Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Element of Surprise

I have come to love sedums for the element of surprise they add to the autumn garden. 

As the days shorten and the nights grow colder, a sedum's color changes with the advancing season. I delight to find flower buds, which were cream one sunny afternoon, have taken on a peachy tone a few days later. On yet another day, on my way to the back of the garden, I'll discover a pretty pink sedum has deepened into a fiery shade of magenta almost overnight.

Industrious bumblebees seem to tap dance on top of the parachute-shaped flower heads. Wasps love them too, but butterflies seem to prefer the small white flowers of the Joe Pye Weed in another part of the garden.

Frost always seems to strike just as the flowers become their most vibrant. In late October, they continue to stand tall amongst the storm of falling leaves, their color having morphed yet again into a mellow reddish-brown. 

Even in the dead of winter sedums seem to have a certain melancholy beauty.

If you look closely, you see that each plant lights hundreds of miniature firecrackers each fall.

Sedum spectabile 'Neon' has light green foliage and magenta-pink flowers.  Full sun. Height: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches) Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA Zones: 2-9.

Some of my old favourites include Sedum 'Autumn Joy', Sedum 'Autumn Fire' and Sedum 'Matrona'. Making new plants is easy, so I have them scattered throughout the garden in both sun and part shade.

(To make new plants, pinch back your plants in June about 4-5 inches. As well as giving you lots of cuttings to create new plants, this will help prevent tall, heavy flowering varieties from flopping. Strip away all the leaves on the bottom half of each cutting. Plant your sedum in pots, or as I do, directly into garden soil ( but keep the cuttings out of direct sunlight). Water them well and keep an eye on them to make sure the soil doesn't dry out while the cuttings are establishing roots. Your sedums should root within a couple of weeks.)

Sedum telephium 'Matrona' is one of the taller sedums in my garden. The reddish stems and pink flowers are a great combination. Full sun. Height: 60 -70 cm ( 23- 28 inches) Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA Zones: 3-9.

The deepening color of Sedum telephium 'Matrona'.

I find the mature plants and ones that are in part shade flop the most. Again, pinch them back in early June to avoid this problem.

Every summer I try to add a few new plants. Last year I added these two low growing varieties:

Sedum 'Pure Joy' is a keeper because of its neat mounded shape. Sadly, I find it isn't as pretty as others once the flowers start to fade. Grow it in poor to average well-drained soil. Full sun. Height: 20-30 cm (10-12 inches) Spread: 45-50 cm (18-20 inches). USDA Zones: 4-9.

Sedum 'Dazzelberry' has really nice purplish-grey foliage. The deep raspberry flowers are amazing, but the flower stems are so fine that I find it flops unattractively. Next year I need to figure out some form of low support for it. Again poor to average well-drained soil. Full sun. Height: 15-20 cm (6-8 inches) Spread: 30-45 cm (12-18 inches). USDA Zones: 4-9.

This year's additions include:

Sedum 'Class Act' is a recent introduction. 'Class Act' has flowers that are such a vivid shade of magenta they immediately grab your attention. Full sun and average, well-drained soil. Height: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm ( 18-23 inches). USDA Zones: 4-9.

Sedum 'Class Act' is the deeper raspberry colored sedum.

Sedum 'Lemonjade' has interesting creamy-green colored flowers that take on a peachy tone as they mature. Full sun and average, well-drained soil. Height: 40-45 cm (16-18 inches), Spread: 45-70 cm (26-28 inches). USDA Zones: 3-9.

Sedum 'Lemonjade' in front of Sedum 'Matrona'

Sedum telephium 'Munstead Dark Red': This is an older variety that deepens into a dark rose color. It can be floppy in moist, rich soil. Height: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches) Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA Zones: 3-9.

Here I have planted Sedum 'Munstead Dark Red' with my favourite hydrangea 'Little Lime'.

Autumn is all about changing leaf colors, so it is better to think of companion planting in terms of complementary foliage rather than flowers. Sedums look great at the feet of tall ornamental grasses, as well as alongside plants like hosta and heuchera.

