Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My Favorite Succulent

Do you ever dig really, really, really deep into a matter, so much so that you have to learn everything about the subject or collect one of every kind? That happened to me with the plant called sedum. It's a common enough garden plant, tho almost never a feature. Rather, the stonecrop is often used as ground cover or as a rock garden specimen. Fortunately for those of us with decayed granite as our "soil," most sedums need good drainage.

Stonecrops come big and small. For example, the plant above is a large succulent, featuring big clusters of pink blossoms in late summer. Most sedums bloom white or yellow, but that is not their strong feature.

Here are two of the more common varieties (above and below.) My imagination was captured by the many leaf forms of the species and so I collected samples from nurseries here in Arizona and when I was last in Memphis and in Victoria BC. (Yes, I am a common criminal who snuck live vegetable matter and wildflower seeds across the border. Bad GrannyJ.) And if I see an interesting new variation in your garden, I'm likely to snag a sprig, since the odds are that it will easily take root -- and you won't notice that it's missing.

This is one of the better ground covers; a nice grey green.

Only one small variation in leaf form distinguishes this pair: the individual leaflets on the plant above are quite orderly, while those on the form below are more helter-skelter.

This is another large form for covering a lot of ground; the similar plant below is, I believe, a native to this area. It really must be, as it is likely to take over any area where it gets a start.

These two different varieties are a brighter green, which leads me to believe that they need more water. In any event, I give it to them and they prosper.

Here are two very small sedum plants which I'm quite fond of. I particularly like the very small compact guy below, though he gets a bit messy after blossoming.

I am by no means alone in this fascination with sedums. Turns out the Brits have, in time-honored British fashion, formed The Sedum Society, the founder of which wrote the vade mecum on the subject, Sedums: Cultivated Stonecrops. It's a production of Timber Press, publishers who must have my number, because they also publish a beautiful and comprehensive book on another of my favorites -- penstemons.

One final, curious note before I close the book on sedums -- have you ever heard of a sedum roof over a shed or larger structure? Another British concept, much like the old sod roofs cultivated by pioneers in the Plains States:

A sedum roof is like a living carpet. Sedums are low-growing succulents - plants with thick fleshy leaves and stems, which makes them particularly suitable for growing in the inhospitable conditions found on a roof. Native sedums, such as Sedum album, can be seen growing in very hostile conditions such as on dry stone walls, cliffs and Cotswold rooftops. Plants on a sedum roof have to be able to withstand periods of low rainfall, strong drying winds and sun, and they have to grow with the minimum of growing medium.

Oops Note: Just in case you haven't had it up to here with sedums, I did find a site with zillions of photos of stonecrops and other succulents. And while I have you by the coat lapels, here are two very interesting links sent me by the SIL this morning: an Arizona drought map and a site for railroad passengers to trade stories.


stitchwort said...

Didn't realise there were so many different sedums!
The only sedum I have in the garden at present is sedum spectabile, whose flower stalks grow to about a foot high, are deep red-pink, and attract butterflies. Just moved some small pieces to the foot of a buddleia, which of course also attracts butterflies.

Granny J said...

I go looking in the succulent portion of any nursery I happen into, just to see if they have a sedum that is new to me. I especially like the small plants!

k said...

granny j, that was wonderful. I got my first bits of sedum a few months ago, and I think I recognized it in one of the greener varieties you showed.

Groundcovers are always of great interest to me here. I've no grass, and most of what we grow here gets big in a hurry.

I'm going to do some serious sedum exploring now. They go so very beautifully with rocks. And my yard of jam-packed full of rocks!

Granny J said...

k -- where the hell did you get rocks in S. Florida -- they must be boughten! If you really get into the sedum thing, let me know & I'll send you some clippings to root!

Lori Witzel said...

Found you via Festival of the Trees, and enjoyed your sedum-mania!

I used to live in Flagstaff for a bit, and miss Northern AZ. Have wandered through Prescott many times.

Granny J said...

Hi, Lori, and welcome! Northern (actually middle) Arizona is a fascinating place, though most places can be fascinating if one is able to be up and about -- I suspect that I'd find Antarctica in mid-winter pretty boring! Please return -- I have other manias forthcoming...

Lane said...

With their fleshy parts, seeing sedums has always made me suspicious about whether they were actually part animal. I tend to want to pet them. Don't know if they like that or not!

Granny J said...

Lane, I don't think they'd object -- they're pretty hardy & take abuse well, so they might actually appreciate being petted.

ericat said...

The sedums are certainly well known plants, also here in south africa. Mostly for the flowering type, also hanging baskets and I have them as grounf covers. Amazing how dry they can get and still give a green grond cover. Our first love is aloes. Maybe if you have time to visit our water saving garden with aloes

Granny J said...

Ericat -- I would never have thought of sedums in a hanging basket. This would have to be larger varieties. As for aloes, there's what you might call the Standard Aloe that Arizona desert people have in their gardens and many more keep in their kitchens to soothe small burns. The idea of an aloe garden is new to me.

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