatter them jewel-like over summer fruit salades, or drape sprigs curvaceously over cocktails and soft drinks...
Whitecurrants - lesser grown poor-cousins of the Redcurrant deserve re-apraisal too. When fully ripened they are a delicate amber-pink and have a sweeter taste than Redcurrants.
These cuurants require spacing 5' apart as bushes and can also be grown as cordons whereupon a spacing of around 18" is more than enough. Space saving cordons can be planted against fence, wall, or tied to a simple light post or strong cane.
General cultivation notes
Both Red and White currants need the same cultural conditions, they will grow well in most soils. Rotted compost added before planting will be beneficial, preferably choose a sunny position. Plant to same depth as lifted at the nursery and make certain that the roots are well spread out. Space 5ft between bush form, 18 inches single cordon, 3ft double cordon which can be placed against a fence., if space is limited.
PRUNING. The minimum pruning is necessary as the fruit is borne both on the old and new wood. In Winter the leaders should be cut back by half to one third, side laterals to 1 to 2 inches to form fruiting spurs.
FEEDING. Early Spring a general fertilizer high in potash (a rose or tomato fertilizer) may be used, but preferably Sulphate of Potash, approximately 2oz to each plant and Sulphate of Ammonia to promote growth required.
CORDONS Redcurrants and gooseberries are ideal when grown as cordons and with this form of culture the fruit is easier to pick, usually larger, and easy to protect from birds. Cordons can be planted in a row with a cane for each plant secured to horizontal wires or planted 6 inches from a fence or a wall etc.
Plant single cordons 18 inches apart, double cordons 24 inches apart and triple cordons 36 inches apart.
Feeding and general culture is the same as for the bush fruits.
PRUNING. Very simple to prune, in mid-June (not earlier) cut back each side shoot to the fourth leaf and tie the leading (upright) shoot to the cane. In the Winter or very early Spring further cut back side shoots to the third bud, approximately 1.5 inches, and then shorten the length of the leader to leave only 6 to 10 inches of the new growth.
Once your cordon has reached the height you require the leader should be pruned in Summer to leave four to five leaves of the new growth and again in the Winter to leave only one bud of the new Summer’s growth. This maintains the height you require. For single cordons you are pruning one leader, double cordons two leaders and triple cordons three leaders.
Pests and dieases
The most important pest of these currants is the redcurrant blister aphid which brings the leaves out in alarming red pulsating blisters! It looks worse than it is and affected bushes usually crop well regardless but it is rather unsightly! Prevention is much better than cure; the next spring start spraying with a suitable insecticide, just as the first leaves emerge.
Coral Spot affects old dead or dieing shoots and branches. Cut out such growths until you reach live healthy wood.
Be sure to net mature frutiing bushes against birds who like Redcurrants as much as we do! Whitecurrants seem to be less affected by bird predation.
Good varieties of Redcurrant
Laxtons no 1 remains my favourite, an old old classic that just drapes itself with fruit.
Redstart is a first class late, ripening in August.
Junifer is an interesting new French variety which is very early ripening.
Red Lake and Fays Prolific are now becoming outclassed. Stanza remains worth cultivating.
Of the whitecurrants White Versailles is the standby. The newer Blanca is later ripening and worth considering as a season extender.