Tips and tricks for planting rosemary 
and rhubarb

I’m starting my 11th summer here in Grand Junction and need some advice on where in my yard to plant rosemary and rhubarb.

My house faces north and I have a smaller fenced backyard. I’ve tilled and amended the soil every year. I’ve tried rosemary for 11 straight years and each year it dies. I know the first few years it was because of summer reflected heat, but I’ve moved new plantings out farther from the house and even watered it over the winter. It grows nicely during the summer but I’d prefer to have it available year- round. I have a small area under an ornamental pear that is protected on two sides by my fence and is shaded. Would that be better?

Also I have no luck with rhubarb. It grows during the summer, but not well and definitely dies over the winter. I’ve tried both the Canadian and the strawberry, although I prefer the strawberry. Any suggestions for a good location for that?

— Mary Anne

I tell people that rosemary just isn’t winter hardy here and to treat it as an annual.

There is a variety called “Arp” that you can find occasionally that I think is the most cold hardy. I had one growing in my yard for six or eight years and enjoyed cutting it regularly. It got to be a small shrub 2–3 feet tall, but it died two or three winters ago when we had an unusually cold one.

I’ve replanted twice and lost it both times. I know this winter pretty much killed any that had managed to survive. I’ve resigned myself to replanting it each spring.

As for the rhubarb, most of the time problems such as what you describe are because of one of two things.

The first is that the plant is planted too deeply. I set rhubarb with the crown of the plant right at ground level. It can be below ground, but it should just barely be covered with soil.

Some gardening books recommend placing it several inches deep to provide winter protection. We don’t seem to need that, and putting it deeper results in a struggling plant that often dies.

The second thing that goes wrong with rhubarb is that people overwater it. Rhubarb likes a good deep, thorough drink and then you need to allow the soil to dry a bit before watering it again. It’s surprisingly drought tolerant.

When I first tried growing it years ago, I killed several since I had them planted with my strawberry patch. These two might go together in a pie, but they have very different water needs in the garden.

When I moved it away to a corner of the garden by itself, it thrived.

When can I take cuttings off a grape- vine?

— Debby

The answer to your question depends on the type of cutting you’re taking. There are two types you can do, softwood cuttings and hardwood cuttings.

Softwood cuttings are taken during the spring when the plant is growing rapidly and there is soft, succulent growth available to cut.

Hardwood cuttings are taken in the fall after the plant has dropped its leaves for the winter. Most grapes are propagated with hardwood cuttings.

I have to warn you though that grapes can be one of the tougher plants to root out. Because of this, do more cuttings than you think you’ll need. You’re bound to have some failure so this will help cover that.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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