Early fall is a great time to begin working on garden improvements for the coming year. It’s a good time to transplant many but not all plants. If you have minimal time, at least take some photos and a few notes.
Plants that would prefer to stay undisturbed are those blooming right now, including ornamental grasses, Russian Sage, and Bluebeard (caryopteris). Tough plants like hostas and daylilies can be transplanted into November. Most trees and shrubs with their larger root systems are very successfully planted from pots in fall. It might be best to wait until spring to transplant larger shrubs which could sustain significant root loss.
I’ve been re-working the area containing my hardy succulents. While they have less-demanding watering needs in common, I found that their various growth forms didn’t blend harmoniously. They shared a bed with herbs, limiting my options for re-arranging in that location.
My hens and chicks (sempervivums) have been moved to the end of my sunny peninsula bed, next to a mid-height ornamental grass. They will get full sun early in the season, but filtered shade in mid-summer. This is a tough plant I’ve seen growing on pavement, but they will all hopefully thrive under these conditions.
My creeping sedums (stonecrops) I previously relocated to the beds surrounding my vegetable garden. They crawl all over, so if different varieties mix themselves in a bed, no damage is done. The creeping sedums are 4 to 6 inches tall.
Taller sedums including Autumn Joy have a new botanical name, Hylotelephium instead of sedum. Both names seem to be currently used online, but the older term could fade over time. There is a newer plant called Autumn Fire that my online friends are enjoying. The stems are stronger, and the flowers more intense than Autumn Joy. In this taller (15 to 18 inches) category, I’m looking around for varieties with colorful stems and contrasting leaves.
My favorite group of sedums might be the ones that form mounds. I’ve been happy with the plants I’ve purchased from the Sun Sparkler series including Lime Zinger, Dazzleberry, and Firecracker. This group was developed with greater emphasis on foliage, which gives color all season long. Sedum Blue Carpet is another mounding favorite. It is slower-growing than some of the others, and forms a nice tight mound not penetrated by weeds. I’m using a sedum called baby tears to fill in some spaces between mounding plants. It’s tough in spite of its tiny leaves.
My favorite hardy succulent is from an entirely different group of plants: Chinese Dunce Cap, (Orostachys malacophyla iwarenge). This common name is based on its habit of forming a flower stalk from the center of mature rosettes. The rosettes will die after blooming, but will produce plentiful seeds for future plants in the spring. Smaller rosettes will survive our winter in the ground. I’ve had great success potting up the plants from the garden in spring, growing lots of new rosettes in pots, then putting them in the ground as blooms decline in fall.
Julie Brocklehurst-Woods has been a Master Gardener Volunteer with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Livingston County since 2002. She enjoys helping all gardeners become successful gardeners, especially helping people identify tools and strategies to prioritize and simplify their gardening tasks. She will answer gardening questions by email: JulieBW48@gmail.com.