It may not be as useful as those marketing it say it is, but blue spruce stonecrop, Sedum reflexum ‘Blue Spruce’ is a nice grayish component to pots of mixed perennials. It contrasts nicely with golden foliage, and looks great with the chartreuse foliage of closely related ‘Angelina’ stonecrop. The limber stems cascade a few inches over the edges of tall urns and hanging pots.
The succulent leaves are quite small, and as the name implies, look like plump blue spruce needles. The succulent stems do not stand much higher than six inches before flopping over. They do not get much wider than high initially, but have a sneaky way of rooting where they touch the ground to cover more area. Yellow flowers bloom just above the foliage in summer.
What blue spruce stonecrop does not do well is uniformly cover large areas of hard or dry soil. It can spread nicely, but is patchy, with thin spots and thick spots. It is really only reliable as ground cover over small areas. It prefers to be watered occasionally, even though it does not need much water. It also likes relatively loose or friable soil, even though it does not need rich soil.
Trendy green walls are overrated. Their only real advantage is that they are pretty. They are not a ‘real’ solution to anything. They may keep the interior of a small building a bit cooler, but no more than light colored paint or a shade structure would. They do not save water, and actually use more water than plants grown in the ground. All that water is likely to rot the walls behind, or the decking below. They do nothing for melting glaciers or saving the planet. In a few more years, when they are no longer trendy, they will be more junk in the landfills.
Most obtrusive exterior walls can be obscured or partly obscured with less demanding plants that grow either up from below, or downward from above. Unpainted concrete walls can be outfitted with clinging vines if space is inadequate for upright shrubbery or a shorn hedge in front. Backfilled retaining walls can be outfitted with pendulous or ground cover plants that can cascade downward for a few feet.
A non-horticultural option is a good old fashioned mural. Yes, the sort that get painted on. They are about as expensive as foliar murals are, but once installed, they can last for years with only minimal maintenance, and no watering.
There is much more detail to the murals shown here. These are just close up pictures of little dogs who were memorialized in the murals. Incidentally, the only sweetgum tree in Felton Covered Bridge Park is a memorial tree that was planted for Charlie, the Boston terrier in the mural below.
Succulent foliage is remarkably variable, even without bloom. There are so many unusual colors, textures and patterns to choose from. Many are complimentary to others. Many contrast exquisitely. What better way to display some of the favorites than to assemble them into a succulent foliar tapestry!?
This is actually old technology that started to become a fad again only somewhat recently, after these foiar tapestries were installed on a retaining wall in North Hollywood a few years ago by GreenArt Landscape Design. Small cuttings of succulent plants were plugged into rigid mesh panels that hold growing medium vertically against another flat panel of the same size. The whole contraption was suspended against the concrete wall, with a bit of space in between to limit staining and bleeding onto the wall.
With the fountain, potted plants and other features, the limited space was insufficient for a hedge to obscure the retaining wall. Besides, the uniform foliage of a hedge or clinging vines climbing upward, or cascading plants hanging downward, would have been rather boring. These foliar tapestries look like artwork that might hang on walls inside the home, except that they are outside, visually extending the interior living space out onto the patio.
Foliar tapestries certainly are not for everyone. There is nothing ‘low maintenance’ about them. The small plants must be groomed regularly, and trimmed to stay flat. Flowers will need to be snipped off before or after bloom. The heavy planters must only be installed onto concrete walls or walls that are able to support the weight, and must be installed properly to avoid staining and bleeding. Wooden walls would be likely to rot so close to so much moist growing medium. However, as you can see, in the right situation, such tapestries are worth the effort.