September, in the Flint Hills, is the time that sedums become the stars of the garden, or at least they become the stars of my garden. In my "add no extra water" garden, sedums are a great group of plants to propagate again and again throughout the garden, tying it together and allowing you to fulfill that "repeat theme" fundamental of good garden design.
'Matrona', pre-bloom, mid-summer
My favorite sedum, and one I'd recommend for every garden, is 'Matrona', full of gray-green foliate, dark red stems and pink flowers. This one is a four season performer for me; tall, strong and disease free through Summer, colorful in Autumn, a copper-brown support for snow in Winter, and then with the cutest little purple buds in early Spring as I clean off the beds. I've copied 'Matrona' over and over in my garden, and just this year I started a hedge of it on the southeast edge of my newest rose bed. I'm hoping the 10 or 12 clumps planted there will make a nice and neat, if tall, border to its rose backdrop next year. The entire 20 foot line cost me just one clump from my front garden, divided a dozen ways with a shovel early this Spring.
The foliage of 'Matrona' always acts as a foil for its neighbors, either through the fleshy, thick character of the leaves or by color contrast with the purple-blue-green color of the leaves and red stems. Look at it at the upper right, planted alone as an accent among green shrubs and daylilies, or as pictured to the left, in the garden and in full pink flower in front of 'Wine and Roses' Weigela and between Blue Lyme Grass (Elymus arenarius) and 'Emerald Gaiety' Euonymus. Isn't she just the center of attention?
'Matrona' was a 1991 selection from Germany, and she received recognition as the "Perennial of the Millennium' from Europe in the year 2000 and also received the Royal Horticultural Society 2006 Award of Garden Merit. The name comes from the German word "matrone", which means "lady of well-rounded form", so just in case your spouse spends a lot of time on the Internet, I'd suggest that all the male gardeners reading this resist any temptation to compare their wives to the beauties of 'Matrona.' In the Netherlands she is known as 'hemelsleutels', which supposedly translates as "keys to heaven", so perhaps we should refer to this sedum by that name. 'Matrona' grows trouble free to about 2 feet tall in my garden in a nice compact clump, and she gets no extra water or care. The one mistake to avoid with 'Matrona' is NEVER overfertilize a mature clump. Fertilization with high levels of nitrogen just causes her to grow lanky and sprawl over her neighbors, a little too voluptuous for her own good. If she is in extremely rich soil, it often helps to give her a little beheading in late June, to keep her compact, and I sometimes use peony supports on the bigger clumps so that the Kansas wind doesn't flatten her out. Mainly, just keep her in full sun and leave her parched and 'Matrona' will be a star in your September garden.