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Rheum x cultorum (Rheum rhabarbarum)
Linda Andrews, a Master Gardener from Dutchess County in the Hudson Valley, has really grown attached to her rhubarb over the years. Her plant has survived many moves from a back-to-the-land homestead in the '60s to her present home in suburban Hyde Park.
"It's so versatile," says Linda. "It's a perennial that comes back stronger year after year, and brings you a harvest early in the season. It does something special for you when you really need it after a long winter."
But it's not just the tart pies and jams that endears rhubarb to Linda. "It's a beautiful plant," she says. "You can grow it right in your perennial flower bed." Sometimes Linda plants leaf lettuces around the rhubarb for an attractive edible landscape. But she also thinks peonies, gayfeather (liatris) and short sedums complement rhubarb's bold leaves well.
Linda also likes rhubarb's tall flower spike. "Letting it flower isn't recommended if you're growing it strictly for maximum production. But it hasn't seemed to hurt mine," she observes.
Any drawbacks? "The older leaves can get a little ratty looking, especially if you have slug damage," she notes. "But it's not hard just to pick the dead leaves off."
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