New flowering currant ideal for small yards
By Denise Ruttan
If you don't have much space to plant shrubs, you'll want to keep an eye out for Oregon Snowflake, a new flowering currant developed by Oregon State University that is smaller than other currants.
This low-growing shrub is the first cultivar to come out of OSU's new ornamental plant breeding program, according to Ryan Contreras, a plant breeder and assistant professor in OSU's Department of Horticulture.
OSU released the cultivar in March, but don't expect to see it in nurseries until spring 2015, he said.
The new variety is one of a kind because its leaves appear segmented, similar to those of a fern, Contreras said. It's also a good fit for small yards, growing to approximately 4-5 feet in height with an equal spread and a low, rounded shape, he said.
"A lot of other flowering currants get very leggy when they're growing, and once they are done flowering they are not particularly attractive," Contreras said. "Oregon Snowflake is much more compact and more densely branched than other flowering currants."
This new cultivar of Ribes sanguineum is deciduous and winter-hardy to Zone 6. It is well-suited for much of the Pacific Northwest, Contreras said.
The shrub belongs in the same family as currants and gooseberries, which includes more than 150 species prized either for their fruit or their ornamental qualities. The fruit of ‘Oregon Snowflake’ is edible but not delicious, Contreras said.
"We thought we'd name it ‘Oregon Snowflake’ to combine its Oregon origin with a reference to its lacy leaves and white flowers, both of which are reminiscent of snowflakes," Contreras said.
Contreras aims to develop similarly low-growing varieties of flowering currants that produce pink and red flowers. He also aims to develop drought-tolerant cotoneasters that are resistant to fire blight.
"Larger goals also include breeding for new traits that make for novel cultivars, such as flower colors, leaf colors and improved form, especially compact forms," Contreras said. "We try to stay connected to the nursery industry and the consumer to provide varieties with traits that are lacking in current commercial cultivars."
For example, he is working to combine the weeping shape of Morioka Weeping katsuratree with the red foliage of Red Fox. The resulting red-leaved weeping cultivar would be the first of its kind among katsuratrees, he said.
Companies interested in a license to grow and sell Oregon Snowflake should contact Denis Sather, senior licensing manager in OSU's Office for Commercialization and Corporate Development, at 541-737-8806 or Denis.D.Sather@oregonstate.edu.
Image above: Photo by Ryan Contreras. Oregon State University has developed a flowering currant called ‘Oregon Snowflake’, a low-growing shrub that is smaller than other currants.
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