Rhubarb, Rhubarb

Fools, crumbles and jam, the first fruit crop of the year, pink luscious stems, a bit of a ‘Marmite’ food, you love it or loathe it.  Forced and expensive or prolific on the allotment, it’s a real traditional English crop.  The National Collection of Rheum at RHS Harlow Carr can be found just outside the famous Rhubarb Triangle, originally a 30 square mile area between Wakefield, Leeds and Bradford.

Rhubarb bed at Harlow Carr

When I was up at Harlow Carr for a Taxonomy workshop I took the opportunity to have a look at the productive garden and in particular the Rhubarb bed.  By the end of March it will be a sea of flamingo stems supporting elephant hide leaves, but last week the ground was just beginning to erupt with carbuncles of new shoots.

Rheum x hybridum 'The Appleton'

Fabulous cultivar names, ‘Timperley Early’, ‘Mitchell’s Early Albert’, ‘The Sutton’, ‘The Appleton’, ‘Stockbridge Harbinger’, ‘Exhibition Red’, ‘Donkere Bloedrede Zoet’, ‘Paragon’, ‘Crimson Wine’, ‘Vroege Engelse’, and the one that appeals to me most – ‘Grandad’s Favourite’.  Who was Albert? Why a Harbinger? And whose Grandad?  Maybe he, like my father, used to make vats of jam from the output of his neighbour’s garden.

Rheum x hybridum 'Grandad's Favourite'

Worth a visit to see the Collection as well as the nearby Alpine House full of miniature gems.

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