The Rhubarb

Yesterday was the day! The snow has been gone from the front yard for awhile now, but in the back, stubbornly hunkered against the north side of the house, was a huge persistent chunk of snow that resembled an iceberg. Its melt rate has been painfully slow. Finally only a few shards remained and yesterday morning they were gone.

Insert happy spring dance here.

Oodles of crocuses have been blooming and daffodils are spearing their way skyward as well. Several perennials have even leafed out, including The Rhubarb.

I bought The Rhubarb the first spring we were in our new apartment. Strangely enough, of all the plants I had left behind in our country garden, it was the rhubarb unfurling in the spring that I missed most of all. I felt bad putting such an earthy plant into a pot, but it didn’t seem to mind. I thought maybe if I tucked it into a sheltered corner on the balcony come winter and surrounded it with other pots, the rhubarb might survive and I could look forward to its annual unfurling once again.

Instead there were some issues with my balcony garden and the strata complained, I overreacted, and banished the lot to our yard at the store. Come fall the pots were emptied and put away, but the pot with the rhubarb was tucked in a corner along the fence and forgotten.

We were well into the next spring, when Darcy discovered the rhubarb in full leaf. By this time I had rented four beds at the Community Garden, so I took the rhubarb there where it hung out in its pot, at the end of one of my beds. I left it there come winter, and the next spring up it came in its pot once again. The following spring we moved into our house and the rhubarb was brought from the community garden to our backyard, released from its pot and for the first time in its rhubarb life, allowed to discover what it was like to wiggle its roots deep into the earth.

And now, here it is, coming up once again, but this time sans pot.

The really weird thing about all of this? I don’t even like rhubarb. As a kid my mom would send me outside with a bowl of sugar and I would pull up a rhubarb stalk, laze out in a lawn chair and basically use the rhubarb to spoon up the sugar.

Darcy is even more ambivalent about rhubarb than I am. Even sugared up rhubarb pies or cobblers fail to impress him much. Our sons were a different story. Not only did they love rhubarb, they ate it raw without any sugar at all, causing us to worry they were deficient in some kind of vitamin or mineral or something.

I will always grow rhubarb simply for its early rise in the spring, its majestic leaves, its gorgeous ruby stalks and the plumes of cream that froth its tops later in the season (though if growing for production you usually snap the stalks off before they flower). If left to bloom, it is a worthy stand in for other ornamentals such as rodgersia. My whole goal for the front yard is to create a space that is equally edible and pretty. Another bonus for using rhubarb out front is that deer leave it alone.

A rhubarb in bloom against that big Peace Country sky!

The Rhubarb, however, was planted in the backyard. Of course it was. I feel guilty to be moving the poor thing once again after it has been so brave, for so long, but hopefully this move will be its last. And not because the move kills it. Given its years of tenacity I am sure it will make the move without mishap. It would be pretty ironic if this is what ends up doing it in though.

And who knows? Maybe our tastes have changed. Once The Rhubarb is established, I think I will try out a few rhubarb recipes again just to find out. That’s a wonderful thing about life. Things are always changing and you just never know.

Rhubarb in the Flower Bed

Ah, the first furls of spring rhubarb…what a gorgeous sight! I spent part of yesterday dividing a rhubarb plant in my vegetable garden and redistributing it into a new perennial border I’m making along our driveway. There’s a lot to be said for using rhubarb as an ornamental accent; especially in a large flower bed where you need a lot of filler for cheap. Rhubarb takes up a lot of space, has interesting foliage, red stems and when it blooms it looks spectacular. All this, and you can eat it too! Of course when you’re growing it to eat you’re supposed to snap off those beautiful white flowers, both to extend the harvest and help the plant direct all its energy to growing stems and roots. But if it’s just the beauty you’re after you can just let it grow…a rhubarb in full bloom is a beautiful thing! Check out this one shown against that big old Peace Country sky…

A rhubarb in bloom against that big Peace Country sky!