Rhubarb season may seem somewhat fleeting, by tradition only lasting to July 4 so the plants can store up energy in their roots for the long winter. But once established, a rhubarb patch is as close to everlasting as most perennials get. Right up there with the asparagus patches and peonies, they outlast many of the people who planted them. They become sort of part of the property. In our case, we maintain that the house was free – it’s just the rhubarb out back that was pricey. We’ve no idea who planted it, but it’s been there at least two decades.

Guidelines say rhubarb plants don’t like to stay in the same spot for too many years and need to be dug and divided every 6 to 8 years to keep them vigorous. While I’m sure that’s good advice for getting the most tender stalks, no one told that to the rhubarb patches our grandmothers started, many of which still stand stalwart in back yards and farm yards, long after the residents have moved on. They may just be regenerating new plants from seed, but the end result is perceived as the same rhubarb plant growing in the same spot for generations.

A recent trip home for Mother’s Day reminded me of the resilient nature of these old-fashioned favorites. Many an abandoned farmhouse has lost its paint and window panes, but pink peonies still form buds alongside, and rhubarb and asparagus are still there for the picking. It’s a sight both sad and heartening all at the same time. (Note: Don’t assume that just because a farmhouse is abandoned, that the plants are free for the picking. Many rhubarb and asparagus patches are visited faithfully each spring by someone in the extended family who still harvests them.)

According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, some peony plants can thrive for 100 years. Asparagus plants are supposed to be good for 20, although clearly the patches have been known to keep regenerating well beyond that point. I’d call these long-lived plants the cockroaches of the gardening world for their ability to survive, but that seems a harsh way to refer to something as gorgeous as a peony.

At any rate, if you’re looking to plant a legacy, look into peonies. And if you’re looking for rhubarb recipes, here are some ideas to get you started: https://www.pinterest.com/arcticgarden/rhubarb-recipes. Oh, and if your rhubarb plant sends up a seed stalk like the one above I found in my mother’s untended garden this weekend, you can feel free to go ahead and snip it off so the plant puts more energy into growing leaves.

How long have your peonies or rhubarb been in place? And what’s your favorite way to use rhubarb?