Perpetual Rhubarb in Southern California

Okay, I am a transplanted New Englander and obsessed with rhubarb. As mentioned in a different post here (on germinating rhubarb seeds), I have begun a trial with my fellow CRFG-WLA members of various rhubarb seeds in the hopes of recreating Luther Burbank’s success with Winter Perpetual Low-Chill rhubarb. I know the history and how his roots and patents passed from his estate to the Cleughs in Orange County, CA and then on to Mike Howarth, also in Orange County. In 1992, Mike’s land was sold for commercial development and – per David Karp – the roots were plowed under. Except I can’t help believing that some of Mike’s Valley Center neighbors may have managed to get their hands on a few of those historic roots. I know, until the Pandemic, I used to buy wonderful Cherry rhubarb from Laney Villalobos at our local farmer’s market. I would give anything to know if she is in fact growing a continuation of the Burbank line. Any Valley Center folks on here?

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Burbank never ceases to amaze. I’d never heard of perpetual rhubarb before. I hope you’ve had some success in finding it. And from a current New Englander to a former one, here’s a photo of how the rhubarb is coming along back east. (It’s in the brain-like stage)

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Hah, I never heard the term “rhubarb brain” but that’s exactly what it looks like. You can sort of see our dilemma here: my Tina’s Noble, planted last July from seed, has gorgeous fat red stalks but now it is officially spring, it is also growing a “brain”.

I have mightily resisted the urge to taste one of those stalks because I keep reading that I should let the plant put all its energy into its roots the first year… But I will regard that “brain” as a sign… of something. Maybe that despite all evidence to the contrary, it has survived a no chill-winter and is going to start growing again. Keeping my fingers crossed. Go New England!

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How is the tina’s noble doing? Did it survive the low chill, and does it taste good? I’m in San Diego county and trying to convince myself not to spend $40 getting the seeds shipped from Australia!

Best,
Jess

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Check with North County chapter of San Diego CRFG.

All the rhubarb is doing fantastically well. Right now my Success (also from French Harvest in AU) and the Glaskin’s Perpetual (seed available in the US) are the most robust though I am also harvesting some Tina’s. I think she stands up to the heat better than the other two and will shine when the other two are sulking. The Success especially likes to bolt and Colin Clayton had urged me to pull it out. I am so glad I didn’t. The stalks are enormous, easily half a pound each, and delicious. What I love is that it stays red even when cooked.

Since you’re in San Diego, you might want to check with the CRFG chapter down there. I know one member I’m in contact with just placed a massive order with French Harvest and may well be inclined to share some of the seeds. Like me, he is a New Englander but how much rhubarb can one person grow? (She says having just put in an Ebony and Red Surprise on top of the 10 plants I already have.

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Thanks, Richard! I will do that.

Thank you so much for the reply. That’s so exciting!! Especially that the US seed is also doing well. I will share this update with my chapter. :blush:

Any tips in terms of sun vs shade, watering, and I think I read to amend heavily with compost? Or anything else that might help me grow it. :blush:

If you’re comfortable being Facebook friends with randos, I’m under jessica.vanderhoff.98 and on the on the California Rare Fruit Growers San Diego Chapter Group public Facebook page-- I just posted an update on your progress that should be near the top of the page.

Thank you again!!

I grew out a batch of ‘Glaskin’s Perpetual’ seeds a number of years back. There was plenty of genetic variation. Enough variation that it doesn’t make sense to keep the parent name ‘Glaskin’s Perpetual’ attached to them. We had a really intense heat wave a couple summers back that killed a couple and made many of them die back for a while. One seedling however just powered through like it was no big deal (they were already a couple years old at that point). Needless to say that one seedling earned itself a permanent location in the garden. As a bonus it has also been very resistant to bolting. This year it made its first attemp at bolting, but stopped at only a few inches high of flower stem and then didn’t bother to mature the flowers.

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Oh definitely there is major variation since these are all seedlings and Tina’s Noble is a selection from Next Generation which was in turn a selection from whatever came before. Colin has always said there will be differences and we could select out and name the ones that do best for us. But I am just so grateful for the way he and his family have reproduced Burbank’s work over four generations that I am more than willing to keep his names… for now. Success is an old market variety popular in Queensland. Mine seems to do better than some of my other propagators, but again since it is such a success, I’m sticking with that name.

My Glaskin’s Perpetual is definitely different from the Australian varieties, being mostly green stemmed and very crisp. Again, you’re right and I could call it West LA Perpetual but, hmm, I don’t see the need. If I had a nursery and wanted to sell them then sure I could slap a name on them as happens so often (Sumo tangerines, Fire Crystal persimmons) but for my chapter plant sales I want people to know where this all started.

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Well, a lot depends on how close to the coast you are. But I’m only 2 miles away and my plants still do better with a lot of shade. I just have a double drip line running down the patch and I do use compost mixed with whatever else I have lying around (I’m sort of scattered fertilizer, eg Last October I mixed compost with some DTE citrus food, a little langbeinite and a cup of BioLive). Oh, when I first put the little guys out, I stuck a toothpick on either side to protect against cutworms. I’m surprised I don’t have a problem with slugs and snails but maybe the oxalic acid does them in. My figs and sapote, on the other hand, got clobbed this year.

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If you want to give respect to the originators and preserve those names the best thing you can do is not call the seedlings by the same names since they will differ from the parents. The more unique clones that circulate under the same name the more confusing things get and the more likely the original is to be lost.

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The US Postal Service has changed its cancelling machines so some of our most recent seeds arrived crushed. But in general I was getting at least 50% germination and there are like 100 seeds in a packet so I was able to share them with my chapter propagators and we were able to produce enough plants for our gardens and to sell at our plant sale last December. I will confess that being an impatient sort of person, I floated my seeds in water on a heat mat and then only potted up the 50% or so that sprouted.

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I think I got some Glaskin’s perpetual rhubarb seeds today, let’s hope I can get the seeds sprouted.