Rheum palmatum

A fine plant for the back of a well-watered border or for a place of honour beside a pool, the ornamental rhubarb can often be accommodated where ththe giant Gunnera manicata is too large. It is exciting from the moment when the bright cerise leaf-buds push through the soil in early spring. They emerge reddish and crumpled, as though from a laundry wringer, but unfold into noble lobed and dissected leaves, bronze-green with crimson on the underside, some 3 feet (90 cm) across. The stalks are red, too, like those of culinary rhubarb. In early summer, tall spikes rise to 5 feet (1.5 m) in height carrying great panicles of small, creamy flowers. There is a variety, Atro-sanguineum’, with crimson flowers and dark red, almost black, foliage.

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