Paging Sedum Expert Skybird

michelle_co(z5 CO)May 30, 2008

... or anyone else who grows sedum.

I am getting ready to plant some new things in an old garden area that is, well, ugly at the moment. It's next to where the chicken house was (it got moved). We will be building a shed over the basement steps. The little tree is a silver buffalo berry, and there is a big clump of hardy Pampas grass. There used to be two grass clumps, but one died. The nursery pots are going back to the nursery as soon as I can take them in! Darn they are ugly!

Last year I put in a raised bed at the north end.

I thought this area might be good for lavendar and sedum, and anything else that grows in poor dry soil. Here's the sedum I picked up. A few types of hens and chicks, Angelina, and Emporer's Wave.

The "soil" in this area is several inches of roadbase (gravel & clay soil mix) with about 1-2" of glass mulch on top. The glass mulch need replenished or else covered with bark mulch. It got mixed up with roadbase when I built the raised bed.

What I need help with is some planting & arranging ideas, and some of your know-how on amending the soil to make my plants do well. Last, what they need for water. There is a drip line through that area, and I could give them supplemental water if they need a little. The other sedums (?) I am growing are in plain old roadbase near my rock steps and they do OK once they get established. I just give them a little water with the hose once and a great while.



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david52 Zone 6

I dunno much about sedum, but buffalo berry makes the bestest ever jelly.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2008 at 5:46PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Michelle,

Working on it! I need to get some things done outside now, but I'll be back later tonite.

In the meantime, are those daylilies on the raised bed? Is that lamb's ear in the lower left corner of the first picture? What's the thing with the big round leaves just to the right of there?

And what is glass mulch??? It sounds dangerous to me! ;-)

Does the roadbase loosen up pretty well, or does it immediately pack down "roadbase" hard? And is there any organic matter in it at all at this point that would help hold at least some nutrients? (In other words, is it really just nasty roadbase!)

I have a few other very xeric things in mind you could also use, but I MUST get back outside right now!

I'll be back!


    Bookmark   May 30, 2008 at 5:58PM
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michelle_co(z5 CO)


David, darned if I don't have a male plant! No pretty red berries!!! I was bummed... Might take this one out someday and try for a heifer (whatever she-buffalo are called).


In the raised bed: climbing roses, clematis, columbines, geranium, lots of daylilies, lilies. Just planted it last Fall, it's establishing. Something small to spill over the wall would be nice, though, eh? Maybe creeping phlox or I could sprinkle out alyssum seed?

Yes, flowering lambs ear in the bed (it's a volunteer and could go), big round oddity is allium, and there's a tiny shrubby lambs ear trying to get started. Everything in there except the grass could move out. And really, I just don't want to dig another of those Pampas grass roots out. They hurt me last time! It will get to 6+ feet tall and about 3-4 feet wide by Fall. Maybe some iris or ??? could fill in with color early season?

An old photo of this spot that shows the pampas grass size.

Road base will loosen, but there's not much OM at all in the bed. Clay will hold some nutrients, but has none to give. I toss in coffee grinds now and then, they will wash through the top mulch & down to the so-called soil.

The glass mulch is recycled bottles tumbled (by city of Durango) and is not sharp at all. We have used lots of it for mulch, the kids play in it when they visit (they call it "treasure"). Things like Mex Hat will volunteer happily into the roadbase/glass, so it seems OK for plants that like 'lean' soil.

- Michelle

    Bookmark   May 30, 2008 at 6:56PM
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michelle_co(z5 CO)

ps. I dug out some iris and daylilies and a mini rose from the far RHS of the bed so they wouldn't get crunched when the forklift came in to move out the chicken coop. There is a tiny bit of root left of a japanese honeysuckle at the far right side of the bed that used to climb up the shed on a trellis, and should come back from the roots. You can see a little of it in the last photo I added.

I will need to plant the far RHS last, after we get the new shed put up.


