Wednesday, May 18, 2011

good for the rhubarb

Friends outside SoCal may scoff, but on Monday night and Tuesday morning, we set a record with about 1/4 inch of rain. More fell last night, and today's forecast puts our chance of rain at 40%. It's a veritable monsoon in an area that can go without measurable precipitation from March through October.

Rhubarb is even rarer than rainfall in SoCal, and my recent reading of garden blogs has confirmed the conventional wisdom that the venerable "pie plant" cannot be grown here. I began to fantasize about Lida's homegrown Idaho rhubarb, and my forthcoming annual rhubarb-pie-making ritual (beebopareebop!).

Our first spring in Pennsylvania, I had been determined to plant rhubarb, but was unable to find it in local nurseries. I was told, in fact, that they didn't carry rhubarb because everyone HAD it already. When Gloria invited me to go with her to a large nursery out in the country, I jumped at the chance to buy rhubarb. We had a lovely outing, but rhubarb was not for sale. Finally I convinced a rather arrogant nurseryman that I didn't HAVE rhubarb already. He dug some up for me, wrapped it in newspaper, and put it in the trunk of Gloria's car, but he would not accept any money for it.

Then on this year's Mothers Day outing to Marina Garden Center, Steve and I saw two rather pathetic one-gallon pots of cherry rhubarb. We asked a saleswoman whether it would really grow in our area, and she rather huffily replied that everything they carried would do very well here. "What about that clematis I bought last year?" I wanted to ask, but that's another story.

Needless to say, we bought the healthier-looking of the two rhubarbs. Consulting my Western Garden Book of Edibles (a Sunset publication, of course), I see that cherry rhubarb can be grown in a container. Our three-gallon crock is designated to be its home. Steve has already drilled a hole in the bottom with his trusty ceramic drill bit. I should be able to plant it today.

I figure we can move the rhubarb around until we find a place where it does well, even if that place turns out to be in Idaho.

Meanwhile, the rain IS "good for the rhubarb," as the old saying goes. It enjoys being on display on our new garden bench, and will probably stay there to bask in the morning sun.

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License