I have a love/hate relationship with Sedum spectabile. My wife, a schoolteacher, simply cannot abide the stuff. It always seems to come into flower just as the school term starts in September, and so its connotations for her – and perhaps other teachers – are all to do with the end of the summer holidays, and the start of the long haul to Christmas.
On the other hand, I love it for its late summer display, and even more for its function as a bee-magnet in those days when other flowers are fading fast. But I am also unhappy that it is so very much associated with the ending of the season, and represents a last burst from the herbaceous borders before everything collapses. Not that Sedum ever wilts, its strong and fleshy stems stand firm against autumn rains and first frosts, even when the flower heads have long since turned from deep pink to a murky brown. Those flower heads can hold a prodigious amount of water too, as I know to my cost – cutting them back after a few days of rain gives the gardener an impromptu shower. It does also flop outwards from its centre, and is thus a strong candidate for a May (‘Chelsea’) chop to encourage shorter flowering stems later in the summer.
Anyhow, I have spent many an hour over the past couple of weeks cutting it back at The Manor, where there are masses and masses of it. And just now I have been doing the same in my own garden, albeit on a far more domestic scale (at least I am allowed to have some at home).
Sedum spectabile in full flower on 3rd September, just as the school term started (of course). I counted over 70 bees – and this is one of dozens of plants in the garden.