Gardening: Golden wonder

Sedum is a tough survivor and a summer delight for gardeners. David Overend reports.

PRETTY TOUGH: Sedum sediforme Gold.
PRETTY TOUGH: Sedum sediforme Gold.

Sedum sediforme ‘Gold’; that’s a big name and somewhat of a mouthful for what is, in reality, quite a small plant.

But it deserves it – you have to be tough if you want to succeed and make a name for yourself. And if you’re just a few inches tall and live in some of the most inhospitable spots on Earth, you need to be very tough just to survive.

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Which is what this evergreen, perennial sedum (and hundreds more of its extended family) is. It is a survivor; a clump-forming, low-growing plant with long, dense rosettes of cylindrical, gold leaves and erect stems bearing pale orange leaves and rounded clusters of cream to pale yellow flowers in summer.

When it’s planted in moderately fertile, well-drained, neutral to slightly alkaline soil in full sun, it positively glows with health.

It’s just one small part of the sedum family’s remarkable success story. These tiny, compact, vigorous, free-flowering plants have got what it takes to compete in the world of the big boys.

Most are quite capable of surviving drought and deluge, can thrive in the poorest soil, and bounce back after being trampled underfoot by man and beast alike. Sedums may be small, but they have big hearts.

Unfortunately, as with all families, there are always one or two black sheep who tend to give the rest a bad name. S acre and S album produce masses of yellow and white flowers respectively, but they have a bad habit of spreading, colonising ground and taking over rockeries.

So if you don’t want a prolonged battle, choose instead ‘Coral Carpet’, ‘Cappa Blanca’ or S spurium, whose white, pink or red flowers can just about make it to the heady heights of three inches. They produce compact mounds of foliage which burst into colour in June and July.

And just to prove how tough these little fellers are, come autumn they can be lifted from the soil and prised apart to produce numerous clones to carry on the family name. Plant them anywhere – just make sure the soil isn’t waterlogged. In fact, they prefer it a bit on the dry side.

With fleshy leaves and wonderful, colourful flowers, they make summer a delight for both gardeners and the many insects which find the plants irresistible.