The delightful weather continues. The rain has made a grand appearance, but gardens are still looking fantastic and holding a lot of fall colour and plant interest. Now is a wonderful time to cut back some of your perennials that might not be looking so hot, and trim your shrubs so that they stay a manageable size for next year.
If you have been out and about enjoying fall flowers, you will undoubtedly have spied sedum “Autumn Joy” (or one of the many other great cultivars of fall sedums). Autumn Joy is a tried and true perennial and a great fall classic. During the summer when everything else is blooming, Autumn Joy is quietly providing a green and stately presence with a hint of white buds that get bigger and bigger throughout the season.
When all the other summer-blooming plants start to fade, Autumn Joy bursts into bloom with a great pink colour that blends wonderfully with fall heathers and grasses. These blooms go well into frost and actually provide some much-needed food in the way of seed heads for the birds.
In my garden I grow sedum telephium “Matrona,” which is a unusual form of sedum dubbed Plant of the Year 2008 by the I.S.U. Good gardeners know that perennials should be as attractive in leaf as it is in bloom and sedum Matrona hits this one on the mark.
Matrona sports shiny red stems that hold large, domed clusters of starry, pale pink flowers with dark-tipped stamens. Its blue-grey leaves are thick and succulent and appear almost cactus-like. The plants only reach 24 inches high they look large and lush when massed.
In summer, honey bees flock to sedum, and in fall the birds really love the seed heads as food to get them through the winter. But if you need to divide your clump or you like a neat and tidy garden, they are really easy to prune. Simply cut the stems and seed heads back to the ground to about a height of three inches. You will see tiny green rosettes at the base of the plant, which will emerge strong and healthy next year.
As with all good things, sedum Autumn Joy does require a small bit of maintenance if you have mature clumps of more than three years. If your sedum is looking floppy or separating in the middle, dig up the whole plant with the root ball intact. Use a knife with a serrated blade (I use an old pruning saw), and cut the root ball into two or three chunks. Simply re-plant the chunks of sedum back into the garden or share with a friend.