Despite the cold start to the year, the rhubarb (Rheum x hybridum, Champagne) at my allotment in the Springhill House Walled Garden, has emerged around the same time as it did last year. However, I did notice that a couple of the smaller leaves are blackened, which I am assuming is frost damage. Edible rhubarb is obviously not as hardy as the plant from which it was developed – Rheum rhabarbarum – as that was introduced into Europe from Siberia (records show it being grown in the Padua Botanic Gardens from 1608). The ancestor of our garden rhubarb was variously known as a cure for diarrhoea and as a laxative! My rhubarb is used for nothing more medicinal than an extremely nice crumble and an exceptional chutney. I’ll give it a good mulch of year old horse manure now; try to keep the creeping buttercups from invading the space underneath it (both plants do very nicely in acid soil), and look forward to harvesting it in early summer.