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Gardening With Gael: Discovering the overlooked and neglected

08 May, 2023


thumbnail sedum-autumn-joy-850Smugness is an unattractive trait and I fear I have been a bit smug about my herbs. Admittedly they have done really well and I have provided them with a happy environment. Maybe I was just pleased with them and myself.

Life likes to tip things upside down and so it has been with my herbs. From flourishing to non-existent almost overnight. Where lush parsley grew, bare stalks remain. The culprit? Caterpillars! Big fat green ones. It happened to Marg as well and we blamed possums and rabbits. It is extraordinary how quickly they can be decimated. Coriander, gone. Fledgling dill reduced to a few stalks. Mint a sad sorry example of the lush growth we were enjoying.

The caterpillars are squashed. I had been relying on the little birds that hover nearby to clean them up and they have done a great job until now. I am reluctant to use any pest control so it’s a constant checking from now on. I see the benefit of those vegetable gardens with covers.

One plant that requires little or no care is a plant I have come to recently appreciate. This is what I love about gardening. The constant discovery. Overlooked plants suddenly take centre stage. At the market this week Jess from Mangawhai Natives had one of them – Coprosma neglecta. Just as its name suggests, overlooked and neglected.

Sedums come into that category for me. I’ve had them in all my gardens, lurking on the periphery, looking after themselves. With my dry sandy bank they have suddenly taken centre stage. Sedums are succulent, drought tolerant plants with flowers at the top of their stems that, and I quote a passage from Google, look a little like broccoli. I’m not sure where I read it but it describes the flowers of the varieties I have quite well.

Sedums are the name of the plant and the word succulent describes plants that can store water in their leaves.

Some sedums and cacti only open their tiny breathing pores [stomata] at night to conserve water. Other plants open during the day for a process known as evapotranspiration. This makes the sedums a great plant in drought areas.

Sedums prefer as many as six hours sunlight or full sun in order to bloom profusely. The varieties I have are probably the most common. Sedum Hylotelephium spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’ has an upright form with light pink flowers at the beginning of the season deepening to a rust red. Vigorous, hardy and easy to maintain I have populated gaps in the bank. I love the contrasting form of the flowers.

Sedum Hylotelephium spectabile ‘Iceberg’ is a white variety with a similar form that a friend has given me. White flowers always make the other colours pop and I love this

new variety. I have taken lots of cuttings. My craft room in the house has become a nursery. Fortunately it has a big table, half for sewing and the other half is now home to a variety of small plants. My baby sedums are all sprouting and I am delighted.

At Swimfit this week in Jack Boyd Drive I spotted what appeared to be a small mat-forming variety spreading among the lavender. I asked Emma about it and she has kindly and generously given me some to take home. I think this variety which Emma says has been easy and vigorous may well be Sedum ‘Angelina’. The foliage is a bright lime green, almost yellow. It will fill gaps in the front of my bank beautifully. Even better I will have no caterpillar worries.



Time to plant winter vegetables. Refresh the ground with compost. It is a good time to plant thyme as well.


Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is a succulent plant with broccoli-like heads providing a mass of colour. PHOTO/THE DIGGERS CLU

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