In Milan, April is the month of sedum and it has to be my choice for this month's gardener's Bloom Day. Stand in any residential area of town, look up and you'll see balconies lined with yellow - sometimes there'll be container after container across whole apartments. It looks great - from below it's just a mass of colour.
But I've always been intrigued about what happens to it afterwards. The flowering period is only two to three weeks. Do the people who fill their balconies with the stuff really only want flowers for a couple of weeks a year? Are they content just to look at the rather boring grey green plant for the rest of the year? Because if your balcony is full of sedum, there's no room for anything else.
Possibly yes. Because if you don't actually like gardening but just want "decoration" on the balcony, sedum is the perfect choice. It must be the least demanding plant that exists, at least in relation to the reward it provides for the albeit brief time it's in flower. Forget to water it for a while? It'll still be there. Brush against it by mistake and break half the stems off? Just stick 'em back in the pot and forget about them. They'll take, and you'll have an even larger display. Which means that you don't have to think about spending money for it. Despite the fact that it's found everywhere here, I've never seen it in a garden centre. Who'd buy it when it's so easy to nick a bit from your neighbour?
I've even seen someone guerilla gardening with it. Near us there's an underground garage, and around the entrance they'd built a low wall, hollow inside and full of earth. But it had never been used. So one day this little old lady arrives with her trowel and all her bits of sedum. And half an hour later, she'd planted a flower bed.
Personally I've only got two pots of the stuff - one small at the front and a larger one at the back. I'm not willing to give it any more space than that, and for much of the year I find myself toying with the idea of getting rid of it all together. But then April comes and I think that well, maybe it's not such a bad plant after all ....