    Bookmark   May 30, 2008 at 7:05PM
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david52 Zone 6

I bought 50 or so buffalo berry bushes from the Soil Conservancy and planted a hedge of 'em. They flower really early so most years, there isn't much of a crop. We go out with pruning shears and lop off the berry-laden branches and then sit in the shade somewhere and flick them into pots. The jelly is bright pink and has a nice citrus flavor. Its also a major pain in the neck, the things are tiny and after about an hour, you have enough for a pint. Grapes are a whole lot more productive.

Seeing your vegas (wooden beam thingies sticking out doors from the ceiling line), and speaking of jelly, we put up a vega thing on the west side of the house, and planted a grape vine. It knocks 10 off the inside temps, and the grapes love it.

The huge Nimrod grape that was growing up the dead tree in the veggie garden died over the winter. 2" of rain followed by 3' of snow that lasts the whole season isn't good for much.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2008 at 7:35PM
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michelle_co(z5 CO)

I should plant a hedge of SBB, too. The silver foliage is so pretty... Do you think a hedge along a fence would keep deer from jumping over? I am planting a big nasty thorny bully of a moss rose next to one of my fences, I hope to find a deer snared in it someday.

We put up the arbor & matching pergola on the south patio for that reason - shade! That concrete patio gets frying hot in summer.

I was happy my junior grapevines overwintered. :-) Nimrod sounds familiar - one of mine might be that variety. I have one that sets no fruit and one that sets too much fruit (it grows in the roadbase). I fed it alfalfa tea one year and it grew like a crazy thing... Try it some year if you want to be Very Very Afraid of your grape vines.


    Bookmark   May 30, 2008 at 7:50PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Well, Im backand Ill see if I can stay coherent enough to say something logical, but, boy, am I beat! I replaced my two whisky barrels todayexpected it to be an hour or hour and a half joband it took me FOUR hours! I figured I could just put the new ones near the old ones, shovel half the soil into the new ones, shove the old ones out of the way and the new ones in place, and then finish moving the soil into the new onesbut it didnt work! When I got about half way down into the soil in the old ones I ran into rock mulch and clay mixed together and impossibly compacted. It couldnt be shoveled, and had to be chiseled out bit by bitand I obviously couldnt move the old ones till they were empty since they were filled with heavy rock and clay. I still need to move more new soil out there to finish filling them, but the new ones are in place and look goodand with liners in them theyll be much easier to keep watered, and they should last a long, long time.

I love your idea of making pretty much of a succulent garden out of the area! There are a lot of cool different sedums, and an endless array of semps. And, for another true succulent, I recommend adding two or three of the iceplants.

Im not sure if its because you raised the one end of the garden, or if its because part of the building is gone, but your recent pictures sure make the area look bigger than the old/last picture you posted. I really like what youve done with it.

Is the basement door enclosure going to be on what appears to be the old footing? Whats the purpose of the row of concrete blocks? Are they temporary until you get the new structure up?

My first thought was to suggest you move the hardy pampas grass over so its right against the front corner of the new enclosureor back against the house wall in the corner against the enclosure, but it sounds like youre not game for that adventure! The only reason I suggest that is because the Saccharum gets SO big (I have one too) that its going to tend to hide pretty much anything you put behind it.

Im picturing it with the Saccharum moved, but either way, I think it would look nice with a couple taller things back against the house to break up the "plain wall" look. For some very xeric things Id recommend Russian sage and/or one of the Agastaches. If Russian sage, my favorite variety is Longinit tends to stay a bit more upright and compact than the other varieties or straight species. If Agastache, just pick your favoriteas long as its one of the fairly tall ones. I think a combination of Perovskia and Agastache would look really nice together. For one more taller thing, I recommend a couple Solidago, goldenrod. You could go with a taller variety in lieu of the Perovskia or Agastache, but Id recommend one of the shorter varieties, more in front of the other two. That would get some yellow in the picture. One of my favorite varieties, because of the form of the flowers, is Golden Baby at about 24" high. I have a "baby" one I got at the Fall Swap, so it hasnt bloomed yet. Any/all of those would get you some height in the back, and you could then add a few non-succulent things in the foreground and then fill in the remaining area with a randomly placed collection of the various sedums, semps, and iceplants.

