Garden rhubarb originated in the very recent past as a garden hybrid between two cultivated diploid species (which have a long history of being grown for medicinal purposes). For some reason when the two species combined we ended up with a tetraploid hybrid population which has become what most people now know as simply “rhubarb”. The funny thing about tetraploids is that they are notoriously difficult to line breed far enough to create homozygous plants which reliably come true from seed.
Keeping in mind what is said above, ‘Victoria’ rhubarb has long been said to grow true from seed. Yet many gardeners have long noted that ‘Victoria’ is highly variable because it is often grown from seed! These two things can not both be true. For some reason there has been a trend for gardeners to hear one thing such as “comes true from seed” and then blindly repeat it no matter how many times they are presented with examples to the contrary. Given how widespread alleged “Victoria” rhubarb plants are and how often they have been grown from seed rather than division it is reasonable to assume many of these plants are actually many generations removed from the original ‘Victoria’ and may differ from it in many ways.
So now to my point. Does the REAL ‘Victoria’ rhubarb still even exist? If so who would have it and how would we even know if it’s the actual ‘Victoria’? Given how long lived rhubarb can be it’s very possible the true original clone still exists out there somewhere, but with the glut of ‘Victoria’ imposters it could be quite a challenge to find.
We in the US wouldn’t be able to get live rhubarb plants shipped from Australia so if they had the real ‘Victoria’ we could still only get seeds from it (and they seem to have quite an extensive collection of cultivars which could be cross pollinating with it making the resulting progeny even more variable). They do ship seeds internationally though so even if not a good way to get named cultivars it would be a good way to source some genetic diversity for local breeding efforts!
Interestingly while reading through their site I saw they noted only 1 in a thousand seedlings from ‘Victoria’ are even worth keeping (they clearly have high standards… lol).
Also, I think my goal with this post is less about trying to find the real ‘Victoria’ and more about trying to get people to stop calling all their seedlings ‘Victoria’. If anyone actually grows a ‘Victoria’ derived seedling that is a really great plant it should just be given it’s own name to distinguish it.
I wanted some of their perpetual heat resistant seed strains several years ago. They only accept Paypal, though, which I don’t have and won’t get, either. Was surprised they couldn’t get Western Union.
Which seed selection were you after? I’m trying to decide if I want to get some of their seeds and do a grow out.
A few years back I did a grow out using open pollinated seeds from ‘Glaskins Perpetual’ and although the seedlings had a good bit of variation (which I wanted) I was able to select one with a good balance of vigor, early season growth and better tolerance to summer heat than any of the others I grow. Most of the seedlings in that batch flowered in their second year, but my select seedling I saved from the bunch is just now getting ready to flower for the first time in year four so I hope that means it will only bolt some years and not every year. Actually, I just went out and took another look. It appears that only one of the multiple growth points is producing a flower head, and that flower head appears to be very small and short stemmed meaning it won’t sap too much energy from the plant.
I have not heard of Victoria Rhubarb but I am not a fan of it. Even with a bunch of sugar with rhubarb bread I am not a fan. It has this off sour taste to me. My mother does like rhubarb and the ones she goes on about is strawberry rhubarb. Supposedly that is supposed to be amazing for those who like rhubarb but it is more rare. Of course rare in the plant world is not too rare since the internet.
I’m a northern warm temperate climate. Western Washington. A lot of my rhubarb plants struggle to stay in leaf during the heat of the summer and will just disappear till the following spring. We don’t have long hot summers here, but when we get a heat wave it can be hard. I even had rhubarb defoliate when sitting in trays of water during a heatwave. That’s why the one seedling that carried on without a problem impressed me so much.
@steveb4 You’re probably at very close to the same latitude as where I am, but ocean currents where I am keep it from getting as cold in winter. I wouldn’t be surprised if our summers are similar though.
our summers arent as dry or hot though so survivability is improved here. we rarely see more than a handful of 80 deg days very often. muggy summers with thunderstorms that can drop substantial rain at times.
great! they should like a little shade there. id let them establish this year and lightly harvest next year. they love manure of any kind. feed some in spring and mid summer to keep them producing into late fall.
In the north, I grew rhubarb easily, but now trying to grow them in the mid-midwest the heat gets them by July and crown rot is rampant. ‘Victoria’ (from big box store) did not survive, McDonald’s is gone, too. Crimson Red didn’t make it one season.
After three years, I’ve found a variety, ‘Valentine’ that comes from a Tennessee nursery. This rhubarb is supposed to be more heat tolerant. Not sure if the crowns are actually grown in TN though.
I did grow out a tub of Glaskins a few years ago - it was successful until I transplanted them into the garden. Crown rot got them, too, even with setting the crowns higher.
I’m taking a different tack this year to combat the crown rot - growing in open bottom, half barrels in an area of the garden that gets PM shade. I am determined to eat rhubarb from my own garden. lol