More Than Just Pie


Why fill up your vegetable garden with rhubarb when you can use it as an ornamental plant in the garden border?

The idea of combining edibles and ornamental plants in the border is not new but we tend to think in terms of frilly lettuce, colorful Swiss chard or jewel like cherry tomatoes. Yet good old fashioned rhubarb provides some seriously dramatic foliage – like a hosta on steroids.

Nothing wimpy about these leaves!

Nothing wimpy about these leaves!

I have a large garden which means that I am often viewing foliage combinations from quite a distance.  No subtle miniatures for me! When I say I need bold foliage I mean BOLD foliage – and rhubarb delivers. Certainly there are fabulous ornamental cultivars  whose color may be rosier and leaves might be sharper, but when you need to fill up a big space on a small budget it’s hard to beat the simple edible variety.

Need more reasons to use it? Here’s a BIG plus – deer and rabbits ignore it which earns it major points in my garden and explains why I don’t need to enclose it within my fortified vegetable garden. (Slugs and unexpected hail storms can do damage but that goes for most leafy plants).

How to use it

Use it to frame a sculpture

A bold sculpture needs something equally dramatic

As a focal point near a seating area or sculpture.


As a trail marker to indicate the start of a pathway

To balance the scale of a large container

To contrast with the finely cut foliage of plants such as astilbe and bugbane (Cimicifuga).

To provide a backdrop for smaller flowers


Let it go to seed to create a stunning rhubarb sculpture!

Or….just make pie.

10 thoughts on “More Than Just Pie

  1. debra

    great piece, Karen~ Ornamental rubarb is also an excellent floral design element, for all the reasons it’s great in the border!~

  2. Carolyn Allendoerfer

    Karen, Your pictures are beautiful. Your gardens are amazing! It is so nice to see what you have done. Thank you for sharing these. Carolyn

  3. Val McMichael

    Every entry you make on your website is FABULOUS! I’m so glad to have found you. You serve as a great incentive to do wonderful things with just FOLIAGE! I’m waiting for your book with great anticipation.

    1. Karen Chapman Post author

      Val, we’re blushing!! Thank you for your comment and enthusiasm. Do let us know which is your favorite foliage combination when your book arrives.

  4. Selina

    I like your article…thanks for that.

    Also perfect in a child’s garden to create the jungle theme ! under supervision of course because is it true parts can be poisonous such as leaves ?

    Bye for now

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