I have never really been a huge cactus fan. I grew up in southern Colorado where Opuntia were more common than trees. There they would be under all that deep white snow, just waiting for you to step or fall on them... or perhaps they would punish you for wearing flip flops?
They certainly did not foster in me a love of succulents. No, I only began to like them my first summer working at Perennial Favorites. I was asked to head over to the xeric section and pick out some super cool succulent sedums for my bosses to take to a farmer's market. I had never seen plants that looked so outlandish in my life... they looked like they had come straight from Mars! Now that I've had a few years to see even more outlandish plants, sedums seem so run-of-the-mill now.
But really, who cares how common they are! They're so cool!
Sedum globosum or Old Man's Bones
All the pictures of S. globosum seem to show them as primarily green... but what we sold was really quite red. A hardy sedum that easily withstands the 5a winters, Old Man's Bones is a must have. It doesn't grow as quickly as other sedums and it's not "full" enough to be a good ground cover (in my opinion). Mine have withstood scarce watering, blistering hot sun, hail, and even deer. Any bits that break off quickly root and it will gradually spread every year.
("Sedum") Hylotelephium 'Purple Emperor'
'Purple Emperor' was my absolute favorite plant to water. As the water would land on the leaves, it would act differently than it would on any other surface. It would stick together in these beautiful round droplets, almost like clear marbles only a bit flatter. When kept in the greenhouse the foliage would be green but once it was put outside into the sun, it would very quickly turn a nice dark purple. It grew about a foot tall, Zones 4a - 10b (DG), and was pretty resistant to drought. I bought some and planted it up in a hypertufa planter. The main plant died down in the winter and I was afraid I had lost it... but then as the snow melted, lo and behold, 4 little shoots were at the base! They looked almost like bamboo shoots. They readily returned the following spring, until hail pummeled it beyond recognition... stupid hail. (It may also have been Hylotelephium 'Xenox', tags and catalog conflicted)
S. pachyclados doesn't really look sedum-ish to me. It was still super cool though... my bosses only ever had it on sale once out of the three summers I worked for them since it was so slow growing for them. It looked absolutely fantastic in the hypertufa planter they had it displayed in. Definitely a lesson learned there... if a plant is on display, try to keep it in stock! People asked for it all the time. Zones 4a - 9b (DG), it it a pretty hardy succulent. My bosses would always bring it in every winter anyway, but I'm sure it would have done fine left outside. The garden center just down the road has some of these... I may have to buy some!
Haha... S. hybridum... I have some growing in a tiny little pot on my window sill right now. We had just gotten finished dividing these when my boss Diana decided to pot me up a few plants. Very tiny, very cute, immediately got buds and bloomed cheerily. I later had to get replacements due to a severe mealy bug infestation on them, but otherwise, they were pretty neat. Zones 3a - 9b (DG) and quick to grow and spread, it's a very lively sedum indeed. The only thing is is that it loves sun and I, being the weirdo that I am, decided to keep it inside under a grow light. The leaves which are usually long and thin stayed on the plant but all new leaves were shorter, rounder, and smaller... This plant really looks very different depending on the amount of light it gets and it helped me grasp the whole concept of sunlight-on-plants-is-different-than-fluorescent a little better.