Friday, August 13, 2010

Rhubarb that doesn't go in a pie?

rheum palmatum tanguticum

If I can't put it in a pie, at least the name is a mouthful!

I grew up in rural Nebraska, where it seems pretty much every house comes with a patch of rhubarb. It usually is super-attractive, but it's size (especially when blooming) is still pretty impressive. Of course, most people don't grow it for its ornamental qualities, but for the tart, delicious stalks. I still have memories of gathering the stalks (not the leaves, they are poisonous...we got warned every year by grandma). Then they went to the kitchen to make their way into numerous delicious dishes. My favorite, strawberry-rhubarb pie. It combines all the best flavors of early summer, the sweetness of the strawberries compliments the tart bite of the rhubarb...and possibly a pound of sugar :-). Of course, it's best with some fresh home-made vanilla ice cream. Anyway, I first saw an ornamental rhubarb on tv (probably Victory Garden) when I was in high school. Suddenly, it awakened in me a fascination with the plants. How impressive is it, to grow so large so quickly. Even the garden variety puts out impressive growth in a single season, particularly if allowed to bloom, with stalks as tall as a person. I saw this variety at the spring Hardy Plant Society sale this year and knew I had to have it. It's supposed to have new foliage in a nice dark purplish-red color. Strangely, none of it's leaves have been anything but green until they start to die...then they do turn a vibrant shade of red. I'm wondering what the fall color will be like....hmmmm.
Here it is about a month after it emerged, at the time, the older leaves would turn bright red and die as new ones emerged. Most of the leaves pretty much hugged the ground at this time.

Here it is a little later in the season, at this point, it started getting a little taller, leaves didn't splay out as much, but the lower leaves still continue to die, although with the warmer weather, they don't get the spectacular coloring that the did earlier in the season.

Here it is today, new leaves continue to form as it's growth continues. I don't expect a flowering stalk this year, I just want it to grow and store enough energy that it is bigger and better next year and for many more to come!

I really like the bold leaves and texture this plant gives to this part of the garden, which is filled with alot of medium-sized leaves. I'm seeing now that until the amsonia below it fills in, I should really put some sort of ground-cover under and around it to cover the mulch. I planted some black-leaved sweet potatoes, but they are slow to get going...any suggestions?

I'll leave you with this shot of a neighborhood cat venturing into the jungle, to sleep under the parasol-like leaves of the rhubarb...his fave spot.



  1. Wonderful! Yours looks a lot healthier than mine, with its upright leaves. I have one planted in a moist, slow-draining spot, in semi-shade, which is what I thought it needed. How much water does yours get? The leaves on mine droop. That's a great spot, with the dark leaved sweet potato and the Persicaria. I have an orange tiger next door neighbor too, who likes to explore my garden.

  2. Nice! I have gotten very interested in the big-leafed plants. They had so much interest and structure to a perennial garden.

  3. Thanks ladies!

    Alison, It gets about a half day of sun, and is planted in very rich soil. I think I added an entire bag of compost to the soil and dug in in at least 2' down. It is on a slope, so drains fairly quickly, but I have it on a drip irrigation system, so it gets pretty consistent moisture...about a gallon every other day. Even with this moisture, though, it can drop leaves in hot weather, at least mine does. I'm hoping as it settles in I can cut back the water a little bit...we'll see! How old is your plant...where is it situated? I'd love to see pics of it!

  4. What a great textural plant and I love the shot with the cat. :)

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