In 2014, I collected as Rhubarb seeds from different sources so I could to do a little selection. My primary goal was to produce a more decorative and still delicious rhubarb with good winter survival.
To start I did heavy selection for red coloration right into the leaf veins at the tray seedling stage. I also set aside plants with other interesting characteristics.
Like many plant projects, there were moments of disaster. My first plant out was obliterated by some ravenous critter. I replanted the row with more hopefuls only to have many of those whose leaves were eaten to the ground spring back. At least that speaks to their vigour. It also meant that I had a rather crowded row of rhubarb seedlings. They grew heartily nevertheless.
Some showed what I call stress coloration brought on by temperature, drought, light level changes or even pest damage, more common with those that had higher levels of background red expression. Though all the red seedlings selected maintained some amount of red, how it was expressed differed with only a few showing it right into the leaf veins. I also kept some aside non-red seedlings that were particularly vigorous, very light coloured or just unusual. Variations in growth habits included sprawling or upright, thick stemmed or many thin stems, very large or more petite. Leaves of the redder stemmed ones could have hints of blue whereas the lighter green ones had more bright green leaves.
Though tasting will really only start in the spring - traditional rhubarb time - after their first winter, I did help myself to a few stems just before they went dormant. One of the things I was hoping for with the high red coloration was red right through the stems. I reserve judgement as to whether that was achieved though there were some that showed promise.
Goals for 2016
Observe winter survival, pest and disease resistance, emergence timing and taste for flavour. Cut back flowerheads on all non red ones and let those with high red coloration cross. I'm going to pursue other colour and form projects another year.
I'm also growing out other Rheum species such as ribes and palmatum with intentions.
All about growing, selecting and using edible plants in the Ottawa valley.