Saturday, June 13, 2015

Plant in Haste and Regret . . .

I make the odd mistake around my garden when trying to choose the right plant for the right location. Sometimes the plant turns out to be the wrong colour, although I can live with most any combination, or sometimes the foliage is all wrong. Floppy foliage is fine providing there's flop room, which isn't guaranteed; I hate to see nifty little plants smothered by a new neighbour. Or, I'll make the mistake of filling in bare spots with bedding plants, only to see them vanish beneath the giant leaves of something that decides that this is the year it's going to be all it can be, which is usually the exception, rather than the rule.

So I'm confessing here that once in a while, I'm quite capable of making design errors, or I don't always make the wisest plant selection. Okay, maybe I excel occasionally in the "Ridiculous Things To Do In A Garden Contest". Have you entered? It seems I enter every year, usually modestly by planting something just slightly inappropriate, perhaps a plant that turns out not only to be aggressive, but verging on invasive, like the Campanula punctata 'Rubriflora' (spotted bell flower) I stuck in three or four years ago. It has the loveliest of pale purple flowers, but it doesn't like to stay put.

It is manageable if you keep an eye on it, but turn your back and it's off and running. I finally managed to remove the last of the renegades that it produced this spring, some from the front yard where I don't recall planting it, but then just last week, someone gave me a another variety called Cherry Bells and I couldn't resist finding a spot for it. I've a feeling those cherry bells are soon going to be ringing loudly, just for me.

But it's the Rheum palmatum that's now the problem. If there was a tabloid garden magazine, I'd be on the front cover. I brought it home over a year ago, something I picked off the rack in one of my many "I'll take one of those, too, moments". I'll find room for it, I no doubt said to myself. How could I have known? — it came in a small pot, for goodness sake.

After I planted it, I forgot about it. I stuck it in the bed beside the patio between a pair of clematis that grow against the fence there. I really don't know why, except I probably thought the bed could use a little more foliage. After planting, it barely did more than sprout a couple of leaves before vanishing behind taller plants for the rest of summer. In fall, I had my doubts that it would survive the winter, but it did, with excessive enthusiasm.

Needless to say, I now have foliage exactly as described in my Reader's Digest A- Z Encyclopaedia of Garden Plants which, had I been thinking, I would have read first before planting the thing, or better still, before buying it: "Rheum palmatum (Chinese rhubarb): Rhizomatous perennial with a massive rootstock and thick leaf stalks that bear broadly ovate to rounded, three to nine-lobed, coarsely toothed, dark green leaves to 90cm (36ins)."

I have foliage all right, enough to hide two clematis, multiple daylilies, a tree peony, and assorted groundcovers. Unfortunately, I don't know what the variety of Rheum palmatum is that is currently intent on being all that it can be. If it's 'Bowles Crimson', I'm in big trouble.

In good conditions, most Rheum reach only a couple of meters, but Bowles tops out at almost five. Mine is already way over my head. It will have to be moved. I do have a spot down the yard that's far more appropriate, but after reading the bit about massive rootstock, I'm a little concerned as I'm well aware of what the roots on regular rhubarb are like. Oh, and by the way, Rheum is not edible; in fact, it's toxic, packed with countless chemical compounds; so suggestions for opening a pie stall at the local market are not acceptable. What was I thinking of? Beats me. 

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