It all started in 1999 when Shocking Beauty by Thomas Hobbs hit the bookshelves. While I had admired several ornamental rhubarbs growing at Heronswood, this was the first image of Rheum palmatum 'atrosanguineum' at this colorful stage of development that I'd ever seen. The beauty of this image effected many people as in the years following the publication, specialty nurseries were well stocked with Rheum palmatums.
I learned that Rheum palmatum 'atrosanguineum' is quite variable. Some emerge green and remain that way throughought the growing season, others emerge this beautiful wine color and retain this color on the undersides of their leaves for the remainder of the summer. I gave up on the plant after growing several that were all green. Nice plant and all but if I wanted to grow rhubarb, I'd plant one that would make a nice rhubarb crisp or strawberry/rhubarb pie.
Then one day four or so years ago, at Bainbridge Gardens, I saw a bevy of these plants and one stood out from the crowd. The undersides of her leaves was a beautiful wine red and beconed me seductively from across the nursery. She was soon riding in my car, her sweet foliage making it difficult for me to pay attention to the road. Love. She stayed in her pot for a few weeks while I restructured a bed just for her to take center stage. Because these like moisture and are long-lived plants, I dug down a few feet and liberally amended the soil with manure and peat moss. She seemed happy! Now, every spring, my heart returns to that warm summer day when we first met when she returns for the season.
Does this look more like an alien brain or like Marge Simpson dyed her hair red?
Is this cool or what?
Beauty, shocking or not, can be a fleeting thing.
So, here's what has happened. The once singular rosette of leaves has become a big woody root with lots of little side shoots. It probably wants to be dug and separated. This is what I get for amending the soil so well and adding lots of biosolid fertilizer every year.
Well friends, it seems that slugs enjoy these leaves as much as I.
We're not quite at the point of separation or divorce, but we do need some serious counseling! Maybe you can help.
Do you know what I'm doing wrong? Should I cut the flower stalks as soon as they appear? I don't think that water is an issue as the soil has been so well amended but if that's a problem, I can be more liberal with the hose.