The gardening season is kicking off

Published 9:20 am Saturday, April 7, 2012

Column: Carol Hegel Lang, Serendipity Gardens

We no more have opened our Christmas gifts and were thinking about making our New Year’s resolutions before the garden seed catalogs begin appearing in our mailboxes. It is always a day of excitement when the first one arrives, will it be the Burpee catalog or High Prairie Nursery, just seeing the colorful covers raises my level of excitement.

Carol Lang

Usually half of the excitement of the catalogs arriving is that we have already had a cold and snowy winter and this is my first hint of what it just around the corner; not so this year with the warm temperatures we have had and lack of snow cover. It has felt more like we are in the first week of November, and I should still be doing fall garden chores.

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Most of my excitement is in seeing what they have for new cultivators and starting to make my list of “must haves.” The list starts with the first catalog as I leaf through it making notations in my notebook that I keep handy for things that have piqued my interest. By the time March arrives the list is usually several pages long.

In the past couple of years we have seen many new varieties of coneflowers come on the market. I have to admit that last year I added at least six new ones to my gardens, and I look forward to increasing that number this year. The old standby, purple coneflower, seems to have almost been forgotten. With colors ranging from orange, yellow, green, white, red, rose and doubles arriving on the scene they will make any sunny garden brighten up. How can you pass up something with a name like “double scoop raspberry,” “hot papaya,” “raspberry truffle” or “double scoop bubblegum”? Makes me hungry just thinking about them!

We can really get excited about all of the new colors and sizes of hostas for our shade gardens that we are seeing at the garden centers. In one of the catalogs they even showed a variety that is white — I may just have to try that one. And then we have the heucheras or coral bells, they have really come out with some wonderful colors to add highlights to your shade garden with bright lime greens, caramel and even bi-colored leaves. Boy, these aren’t the flowers we saw in our mother’s gardens.

One of the plants that I have fallen in love with is agastache, even though I have to consider it an annual in my garden if you want to attract hummingbirds this is definitely one that you will want to add. I have started to see them showing up at local garden centers in our area but I have been ordering mine through High Country Gardens the past couple of years so that I can get a better selection of colors. These flowers are usually zone 5 or above, so just treat them like an annual and enjoy them this summer.

Daylilies also have gone through some pretty drastic changes in colors, sizes and shapes, and they sure are an improvement over the roadside orange ones we have been familiar with for so many years. I like to order mine from Oakes Daylilies as I have found their quality to be superior among all of the catalogs.

If you want to add a blue color to your garden try echinops or blue globe thistle, it is a bright and true blue and they make wonderful dried flower heads for arrangements. They go so well with anything yellow you might have in the garden and in my garden they self-seed. They should be planted in full sun but mine are in partial shade and seem to bloom very well. It is often hard to find a true blue that really will stand out in the garden but this little guy sure will, and I love the shape of the flowers.

Like all gardeners, I have certain plants that are the backbone of my containers that I rely on from year to year and those combinations have proven themselves as “old faithfuls.” I always use raspberry angelonia with shades of pink calibrachoa and tuti fruiti lantana for a stunning combination that attracts hummingbirds. I found several old washtubs of various sizes and then I stack them on top of other containers to really give me a “wow factor” at the end of a brick walkway.

I have to admit that I really have fallen in love with some of the new coleus colors and shapes that have come out in the last couple of years, especially the fringed ones. Now that you can enjoy them in sun and shade, add some of them to your containers this year and I bet you will want to put them on your “must have” list again next year.

Start making your list and just remember that our gardening season really has already begun. Enjoy this time thinking about what you want to add to your gardens and containers and maybe even step outside of your comfort zone and try something really new and exciting.

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