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Into the Garden: Sedums are low-maintenance wonders

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sedums have become a popular garden staple: They are low maintenance, hardy and they come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Also known as stonecrop, the succulent foliage is often topped by starry flowers in late summer and fall. According to the National Gardening Association, the plants are easy care, good for cut flowers, attract butterflies, have unusual foliage and tolerate dry soil. They work best in full sun to light shade.

We created a container garden using sedums and sempervivums this past summer and it was a delight. Sempervivums are hens and chicks, but there are many varieties now so don't think of them as your grandma's plant. Thanks to a strong godson and a sturdy rolling plant tray, I was able to bring my container inside for the winter. A few of the plants looked scraggly, so I pulled them out -- but I've ordered some new ones to fill in the bare spots.

Two new series of sedums from Terra Nova Nurseries come with cute names: the "Candy" series and the "Party Hardy" series. Here's the rundown of these new sedums.

The "Candy" series features 'Chocolate Drop' (chocolaty-brown upright stems with rose-colored flowers) or 'Raspberry Truffle' (upright mounds of large, scalloped, purple brown leaves with rose-pink flowers). Each of these grows 12 to 14 inches tall.

The "Party Hardy" series (grows 10 to 24 inches) has such names as 'Beach Party,' 'Birthday Party' and 'Pool Party.' 'Beach Party' has starry, light rose flowers with yellowish green, red-edged leaves. 'Birthday' has big, dark rose pink flower heads with bronzy-purple foliage, while 'Pool' has, appropriately, aqua blue foliage and light pink flowers.

I like the website www.drought-smart-plants.com, which lists several sedums that pass their stringent tests for low maintenance/benign neglect. While these aren't necessarily new plants, they are tested and successful.

Sedum album 'Athoum' is described by Ball Horticultural Co. as having plump, dark green rosettes of leaves that are red-tipped summer through autumn, with light pink to white flowers. This winner spreads and grows low -- 6 to 8 inches tall -- and wide in bright sun.

"Small and well behaved" is how Drought Smart Plants describes Sedum ewersii, with its small rounded leaves in blue-green. The pink flowers attract bees. The website calls Sedum niveum "another tiny gem of a sedum species," with its orange-tinged foliage and white starry blooms in late July. I ordered ewersii from Wild Ginger Farm recently and it's adorable.

Sedums and sempervivums will be easy to find in the garden centers this spring. If you can't wait, order from www.simplysucculents.com and keep them indoors until it's time to plant.

Classes at the ReStore

The Habitat for Humanity's ReStore is offering all sorts of classes that will interest area gardeners next month.

"How to Use Container Gardens," 1 to 3 p.m. March 10: John Porter, West Virginia University extension agent, will be teaching the basics of container gardening. This class is free! Register by March 7.

"ReStore DIY, Pallet Garden," 1 to 3 p.m. March 17: Build your own garden in a repurposed pallet. The $25 workshop fee covers construction supplies and a pallet. Register by March 14.

"How to Use Raised Beds," 1 to 3 p.m. March 31: Learn how to turn a small area of your yard into a vegetable jungle. Porter will be teaching the basics of raised beds, including construction and use. No charge to attend; register by March 28.

To register for classes, contact Terry St. Germain at 304-720-8733, ext. 3. All classes and workshops are in Habitat for Humanity's Homeowner Education and Community Center, 815 Court St. Charleston.

Reach Sara Busse at sara.busse@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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