For the non-succulents one thing you might want to try is Missouri evening primrose, Oenothera macrocarpa (a/k/a O. missouriensis). It has large yellow flowers and develops interesting seedheads, and is supposed to get red fall color. I was under the impression that all the Oenotheras spread a lot, but folks around hereI think maybe David was one of themhave said that it behaves quite well, so that could add a bit of non-succulent foliage

And the reason I was asking about the lambs ear is because thats another non-succulent thing I was going to recommendbut I dont like the lambs ear flowers at all, so I was going to suggest the flowerless one, Stachys byzantina Helene von Stein, a/k/a Big Ears. I think the soft white foliage would be a great contrast to the succulents.

Another one, that LOVES being dry, is partridge feather, Tanacetum densum ssp. amani. I dont have anywhere dry enough to plant it now, but I absolutely love the foliage on that oneand it would fit right in with, and contrast beautifully with, the succulents. Theres a link below to a pictureclick on the thumbnail to get a good look at the "feathers."

With the sedums, I recommend a bunch of different oneswhichever ones you like the best, and the same thing with the hen & chicks. Then Id for sure add some of the yellow iceplant, Gold Nugget, and I really like the white one, White Nugget too. I love the way the iceplant flowers sparkle in the sun!

Another very xeric thing you could add that would add some red-orange color would be Zauschneria, but I think that one would look better if it werent run right up against the succulents.

If you go to Sweetmagnoliames Groundcover Advice thread (now on page 3), there are a bunch of different pictures of some of my sedums. You can see what some of them look like, and what they look like growing against each other in a couple of the pictures. If you have questions about any specific variety, just let me know.

AndI WILL be back down in your neck of the woods (neck of the desert???) again in September, and if I survive my vacation a little bit better than I did last years, Id be glad to bring cuttings of my sedums, and starts for some different hen & chicks along and drop them off when Im on my way homeIll probably spend a day or two at Mesa Verde this year anyway, so Ill be close! With sedum theres always plenty to go around, and Ive already been throwing some on the compost pile again this year. And by fall what I call the "sprawling sedums" will be big enough to bring a few cuttings of them too. Theyre kind of a cross between the upright sedums and the groundcover ones. They get between 6 and 12" high with medium size leaves, and dont spread anywhere near as much as the groundcover ones. Bertram Anderson is one of them, but, actually, Im not positive which varieties I havesince they just happened to fall into my pocket when I was looking at plants one time! ;-) And I could also bring a start for S. sieboldii, October Daphne. Its a really cool looking, non-spreading one.

With your "soil," if it were me I would definitely add some type of organic matter before you do any serious planting. Itll just make everything so much easier down the road that I think youll be way glad you did itand I think the plants will be a lot happier too. Are you one of the people who has access to WELL AGED manure? I dont see why that wouldnt work. Or any other kind of good quality organic matterhome grown or store bought compost, or moist Canadian peat. Youre already a good gardener! You know what I mean!

With wateringwhile the succulents will definitely be ok with very little supplemental watering, they will spread much more quickly and develop good root systems much better if they are regularly watered for at least the first year/season. So, in the interest of developing a pretty garden more quickly, Id recommend a pretty good (not hand held hose) watering about once a week for the first growing season (about an inch). If you get this all put in late in the summer, Id probably recommend a watering program for the first half, at least, of next spring/summer.

Oh! Before I forget, thats a really interesting little Allium you have there! When I asked, I almost said, the one with the Allium type flower, but Ive never ever seen an Allium with leaves like that, and didnt think it could possibly be Allium! Cool looking plant!

And one more thing before I go! I recommend you cut your Angelina down to about an inch, and then stick the cuttings to make another plant. Do you want me to post my Propagating Sedums blurb that I printed out and took along to the swap for the people who got sedum cuttings? Glad to do it if youre interested. Youll find Angelina is one of the very fast spreading sedumsand its also one of the ones that will root anywhere if you happen to drop little bits of it when youre working with it. So dont be surprised if they seem to start "springing up" here and there!

