Some of the true late summer champions in our gardens are the resilient, hardy upright sedums.
There are two herbaceous species that are the most commonly planted today, and both are reasonably hardy and drought tolerant. Sedum spectabile varieties are native to Korea and Manchuria and are hardy to Zone 5.
Sedum telephium species were originally found across northern Europe to Siberia and are hardy to Zone 2.
The true beauty of these plants is their almost year round contribution to our gardens or containers. In coastal areas, new succulent-like growth appears in January and continues to add foliage colour to the garden right through to late fall and into winter.
Most varieties flower in August through September, attracting butterflies and honey bees. Their colourful stalks are also great to use as inside cut flowers. As the broccoli-like flower heads finish, they dry nicely, creating a great fall and winter look. In fact, they can be left on the plant until their new growth appears in January and February.
Tall sedums also blend beautifully with ornamental grasses, heathers, late flowering perennials and colourful conifers to add a very sophisticated look to summer and fall gardens. The many new varieties, which have appeared over the past few years, come not only in a wide range of foliage colours, but also with some very unique flowers.
Sedum Autumn Joy' has been the best known variety for many years, with its green leaves and pink flowers, but S. 'Brilliant' is similar with more vibrant flower heads. Sedum 'Neon' is an even brighter rosymagenta selection that simply glows in the garden.
The darker foliage varieties have really captured everyone's imagination, providing the opportunity to blend foliage colours. Sedum telephium 'Matrona' from Germany has won numerous awards in Europe for its frosty grey foliage, tidy habit and beautiful soft green flowers. We've grown it for years and simply love its look and performance.
One of the darkest foliage varieties is S.t. 'Purple Emperor,' with its rich dark purpleblack leaves that contrast nicely with its dusty pink flowers. I love its strong, stiff stems that stand up well in the garden. It's a great specimen.
'Postman's Pride' is another outstanding black cultivar with very deep purple foliage with blue undertones. The purple-toned flower's buds turn to a deep pink tinged with red, then matures to burgundy. It's a little hard to find, but 'Xenox' is another of my favourites. Its darker foliage is covered in a blue glaze, giving it a waxy grey colouration that truly stands out in a crowd. Its pink flowers further enhance this stunning plant.
I love the new variegated forms, which really add vibrance and colour all season long. The white and green Autumn Charm: is one of the best non-flopping varieties. Its - really a more compact version of :autumn Joy.'
'Pink Chablis' is another jewel with brilliant green leaves edged in white with hot pink flowers. These plants will definitely add lots of colour immediately and right through until frost.
There are many varieties in garden stores now ready to add colour and brilliance to your late summer garden for years to come. They are easy to grow and every disease and pest free, and they are great environmentally friendly plants. Combine them with fall grasses and late summer perennials for that wow we all need at this time fo year.