Event date: Monday 22nd February 2016
Speaker: Ray Stephenson
Write-up by Christine Boulby

Hylotelephium fabaria var borderi
Hylotelephium fabaria var borderi

Ray has spoken to our group in the past, and this talk was a refresher course in his speciality – sedum and succulents. Ray is well known internationally for his work with the genus, is the National Collection Holder for sedum and several related genera and I thoroughly enjoyed revisiting these amazing hardy plants.

To the uninitiated, sedums are often thought of as those autumn flowering succulents that attract a host of bees and butterflies, often called, in the trade, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and other names like ‘Matrona’, ‘Gooseberry Fool’ etc.  But, like many other plants loosely referred to as “sedums”, they are not.  In fact the ones we are familiar with are part of the genus Hylotelephium which he said grew best in builders rubble.  But that is jumping to the middle of the talk.

Phedimus kamtaschaticus
Phedimus kamtaschaticus

He began by showing us the hardiest of hardy plants in the world – Rhodiola.  This genus is native to high altitude places in the Alps, Himalayas and so on.  In the North East they are hardy to -15C.  One is an endemic to the British Isles, growing on Skye in niches there. But other species grow in very, very cold places like central Siberia.  They grow from rhizomes and some flower as early as February and are summer dormant, when they try to stay out of heat and sunshine. Others flower as late as November, and very pretty flowers they have too, but they hate heat and too much wet.

I could not begin to list the plants he put onto the screen, but many of them are amongst the hardiest plants and those that have not survived were noted.  He stressed that most of the plants he would show us prefer to grow in poor soil or gravel. Few can tolerate a lot of humus so potting compost is a certain death for many that we were shown.

He took us through several more succulent type genera – Sempervivum,  JovibarbaMesembrianthemumDelospermaDrosantheraBergeranthusPetrosedum,LampranthusCrassulaPhedemusLewisia and more.  He surprised us with news that there are hardy species of many of these genus’.  Finally, he showed us cactus that are hardy – Opuntia – before declaring that he was not a gardener, but a plantsman!

Thank you Ray for a very informative, amusing, comprehensive talk on a subject few of us have scratched the surface of!

Ray asked me to let you know he has an Open Garden Day on 26 June 2016:-
8 Percy Gardens, Choppington, Northumberland  NE62 5YH
Tel: 01670 817901 Email: ray@sedumray.ndo.co.uk