This past week the currants bloomed, tempting the bumblebees out of hiding to hover among the stems and leaves. To imagine how the black currant blooms look, before opening ... think of wooden spinning-tops hanging in small clusters, with their tips downward. The stems are slender, and light green. The upper parts of the buds are rounded, and the same color. The lower tips are lavender.
Even when those lavender points open slightly to invite the fuzzy pollinators, the floral display is so tiny and non-eye-catching that it is hard to think of an immense bumblebee taking much interest.
On the other hand, we have been taking interest. The bud and flower clusters are lovely, in a quiet and reserved way.
We were struck during these past two weeks how the new-green leaves of the red currant, as they unfold and develop from the buds, are tinted toward their middles with a slight ruddiness. The black currant leaves are the ones in which we might have expected to have seen such tinting; but they are a bright, light green, exactly the "spring green" we kindergarten-raised children of this Western empire were trained to know by our wax crayon labels. Why do the black currants -- so full of odor and flavor in the leaves, with berries so dark of color and so resiny of flavor -- have these plainer-colored leaves, when they are new on the canes? They are brighter, more vibrant ... fresh-looking, springy, uncomplicated.
Martha and I were hoping to be starting new black currant bushes, as time and opportunity allowed. Not until we noted this difference in the leaves, though, did we realize that the volunteer currants growing in our lower-yard carrot-and-beans patch of last year were not red currants. Wild red currants were growing beneath some trees only a few dozen feet away -- so this was a reasonable expectation.
All of these volunteers have the bright, fresh-looking, eye-catching leaves of the black currant. We have a small nursery of them, now, together with a few starting-out gooseberries, below one of our original strawberry beds.