May 1, 2011

Adventures with Rhubarb

I have never grown rhubarb before (or cooked with it).  I will be trying my hand at growing it for the first time this year. I really wish I had started more perennial crops when I first moved into my house, but I was too occupied by building raised beds my first summer (and just plain too busy the second summer).

I bought a couple of bags of 'Victoria' rhubarb roots (6 total). I was really confused at first because when I fished the plants out of the bags of peat and woodshavings the plants looked and felt like large soggy wood chips.  Being a horticulture graduate student, I knew something was wrong. There was no way they were supposed to look like this, right? At that point I got really angry at the store I bought them from...who do they think they are selling this crap to unsuspecting customers? I felt duped. I wish I had remembered to take a photo of these weird spongy things, but I was really frustrated at the time.

I called the store and explained what I had found, and they said I could bring them in for a refund.  The person at customer service seemed as confused as I was when I showed her the contents of the packages. She said that I could either get a refund or exchange them for different plants. I really really wanted some rhubarb, so I said I'd take a look at the remaining stock. I swear, only 4 bags out of about 50 had any sign of life inside of them. I was allowed to open up the packages and make sure all my plants were alive.

This is what the second batch of rhubarb roots looked like.

In the end I got my 6 plants, but I'm a little concerned about all the other people who are going to buy these things, plant the soggy woodchips in the ground, and expect something to happen.

Hopefully these woody chunks will actually root out and survive!


  1. We started out with a single small plant which looked like a wood stalk as well. That was 4 years ago and we divided it into six new bunches last year. It does very well on the south side of a building where it gets plenty of sun. What you are showing on the top photo has a lot of life in it. They have a huge root ball but they spread like crazy. I'm sharing a link to one of my posts with a pic of our one plant. Good luck.
    'hugs from afar'

  2. I've never grown it either. Too hot and dry in California I think. My aunt in England grew it in her back garden beautifully. I love rhubarb pie just in case you needed to know.

  3. Oh, see, now I wished you lived nearby-I could have passed along plants to you! I don't care for rhubarb and so I passed them along to 4 different neighbors. Good luck with yours. And be glad you at least knew something was wrong. I feel bad for those starting out in gardening--it's these kind of things that discourage them.


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