Sedum 'Autumn Charm' sits above a peach-colored heuchera and next to a hosta with a golden leaf. 

Sedum 'Autumn Charm' has this terrific variegated foliage and salmon-colored flowers. Full sun and average garden soil. Height: 35-40 cm (14-16 inches), Spread: 45-60 cm (18-23 inches). USDA Zones: 3-9.

Sedum 'Autumn Charm' peeking in on the left. 'Autumn Fire' on the right with 
'Class Act' in the background.

I end with one of my favourite images. It's a nice reminder that, while the gardening season is coming to close, there is still magic yet to be found.

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  1. I enjoyed reading this post. I am growing to like sedums too and have quite a few now with dark date,so which I really like

  2. I think Sedums are indispensable in the autumn garden, you have quite a variety of different cultivars. Love your writings on it and the beautiful photos.
    Have a nice Sunday!

  3. You know one of the nicest things about reading garden blogs, besides the joy they bring to the community?

    There is always plants that we forget, or don't have enough of and they remind us that there is a spot that needs to be filled by them.

    I have only a few sedums...but you can bet that after this lovely post, I'm getting more.


  4. Oh I'm so out of the loop here! I haven't heard of half those varieties - and I so love sedums!! Thanks for sharing!

  5. What a wonderful post, Jennifer! I probably have 2 or 3 varieties of Sedum and I enjoyed discovering new types which you showed. I like an idea of pinching plants back because my plants do exactly what you described. Thank you so much!!!

  6. Beautiful photos, Jennifer! You have great collection of sedums, all are pretty. I especially liked the white one!
    I have only two varieties, red and pink. I was wanting to have more plants and thank you for advice how to plant cuttings.

  7. Lovely! Aside from the winter interest and the attraction for bees in the fall, one of the best things about sedum, I think, is that it is so low-maintenance. It's the first plant I think of when someone asks me for a plant that's easy to grow and needs little care. I've become really attracted to the low-growing sedums lately and just planted a 'Dazzleberry.' The nursery manager told me it held up really well during our wet spring compared to other short sedums. I love the dark foliage, but I also love the variegated foliage of your 'Autumn Charm'--I'm going to look for that one during the nursery sales this fall.

  8. These are really beautiful, Jennifer, and I never realized that they changed color!

  9. Such a great collection of sedums, I had no idea there were so many. Gorgeous! :)

  10. Thank you for all of these great tips about Sedums. I planted three Autumn Joy Sedum, here they are the only ones available, about a month ago...I think is was too late. I am hoping they fill in and do better next year. After reading this post I will also make cuttings.

  11. One of my favourites too! Right now, my garden is dotted with sedum Autumn Joy and a terrific variegated variety with flowers like Lemonjade which I grow mostly for it's foliage as I find the flowers uninspiring. I didn't cut mine back this year (forgot in the heat of summer) and am paying for it now with floppy plants. Oh well. Theres always next year to be the better gardener.

  12. Sedum is one of my fall favorites too! I love that they are just coming into their own beauty while most other plants are finishing.

  13. I do enjoy sedums, they are such a long lasting flower. I really enjoyed your close ups, they are stunning!xxx

  14. Perhaps, a garden isn't a garden without Sedum ... they add to your garden all through the year but of course Autumn, the Fall they are just great.

    I do adore that last picture - where would we be without a little 'magic'.

    Hope your week is going well

    All the best Jan

  15. I love this post Jennifer!!! Beautiful, beautiful sedums! I loved going back and reading your last post too. I just love your garden!!!

  16. You have a lovely selection, my selection is limited. Mine are a disaster this year. Major flopping in every direction. I pruned them once early in June and did not prune later. One plant I pruned ruthlessly in mid August after it had begun to bud. It did splendidly. It stayed low and did not flop. The blooms are nice if not as large as usual. Apparently it is never to late to cut them back by 2/3's.

  17. I agree, sedum are wonderful in the fall. And I can now identify many of mine with your post....great shots!

  18. I am going to have to start pinching back even though I know that the blooms will be smaller. Every taller sedum in my garden flops!


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