Cool Rhubarbs

I have lived in Maine for about a month now. A lot of folks told me that it would be different. It is different. Growing up in North Carolina and spending the past 8 years in Pennsylvania were quite a bit different than life along the coast of Maine. As a part of adjusting to the change of life and gardening in Maine, I will be sharing plants that grow well here in Boothbay, Maine (USDA hardiness zone 6a or the tropics of Maine) or plants that I would like to add to the gardens at Coastal Maine Botanical Garden in 2013.

The giant rhubarb of plant collecting lore.

One plant that took me by surprise was the giant rhubarb (Rheum spp.). In Pennsylvania, we commonly saw rhubarb stems in the grocery store or growing along Amish vegetable plots but we never saw the giant rhubarbs that are the legends of plant explorations and English gardening magazines.

As I was walking into the new Children’s Garden at CMBG, I swooned at the Chinese rhubarb growing right in front of me. It was almost like meeting a celebrity in person. I had read about it but here it was, actually alive!

Chinese rhubarb

As I made my way around the Gardens, I encountered other rhubarbs of different sizes and colors. They looked great until our first frost and then they melted like, well, cooked boiled rhubarb.

Stem color of 'Ace of Hearts' after frost

One cultivar, Rheum ‘Ace of Hearts’ has held up better and longer than the others, even after the frost. This rhubarb has wonderful deep-red stems, red leaf undersides, and it holds its leaves upright, which looks like an upside down heart. – Rodney

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rodney eason

Rodney Eason - Director of Horticulture and Plant Curator at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, father of 4, husband to a Renaissance woman. I spent the first part of my life in North Carolina, the middle in Pennsylvania, and now I am determined to become a Mainer  while keeping my southern drawl. I consider the rhetorical question, "you're not from around here, are you?" a compliment. I love great gardens, beautiful plants, and inspiring architecture. Because of this, I am on a lifelong quest to find a garden that artistically combines beautiful plants while being centered around an evocative building. For me, this would be Beatrix Farrand's Dumbarton Oaks, with the plants of Lotusland and Chanticleer, around Fay Jones' Thorncrown Chapel. My wife and I are now making our new home and garden in a 130 year old New England house with a farmer's porch near the Damariscotta River in coastal Maine. When our kids get into college, we want to hike the Appalachian Trail as a family over a summer break. My likes (in random order): the smell of fresh basil and rosemary, bold foliage, India Pale Ale, good running shoes, Top Gear, the smell of New England in the fall (it reminds me a bit of English Leather, which my grandfather wore), and the sound of our family laughing together around the dinner table. I dream of one day owning an old Toyota 4X4 pick-up and seeing the Avett Brothers in concert.
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