Surviving summer with sedums

Treat 'em mean and sedums will carry the garden into autumn

As summer marches on, it can be hard to keep a continuity of colour in the garden. But with careful planning, plants such as sedums keep the garden looking fresh. With colour, foliage form and fantastic flowering structure, they provide vibrancy through to autumn.

A favourite variety of Sedum that's looking great at RHS Garden Hyde Hall right now is Sedum ‘Matrona’. This is a relatively new variety that began life in Germany in 1986. It's a seedling hybrid of Sedum spectabile and Sedum telephium ‘Atropurpureum’. The characteristics of both parents can be seen in the plant.

Sedum 'Matrona'S. ‘Matrona’ is a clump forming perennial with attractive red stems and olive green leaves that are flushed purple. These are typically ‘juicy’ as sedums store water in their foliage for dry periods. In high summer it bears flat-topped flower heads. Each flower bud is white and opens to produce pale pink petals, with many of individual flowers making up each flower head. These produce a stunning effect when planted en masse.

Unlike many sedums, its habit is very upright. Many other varieties have the tendency to flop over or collapse. This is usually because their growing conditions are a little too nice for them. If you treat them ‘harder’, by giving them less water and fertiliser, they will produce stouter growth. 

We use S. 'Matrona' in the Farmhouse Garden at Hyde Hall. Here it combines with other perennials into a strong colour scheme of predominantly purples, dark blues and orangey-yellows. It combines well with Dahlia ‘Happy Single Date’ with its orange/red flowers and as well as spiky Eryngium bourgatii ‘Picos Amethyst’ with its rich blue architectural flowers.

Sedums like to grow in an open, sunny spot, ideally in a well-drained border. They can tolerate a fair degree of drought and survive in our Dry Garden at Hyde Hall which is never watered. It just receives natural rainfall, which is usually very little in this part of the world! Here sedums grow amongst plants such as Agapanthus ‘Windlebrooke’ and Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’ or Stipa tenuissima.

Sedums such as this also work in large scale perennial plantings where they look great planted en-masse with perennials or grasses such as Calamagrostis × acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ or Stipa gigantea.

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