Rhubarb lost (and found)

May 3, 2011 at 5:27 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Nearly two years ago, I went on a wild tear one weekend while farm-sitting for my parents. (Which I was doing again this last weekend.) This wild tear involved a bored me getting too close to a gardening center, and things coming home with me. Most of it was an early attempt at container gardening, but I also picked up two rhubarb plants and stuck them in the ground. Yeah, just like that. Okay, the placement was actually pretty decent – there’s a good area for a bed around the base of an old-fashioned lamp-post at the eastern edge of the circle drive. A bushy perennial is really just what that needs, and as long as it’s shorter than the hibiscus at the back of the bed, size isn’t really an issue, since there’s not much else there that was deliberate. The rhubarb, perhaps, would have preferred more planning on my part. You know, more digging, maybe some compost or even just cheap fertilizer. Nope. Dug holes, stuck it in the ground, and waited.

It’s really amazing how well plants tolerate that sort of abuse, to be honest. They grew slowly throughout that first summer, and came back right on time last year, getting bigger and bushier. I didn’t harvest, wanting them to get really well established before I started raiding them. Perhaps I should have gone ahead and harvested.

See, this spring, I’ve been watching and waiting for them. It was a rough winter around here, extended very cold weather, lots of moisture, and then an early heat wave before spring settled in for a bit.

Nothing. For weeks. Then the weeds took over the bed. When I was out placing all the blueberries and cranberries and kiwi and hydrangeas along the south wall of the house last week, I took a few minutes to remove weeds from the bed. Rhubarb! Sort of. A couple of weak spindly leaves were smothering under the weeds. A fresh leaf was just pushing up. Of the second plant, there was no sign.

Was it the winter? Not pulling the weeds early enough? Insufficient nutrients? All of the above? Probably won’t ever know for sure. I’m sorry I didn’t take better care of it, but I’m hopeful that the one surviving plant will recover with a little extra attention.

Now I have to decide whether to replace the other rhubarb, or find something else for that space. Given the benign neglect plantings at the farm have to survive, I’m looking into some native perennial possibilities.

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