Gonna go for tonight and see if I can crawl up to bed, but Im sure Ive forgotten something, so just let me know what it is!


    Bookmark   May 31, 2008 at 1:01AM
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michelle_co(z5 CO)

Wow, lots of good ideas. Skybird.

Quick question for David, what about the salvia you gave me cuttings of? Would that be good to plant with Russian sage and solidago in this area?


The white building in the last picture sat on the row of block, and we will likely put the new shed on those, too. Though we could build it smaller... A long time ago there was a small little shed over the steps (built when the house stucco was brown) and it sat on the original foundation. Need to look it over with DH to figure it out.

The grass was one of the first things I planted in trying to learn to landscape, and I have since learned not to put big plants in the front! :-) I could think about moving it, I suppose. This would be the time to do it. Uff-da. The biggest problem is I don't have anywhere to move it to at the moment, and I have 3 pots of various miscanthus to plant. :-) I don't think the grass belongs in that bed at all, it overpowers the tree and everything else.

I think I'll try the russian sage. Just bought an upright variety of the sage, and if it produces a few new shoots, I can put those in the mist frame and root a bunch of them. Sedum propagates really well under mist, too. Last year I put some out near the edge of it so they just got a little bit of wafting mist while they rooted, and they all took root quickly - roots to the bottom of the pot in ~3 weeks. I'd be interested to read your page on propagating sedum, too.

I need to make more coffee, go out and stare at the area until a vision comes to mind. :-) I would like to think up some cool way to use garden junk to divide up the area. Thought about planting blue or green bottles in the ground as dividers for each type of sedum, something for extra interest.

In the very back against the house I could put in a large planter (like a 50 gallon stock watering tank - I have extras of those) and grow something up the house on a trellis. Moonflowers and red morning glories or ??? If I had better luck with gourds, a trellis of gourds would be really cool.

Yes, it would be fun to meet up and do some trades when you are here. My schedule always depends on how my grandparents are doing... Last time you came through, my grandmother wasn't well. It makes it really difficult for me to plan anything in advance. So I will just hope that it works out! Is there anything I can save for you? I have lots of named daylilies and iris... Or any roses I can try to mist propagate over summer? Fill your car with moss rock to take home? :-) Carrying rocks really helps the gas milage, you know.


    Bookmark   May 31, 2008 at 11:31AM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Michelle,

If David's Salvia is one of the regular S. nemorosa's, like 'May Night', you can definitely use it. It's one of the things I almost recommended, but I left it out 'cause I think the Perovskia and Agastaches would be able to take even drier conditions than the Salvia---but I'm sure David will be along to let you know how he grows his.

Can't help with the garden junk ideas! I stick pretty much to plain old rocks! But I'm sure you could come up with some interesting ideas---and we all want to see the pictures when you're finished--whichever way you go!

If you could build your new door enclosure on the original foundation/footing, it would give you more garden room! I guess I just tend to think that way since my space is so very limited!

I need to get back outside! I'm once again planning to go back to work within the next two weeks if I don't wind up feeling really bad again between now and then, so I'm trying to get a whole bunch of stuff planted so it doesn't die in the pots when I'm gone for days at a time again.

If it's possible to meet for an hour or so when I'm coming thru there, it would be fun. I don't have any definite plans yet, but it'll probably be sometime during the third week of September that I'm in the Cortez/Durango area. We can make possible plans later, and my cell should work in that area, so they could always be changed at the last minute. I don't have room enough for daylilies or iris--wish I did especially for iris, and I'm not really a big fan of roses (heresy!)--don't like plants that bite! So probably no plants---but maybe a couple moss rocks! But they need to be MY size rocks! The only forklift I have at home to unload them is my arms!

