Autumn means planting fall bulbs and cleaning the gardens

Published 9:20 am Saturday, October 6, 2012

Column: Carol Hegel Lang, Serendipity Gardens

Carol Lang

A sure sign that fall is on the way are the shorter days and cooler temperatures; although as I sit here writing this it is in the mid-80s and quite humid this day after Labor Day. We have already made one trip to the apple orchards and brought home several sacks of our favorite sweet tango apples and soon we’ll be looking for pumpkins to decorate.

It’s hard for me to pick a favorite season because each one is so special, but I love the colors and smells of fall. When we were first married we would visit my folks after my dad had raked a huge pile of leaves for a bonfire, which was back in the days when you could still burn leaves. The kids would roast marshmallows for s’mores, and my brother’s kids raised pumpkins to sell so they would bring some of the decorated ones and put on the picnic table where we all sat enjoying the bonfire. Such wonderful memories of bygone days and family traditions, and I still can’t believe how quickly those years went by us.

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My mom would make apple pies and a favorite of my husband’s was her apple dumplings with hard sauce, which he really loved. She would also make apple butter to give us as Christmas gifts along with beet pickles and knitted pot holders. Fall for my mom was a very busy time with canning fruits and vegetables and she would always have a big pan of cinnamon rolls baked when we visited them. Maybe this is why the fall season seems so special with all of the memories it holds of those days and the special people.

Shown is a photo taken in the 1970s of Carol Hegel Lang’s parents’ home in Iowa. She enjoys it for the memories and seeing the fall colors and leaves.

Once the temperatures cool down I will start cleaning up the gardens, getting rid of all the dead foliage so as not to leave any pests in the garden for the next growing season. I have already been pulling the dead foliage away from the daylilies and putting that into the compost bins and even pulled out some of the cosmos that were downed last week when it was so very windy.

I have placed my orders for fall bulbs that should arrive around the end of September but I can’t plant them until the ground temperature is below 60 degrees so that they don’t start growing. Normally I don’t plant tulips because the squirrels always seem to dig up the bulbs, but this year I did order some Angelique tulips, so I guess we will see how many of them will actually be left to bloom next spring.

As soon as the seed heads dry up I will be collecting seeds for next spring’s gardens. The marigolds that I have collected seeds from over the past eight years have really done well for me and everyone always remarks about the pretty color of the blooms and the healthy foliage. The original seeds were given to me by my dentist, and every time I plant them I am so appreciative for the seeds. They really have done well and make such a lovely border around the small cutting garden.

With the dry spring and summer we had I am wondering what the colors will be like this fall. Many of the leaves of the trees in my yard have already started to dry up and fall to the ground. I have been trying to keep all of the trees that have only been in the ground about five years or less well watered. Usually the Japanese maple will turn a bright crimson, but it sure doesn’t look like I will have that bright color this year. The pagoda dogwood is another tree with brilliant fall foliage in shades of deep burgundy but so far the leaves on this tree aren’t drying up.

Don’t you just love to take a drive over to the river in the fall and see the lovely colors in the various shades of yellow, orange, red, brown and burgundy? We like to make a day of it and drive along the Mississippi River, pick up more apples at the orchards and stop and have lunch somewhere along the route.

We also look forward to my husband’s Nelson family reunion in Mora the fourth weekend in September. It has been named Heritage Days, and the reunion has been held for many years on the Nelson family farm. About 150 to 200 of us gather for the weekend of festivities on the farm, which also has its own pioneer village. The tractor parade last year had 52 vintage tractors, the ladies had a tea complete with a quilt show and the kids get to do many fun activities also. The two steam engines were the highlight for many people as they threshed the oats bringing back many memories of their times on the farm.  Feeding that many people for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as morning and afternoon coffee is no easy task. Luckily Gladys is a very organized person, and we use the same menu every year so that we all know what to bring. What could be better than great food, beautiful scenery and the love of family?

“The foliage has been losing its freshness through the month of August, and here and there a yellow leaf shows itself like the first gray hair amidst the locks of a beauty who has seen one season too many.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes


Carol Hegel Lang is an Albert Lea resident and local green thumb. Her email is