Teach Outside
Resources and inspiration for current and aspiring outdoor educators and those interested in a natural learning environment.

Black Currants


black Currants

Black currant bushes provide us with a plethora of delicious, tart black currants every year. The people and the birds enjoy them equally. One of our talented subs has made jam using only the currants and honey, and I would recommend the project to anyone, and it is delicious on toast! At all times of year, if you rub against the bush the aroma of black currant is emitted. It is hardy and easy to grow.

I apologize for the stretched out perspective of the photos. For some reason the reformatting from a vertical shot would not work out.

During winter pruning (January is best here in the San Francisco Bay Area) I began wondering if I should prune back the native gooseberries (in the foreground, below). A consultation with the Sunset Western Garden Book indicated that they were too young yet, but the method would be similar to pruning for red and black currants. Having never pruned our black currant I thought I'd better read further!


Indeed, our black currant bush was well past the age at which it should have been receiving winter pruning. I was to cut back old canes with cracked bark, cutting down close to the ground. There were a lot of them! I actually decided to leave a few of the old canes on because this is a preschool garden after all, and with 100 preschoolers a week visiting the site things can get damaged into oblivion. I knew that the black currant's location next to a children's runway and the dwarf willow they hide under the tender, young canes would be put at risk of being broken if they didn't have some old canes to help protect them.


Having a multitude of trimmings, an empty trough, and a pile of rocks, I decided to create a centerpiece at the art table. There is water in the trough, and I wonder whether the buds will open.


The children became inspired by all the winter trimmings available to them. The black currant bush became part of the structure of a "bird house" built by one of the classes. It also uses butterfly bush sticks and reeds. The children sit inside.


The floor consists of reeds covered with a large piece of blue cellophane, dirt, and more reeds.


Tie-wraps a parent had used to bundle the reeds became decorations.


One spring, we'd found these two leaves stitched one atop the other by some sort of creature. We decided not to satiate our curiosity as to the type of animal we'd find inside and to leave it alone as it obviously had done a lot of work to protect itself.


Work by Heather Taylor, teachoutside@gmail.com. You are welcome to share all materials with credit to her.