Sedums and Designing with Succulents

May/June 2022 Potting Shed

     “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes”. It’s a tired meme but every year it becomes more appropriate in the South Sound. Whether you blame climate change or the beleaguered weather predictions, gardening in the South Sound is changing. You only have to visit your local nursery to see those changes.  Shady, cool-weather, moisture loving rhododendrons and impatiens have been supplanted by warm-weather gardenias and sun loving drought tolerant succulents like….

‘Orange Ice’ (small)

     Sedums come in as many forms, sizes and colors as any other perennial. Take a look at www.sedumphotos.net (1700 photos and 600 varieties). I asked a local sedum grower to give me a “short” list of his favorite sedums and I got a list of about 40. ‘Orange Ice’ was on the top and should be easy to find. Sedum album ‘Orange Ice’ is a low growing, spreading ground cover with bubble like green foliage that turns a brilliant orange. It’s a long lived, drought and heat tolerant perennial whose habits make it great for the edge of a container or spilling over rocks. Next is the little-bit-taller…

‘Vera Jameson’ (medium)

     Sedum telephium ‘Vera Jameson’ is a fast growing 10’’ sedum with a 2-4 foot spread.  Its 1” round leaves go from blue to burgundy making it a dramatic front of the border plant and a good mixer in containers. As an added bonus it has bright pink flowers that attract butterflies. It’s easy to grow and easy to find. Once established, it needs very little water. Put ‘Vera’ in the middle of a garden or as focal point of a container…

‘Autumn Charm’ (large)

     Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Charm’ satisfies the need for height and variegation. It has light green leaves with a butter colored serrated edge and grows in a tidy clump up to 18” tall and wide.  It grows fast and division is easy. New growth lightens up an area that has darker foliage plants. It is extremely cold hardy, waterwise and even firewise. The flowers are cream to pink in late summer and last a long time as a cut flower. The foliage looks fresh from spring through fall. 

     Succulents can be all purpose landscape or container plants. They need some sun and very little water to look good. Sometimes succulents come as mixed trays which is a good way to experiment with them. And then you might want to take a look at…

“Designing with Succulents” 2nd Edition by Debra Lee Baldwin

   What do we want in a garden design book? We want lots of pictures to inspire us, plenty of basic information and some new design ideas. Baldwin’s “Designing with Succulents” ticks all of those boxes, plus a few more. 

     Baldwin pictures and documents the more available succulents, a to z. Some succulents make good  cut flowers and are even popular in wedding bouquets. The most helpful section for South Sound gardeners is the chapter on ”Top Fifty Waterwise Companion Plants for Succulents”. We more likely to mix succulents in the landscape and in containers rather than have a mono crop of succulents. 

    Rumor has it that South Sound gardeners would like to try something other than our iconic  English/Japanese gardening style.  Adding succulents might be a way to experiment with something new. Fire those synapses…

Timber Press, 285 p. $29.95