I really just came to post the sedum directions before going back outside, so I don't forget about it! Here they are. You may not have S. album or the others with the fine foliage, but I'm just copying the whole blurb! As always, let me know if you have any questions!


Rooting Sedum Cuttings

With the sedums, snip off tip pieces that are about 1 1/4" long, carefully strip off all but the top 2 or 4 leaves, bunch them into little "bouquets" of 5 to about 8 pieces, snip the bottoms again to make them all the same length (easier to stick if you do that), and stick them either directly into the ground where you want them, or into individual pots, or a couple inches apart in a flatand plant out when rooted if not put directly into the ground. By sticking several of them together youll wind up with much nicer plantsmore quicklythan if you just stick one or two at a time.

You can also make stem cuttings if you really want a whole bunch! To do that snip the stems into pieceskeeping the top up, and do everything else the same as for tip cuttings, pulling off all but the top 2 leaves. Be sure youre sticking the "bottom" of the stem into the soil and not the "top." They may not root if stuck upside downtho with sedum, they might root anyway. And if you really want a lot, you can even stick pieces of stem with no leaves on it at alljust be sure, again, that the bottom is stuck into the soil. Stem cuttings will take longer to look really nice than tip cuttings do, but theyll become thicker plants more quickly since each cutting will develop two or more tips rather than just the one a tip cutting produces.

With sedum album it will be difficult to strip the foliage off of the stems. Just put them in little "bouquets" and stick them with the foliage still on the stems! Sedum album will root absolutely anywhere, under absolutely any conditions, so it really doesnt make much difference what you do with it! With the Blue Carpet its not gonna be possible to strip the foliage off of the stems without breaking the stems, so do the same thing as with Sedum album, just put the cuttings in little bunches and stick them. (This also applies to Sedum acre and any of the others with very fine foliage.)

After the sedums start growing, when they get a couple inches long, snip off the tips and use them for cuttings or throw them away. By "pinching" the new plants, theyll come back fuller and nicer than they were. I cut my sedums down to the ground at least once a summer to keep them from getting all straggly looking. Best time to do it is right after theyre done blooming, or early in summer for late blooming ones.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2008 at 1:21PM
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david52 Zone 6

Michelle, the salvia is Salvia grandiflora, and the best ones I have are in full sun. Is this spot afternoon sun? It might well work, but would be growing towards the sun.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2008 at 1:57PM
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michelle_co(z5 CO)

If I dug out the grass, I could put a small hedge of salvia & perhaps solidago just in front of the buffalo berry. Though it sounds like solidago wants garden soil, from the High Country description (so maybe agastache would fare better?). That would give them quite a bit of sun - more than half day. It's an intense spot, protected, hot and dry.

Sort of where the pots are in this picture:

Then the sedum garden to the front?

If I had my way, the basement door would just have a short little cover over it. I don't know what those are called... Not sure if DH will go for that, but I can ask. It would be easier to build. ;-)

- Michelle

    Bookmark   May 31, 2008 at 7:27PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Great Salvia, David. I love the color.

Michelle Linked below is the kind of basement door I think of as an "outside basement door." It would certainly open up the area visually more, and allow for more air circulation to keep it from becoming so hot. But I guess I dont get a vote on that one! ;-)

I agree with you that the whole thing would work better without the Saccharum! And I dont show that one being as xeric as I think youre planning to dotho once its established, I think it can probably take just about any conditions.

When youve finished your Vision Quest, let us know what youve decided!


    Bookmark   June 1, 2008 at 1:22AM
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michelle_co(z5 CO)

Of course you get a vote, Skybird! That's the type of basement entry I'd like, too. We'd have to build it, but it can't be that much harder than building the coldframe...

I dug out the ravenna grass & listed it on freecycle about two minutes ago - and someone is coming to get it! I kept two small divisions, and planted those out. Not sure how they'll do in the more clay area of the garden.

I am tempted to dig out the silver buffalo berry but should probably wait until next Spring. That would be a perfect size tree to plant in the chicken's run. :-)


    Bookmark   June 1, 2008 at 11:05AM
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