Sedum sieboldii on the left, next to Sedum cauticola
Hmm….October Daphne. Well, it’s a bit of a stretch to say this delightful sedum is reminiscent of a Daphne, but if I use my imagination I might convince myself. Perhaps there is a bit of a resemblance to one of the low creeping forms. Regardless of whether the common name is misleading, little Sedum sieboldii adds a dose of autumn color to the late season garden, with clusters of rosy pink flowers at the tips of arching stems, clothed with pink and apricot tinted blue green scalloped foliage.
Botanical nomenclature now wants to classify this form of Stonecrop as Hylotelephium, but for the sake of common knowledge let’s continue here using the genus Sedum. Sedum sieboldii begins the spring season as a tidy rosette of almost turquoise fleshy scalloped leaves that develop a lovely wine red edge. The form and foliage work well all season and then informally transform in early fall, when the stems begin to extend, flower and develop October color. It is super hardy (we’re talking zone 3 here). It is most often used as a rockery subject, tucked into crevices where it remains quite happy, but we’ve left it outdoors in frost tolerant pots and it returns in the spring unfazed. Obviously Sedum sieboldii likes well drained soil, but we’ve found it to be quite forgiving of average soil conditions.
Bush clover in blossom waves
a drop of dew
—- Matsuo Basho
If you had to choose one plant to fill your late summer garden, you might consider the lovely Japanese Bush Clover, Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Gibraltar’. This selection was discovered by the accomplished plantsman, Bill Frederick, at Gibraltar, one of the duPont family estates in Wilmington, Delaware. We have to admit ‘Gibraltar’ is a big show-off, quickly growing to 5-6′ tall and in just a few years occupying an 8-10 sq. ft. area quite easily. It loves a sunny spot and is hardy in zones 5-9.
Lespedeza thunbergii ‘Gibraltar’ is in the legume family, and this means it does not require a rich soil, but prefers one that is a lean and well drained. To manage its size and form, you should cut the woody stalks hard to the ground in early spring. This may seem alarming at first, but Bush Clover blooms on new growth and the full height will be attained by mid summer. A bevy of cascading branches adorned by an abundance of purple pink pea blossoms will add eye catching color from late August through September.
It’s time to love pink, and how can anyone say no to a flowering shrub that produces upright racemes of soft pink pea blossoms from late spring right through fall. Indigofera amblyantha, commonly known as Chinese Indigo, is a member of the legume family, so it fixes its own nitrogen from the soil and thus is a candidate for poor soil conditions. It asks for full sun and good drainage, and is hardy in zones 6-9. It wants to be a multi branched shrub but we have seen it charmingly pruned to a single leader (to appear as a small tree). In zones with severe winters, Indigofera amblyantha may get winter die back, so we suggest that if you try this pruning treatment, do so on plants located in a sheltered spot and consider it as an experiment. Then again, should die back occur, you can always enjoy this plant as the bushier shrub it is more inclined to be.
Attractive companion plants for Indigofera amblyantha are Calamintha nepetoides, Euphorbia ‘Blue Haze’ and Sedum ‘Maestro’.
We love mix and match plants…those versatile subjects that work in a variety of garden compositions. We think Euphorbia x ‘Blue Haze’ qualifies as such. In fact, I’m trying to think of plant colors that wouldn?t coordinate with this plant, and I can?t. The powder blue foliage subdues the tone of the lime green bracts just enough to work well with pastels, yet still allows the vibrant chartreuse “flowers” to shine and support stronger color complements as well.
Grow Euphorbia x ‘Blue Haze’ for summer bloom as well for its nearly evergreen (for us) glaucous foliage. A Plant Haven introduction, it?s a cross between E. nicaeensis and E. sequieriana subsp. niciciana and presents a tidy accent for the front of the border or even as a container subject. The loose 15″ mounds spread to about 2′, and the somewhat decumbent stems bear limey bracts from June through September. It loves dry sites, and enjoys full sun or partial shade. Deer won’t touch it because of its caustic sap (be careful if you have sensitive skin). Reports on hardiness vary. We can attest we’ve had successful experience overwintering ‘Blue Haze’ in zone 6a, but a number of nurseries list its hardiness to zone 5 (-20F). As is true of so many plants, good drainage is the key. Report to us if you’re a cold climate gardener who’s had success with this plant.
Lime green, chartreuse, acid green, take your pick. The strong shades of Euphorbia myrsinites bracts scream out that it’s spring! It’s a shade that demands to be paired with vibrant tones: rich violet, deep red, hot pink, and flaming orange. Tulips! Primroses! Fritallaries!
Euphorbia, for the most part, is native to the lands along the Mediterranean, but we often associate this group of perennials with British gardens. Several Euphorbia species are the earliest bloomers in the garden, right after the Hellebores. The lovely evergreen forms, hybrids of E. wulfenii and amygdaloides, can be disappointing in cold climate gardens, as they often get damaged by our harsh winters. Still there are a couple of species that are reliable performers in zones 5 and 6. One is Euphorbia myrsinites or Donkey Tail Spurge, and it has its place in the sunny dry garden. Its wandering habit, with its trailing stems clothed in blue grey foliage, snake along the soil surface and terminate in clusters of chartreuse bracts and tiny yellow flowers. We like the picture painted when these stems emerge through clumps of purple leaved Labrador Violets.
Some things you should note. Plants self sow where happy, (sunny dry soil) and occasionally in milder climates, their numerous progeny can be a nuisance. Another word of warning: the milky sap of cut stems may cause a rash and should be avoided by those with sensitive skin.
There are many interesting intergeneric (crosses between 2 genera) hybrids of succulents. x Graptosedum ‘California Sunset’ is a cross between Graptopetalum and Sedum. It bears tawny rose colored fleshy petals that surround and terminate in rosettes on somewhat sprawling stems. We especially like it combined with the steel blue of Senecio serpens (Chalksticks). Cool temperatures deepen the foliage color to striking copper red tones. Starry white flowers are borne mostly in the winter months.
Grow x Graptosedum ‘California Sunset’ in full sun. Pinch it back to have a tighter growth habit. Plants will grow to perhaps 6-12″ high before the stems begin to spill will weight.