‘Autumn Joy’ sedum (Hylotelephium).

Ready for a profession of unabashed devotion?  Okay, here goes:

I love sedums! 

Over the years, I’ve been steadily adding to my collection of these succulent perennials, tucking them in wherever I can find a spot in my flowerbeds.  This year I put in a White Stardust (Sedum spectabile ‘Stardust’) and a second Matrona (Sedum matrona telephium) in my west-facing bed; late in the season, I also added an (as yet, unidentified) plant that I obtained from my Mom-in-law’s garden.   All are thriving, despite a huge setback to the White Stardust when a hare uncharacteristically decided to do a bit of unselective pruning earlier in the year.  (Usually critters don’t go after sedums, but there’s always a risk around here that ANYTHING with leaves will become bunny fodder).  I’m such a big fan of these plants for many reasons:  tolerant of  poor soils, drought, heat AND cold, sedums come in a huge variety of leaf and flower colours, textures, habits, and sizes.   You seriously cannot get bored with sedums – and collecting them becomes…well…sort of addictive.

My favourite selection, however, remains Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’ (syn. Sedum ‘Herbstfreude’).  It’s nearly November and the mercury is slipping ever downward (we’ve even had a few good hard frosts) – and ‘Autumn Joy’ is in full glory, nestled in among the fallen wine-red leaves of my Engelman ivy.   The large grey-green succulent leaves of ‘Autumn Joy’ are attractive throughout the summer, but it is in late autumn, when the rest of the garden is pretty much finished, that this sedum really expresses itself.  It’s so wonderful to have that last burst of colour and life before winter sets in!


Lady’s mantle.

Alchemilla mollis ‘Thriller’

Okay, so lady’s mantle has green flowers.  (I once heard them described as “acid yellow” which I thought was compelling and apt).  And, well, everyone sort of avoids green flowers because of the blob effect of green blooms on green leaves – most gardeners prefer the reds and the purples and the true yellows and so on, colours that make a statement in the landscape.  But, in my opinion, lady’s mantle is one of the most reliable and beautiful perennial plants you’ll ever grow, well worth a spot among more flashy companions.

There are about 300 species of Alchemilla, of which the garden beauty Alchemilla mollis is one; legend has it that the genus name comes from the word “alchemists.”  Apparently the dewdrops that gather on the leaves of lady’s mantle were purported to possess some sort of magical powers, and alchemists collected them so that they could divine the location of the fabled philosopher’s stone.  (Uh, okay).  Really, there does seem to be an unearthly beauty in the way water droplets bead on the foliage of the lady’s mantle; of course, it all has to do with the decidedly practical velvety soft hairs on the leaves.  And while the flowers rise up in a sort of spray (much like baby’s breath) and make excellent fresh or dried cut flowers, they are insignificant compared to the gently scalloped, warm green, slightly fuzzy foliage that mounds PERFECTLY.  This is the tidiest plant I’ve ever seen, hands down.  I hardly ever have to deadhead it; I’m not sure I’ve ever removed a brown leaf in five years.  Lady’s mantle is so low maintenance you nearly forget about it…until it rains or we have a rare heavy dew.  Then it really sparkles.  I’ve got it set between a riot of feathery blue flax (Linum perenne), sunny yellow flax (Linum flavum compactum) and the tall spikes of purple-blue Salvia superba.  The combination is absolutely stunning.   Don’t be dissuaded by green flowers – this may just be the best perennial you’ll ever plant!