Saturday, June 4, 2011

My Poor Beloved Currant Bush by Nancy Szilagyi

I love my Black Currant bush (Ribes odoratum ‘Crandall’)!  I have had it for eight years, and I have reaped several abundant harvests.  I have sat under it on a hot day and picked off currants until my hands were purple.  I have made currant scones and given them away to many friends and fellow gardeners.  I have made three batches of Currant Liqueur (Crème de Cassis) which have all been wonderful, even heavenly!  These have also made popular, sought-after Christmas gifts, although it is hard to share very much. 

In spring I wait for it to leaf out. I wait for it to bloom with its lovely, yellow, clove-scented blossoms.  I watch the blossoms wither, and wait for the berries to form.  I have seen branches so heavy with clusters of the shiny black fruit that they are bent almost to the ground. 

It has yielded an average of 8 pounds of fruit each year after the first two summers.  I’ve been so pleased with the harvest, that I have recommended it to many people.

This year I watched it leaf out and I watched it bloom.  But, alas!  Soon, I watched some of the branches’ foliage pale in color (chlorosis) and crinkle inward (leaf curl).  What could be happening! In the rush of spring garden clean up and planting, and the frequently rainy weather this year, it was a few days before I got out there to inspect it.  I took out my magnifying glass, and, sure enough, currant aphids (Crytomyzus ribis)!  NOOO!

The next day that it wasn’t raining, I broke out the insecticidal soap.  I tenderly held each branch so that I could spray each cluster of leaves from all sides and directly into the cluster. My hands were covered with soap.  So was the spray bottle.  They were so slippery that I had to go in and rinse both several times before I was done.  My hands were so tired I had to keep switching from left to right. It felt like an acute case of tendonitis!  But, I was not going to let those aphids have my currant bush!

A couple of days have passed, and fortunately we did not have rain during that time to wash off the soap right away.  I have once again inspected the clusters of leaves.  I do not see any aphids that are moving.  I will not be lulled into a false sense of security, however.  The bush will have to undergo diligent and frequent inspections for a while, and probably more applications of insecticidal soap. 
I have high hopes of my beloved bush yielding its usual glorious harvest this fall.  I can already taste the scones.  Maybe even with a small glass of liqueur!