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In the Garden: Rhubarb and chives

Anna Naeser
Special to The Aspen Times

Rhubarb and chives are blooming together on my deck ” several plumes of luminous, creamy rhubarb flowers on thick stalks above large, beautifully shaped leaves surrounded by many balls of rosy lilac chive blossoms on stems like thin, green drinking straws. Like so many of my favorite effects, I wish I could take credit for planning this one.

Last year a rhubarb seedling appeared in a small clump of chives, in a big container whose centerpiece was a young fig tree. Filling in around the fig were basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Genovese Sweet’), signet marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia) and a stylish reddish purple, white-margined regal geranium (Pelargonium hyb. ‘Imperial’). The pot looked so good I planned to duplicate it this year.

Last fall, I potted up the geranium to spend the winter indoors with the rest of my collection. Since I start or buy basil anew each year and knowing that the marigolds would seed themselves and there were more fig plants where this one came from, I pushed the pot against the house wall, and left them to their fate.



The rhubarb and chives not only overwintered, but they have almost filled the pot. Dandelion and red clover have insinuated themselves, impossible to oust without harming the principals. They have earned their keep for now. By early March, I was clipping dandelion and chives leaves for the kitchen. The clover has pretty flowers and its trifoliate leaves are pretty too. I planted lettuce seedlings around the pot and pushed nasturtium and four o’clock seeds into the soil among them, hoping for another show later in the summer. The seeds are leftovers from old packets and may not be viable.

Both chive and rhubarb foliage grows directly from the soil without branching yet the smooth, tubular chive spears (Allium schoenoprasum) couldn’t be more different from the broad, veined and crinkled rhubarb leaves (Rheum x cultorum). Their blooms are both dense collections of tiny flowers, insignificant individually, yet their flower heads look completely unlike. At dusk, seen through the window from my dinner table, the flowers almost glow. Visually there is a complete contrast.




Chance is such a delightful thing in the garden, if you can relinquish control and stand the suspense.

Your comments are welcome at annasgarden@sopris.net.