Guest post by Karen Chapman and Christina Salwitz, the Seattle-based authors of Fine Foliage. – See more at: http://westphoria.sunset.com/2014/03/05/planting-ideas-spring-fever/#sthash.3B0p4No3.dpufG
Why this works:
Rhubarb is one of the few edibles that the deer will ignore so I take advantage of being able to grow it in my garden borders where it makes a BIG leafy statement. Stout ruby and green stems support the giant leaves which emerge in early spring and continue to add bold texture until fall. A pink toned barberry in the background offers a color echo and contrasting fine texture, but if barberry is invasive in your area you could easily substitute a weigela. To the left of the rhubarb is the dark blue-black, dissected foliage of Hillside Black Beauty bugbane which adds depth to the color scheme while matching the rhubarb in scale.
Not only does this combo look good it tastes good too – harvest as much rhubarb as you can eat – more stalks will quickly grow.
Edible rhubarb (Rheum sp.) – there are big leaves and then there are MONSTER leaves! Grow your rhubarb in soil that has been well amended with compost. I also add a top dressing of compost mid-season and again in fall. Each stalk can grow up to 2’ tall and the leaves may reach 2’ long and 18” wide so give this some room to spread. Mature plants will throw up unusual flower stalks which can be enjoyed for their ornamental value for a while or cut down to encourage new leaves. Bait for slugs if necessary. NOTE: the leaves are poisonous
Rose Glow barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Rose Glow’ ) – drought tolerant, deer resistant and colorful; three reasons why I love barberry. (Consult your local extension office to see if this is invasive in your area). Rose Glow grows to 4’ tall and wide.
Hillside Black Beauty bugbane (Actaea simplex (Atropurpurea group) ‘Hillside Black Beauty’, syn. Cimicifuga) – this stunning herbaceous perennial needs no staking yet grows to 6’ tall and 4’ wide. Allow this to naturalize in areas that are protected from afternoon sun and enjoy the heady fragrance in late summer.
Conditions: part sun, well amended soil