Memories made in the garden last forever

Published 9:15 am Saturday, February 4, 2012

Column: Carol Hegel Lang, Serendipity Gardens

Gardening with my granddaughter or just spending time with her in the gardens has given both of us so many memories and “aha moments.” She was born in early summer so her first year in the garden she was sitting in her carry-all in the shade as Grandma talked about the flowers she was planting or the birds that serenaded us, nothing so memorable for her but it was the beginning of many wonderful times for both of us.

Carol Lang

On her first birthday we decided to take her outside and shoot a photo of her in the grassy area next to the garden. Grandpa decided we should take off her socks so she could feel the grass. Let me tell you, this quiet little girl has lungs, as she made it known that she didn’t like the grass. We got it all on camera and to this day this is her grandfather’s favorite photo of her.

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As she became a toddler and could navigate the brick pathways, climbing up on the garden bench underneath the big pergola became a favorite place for her to sit with her favorite stuffed toy, Lambie, and her blankie. Of course Buddy, our Beardie, was there to watch over her and keep her safe. They would share their Cheerios snacks and communicate with each other the only way a small child and dog can, licks to the face and a lot of mumble jumble.

When she turned 3 the highlight was our tea parties under the shade of the pergola. Grandma would make a tray with goodies, and Carissa would drag her little plastic table and chair set and of course a favorite book along.

Every year we would take garden photos, and I would jot down the garden memories in my journal as a keepsake for her. I had a small figurine of a little girl with pig tails and jeans that stood in the garden, her name was Polly. My mother would always recite a poem to us that began; “Polly put the kettle on and we’ll all have tea.” Whenever we would be near Polly I would also recite this to Carissa as we took a garden photo of her with Polly. She had her jeans on and pigtails and looked so much like Polly. We have gone through two Polly’s over the past 10 years but she still stands in the garden as a remembrance to my little granddaughter.

Shown are Hegel Lang’s granddaughter, Carissa, great niece, Abby, and great nephew, Justin. -- Submitted photo

As Carissa grew older she would help me plant seeds of marigolds along the driveway. She loved to cover the seeds and then water them or spray Grandma with a bit of water. Weeding has never been a garden task that she has enjoyed, and I am pretty sure her mother gets to weed Carissa’s little garden at home. She has a beautiful garden at her house with annuals, perennials and roses, and I am very proud of her first garden.

Little girls grow up and need playgrounds, and we had a maple tree on the south side of the garage that would make a dandy place for a swing, as she kept reminding Grandpa. Finally Grandpa hung the swing, we got her a turtle sandbox like every other small child has along with a picnic table and she spent many hours playing in this small space that Grandpa had made for her. On sunny winter days we would pack up a snack and juice box and out we would go so she could swing. We even made up a song that we would sing as she climbed higher in the sky with her swing. She absolutely loved to swing.

In my garden I grow the kiss me over the garden gate plant, and she will use the stalks that we cut down in the fall to make forts in the winter. While it’s green and growing in the summer it usually resembles a jungle of Jack in the Beanstalk plants that are the perfect place to make little hiding places. Many a fort complete with beds, books and snacks have given her creative places to play.

Her favorite garden activity is to gather nuts, flowers (especially dark red ones that will bleed color), pods from the catalpa tree at the end of our block and anything else she can dream up to make “flower soup.” This past summer her cousins were here, and she taught Abby and Justin just how much fun it can be to make “soup.” Nothing is off limits in the garden to use for creative purposes and her imagination can really get creative at times.

The gazebo in the back garden provides a quiet, shady place to read books and relax as we watch the birds that frequent the feeders. Carissa has learned to journal the daily birds that visit the feeders as well as name nearly all of them. I guess the fact that her Grandma talks non-stop while gardening and bird watching has been a valuable teaching tool. We love the hummingbirds as they zip around our heads making us laugh at their antics.

Catching butterflies has been a favorite pastime of hers, and we have two butterfly houses that we put them in to watch for a bit and then release. A favorite photo of mine is of Carissa with her butterfly net catching the beautiful butterflies flitting in the sun garden, she is wearing shorts, tanktop and flip-flops, just an ordinary little girl who in my eyes is extraordinary.

I love this quote by an unknown author: “Fortunate are they to whom gardening is a joy.”


Carol Hegel Lang is a local green thumb who can be reached at