Landscape Design

From top Sedums are perfect planted en masse in a border, and they flower for many months; combined in beds with other perennials, sedums always stand out, even when their flowers and foliage die in winter. Previous page, from left Soft pink blooms of'Autumn Joy' in summer; ‘Autumn Joy' flowers darken to a rich copper red in autumn.

With the evolving season and increasing warmth, they send up their pale green spikes. Catch them early in spring and you can remove their growth tip to encourage more branching and a greater density of flowers. Eventually you will see the development of pale green flower buds on a plant 35-70cm high (depending on the cultivar), and these open gradually to flowers of the softest pale pink.

Different cultivars develop different colours, but broadly their pale pink display darkens with age into deeper, bolder colours, and the strongest heads grow to 10-12cm wide, containing numerous individual small flowers.

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It is at this stage that butterflies reveal their greatest appreciation, their open wings contrasting with the massed pink flowers.

Judging the moment when these flower heads are at their best is difficult. My wife loves their coolness in the heat of summer, but I enjoy them more when their heads, at their broadest and noblest, start to die off. They develop gorgeous deep maroon colours of a hue difficult to describe precisely. From here, the onset of autumn sees them becoming increasingly mahogany, bronze and rust. As the flowers die, the foliage also loses its soft green sheen, and simply the plant's gaunt bronze stems and heads remain as stark skeletons. At this time, in cold places, frosts decorate the heads with ice or a layer of snow, bringing an attractive further dimension to the form of the garden.

Showy sedums look best when ptehted as extended drifts and informal masses, positioned near to the front of plantings – where you can easily inspect insect activity. They could also be used casually to edge a gravel pathway, where they can bridge plantings in the border with those that have escaped the boundary.

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