Gardening season started early but was tough with dry weather

Published 9:15 am Saturday, November 3, 2012

Column: Carol Hegel Lang, Serendipity Gardens

This past gardening season without a doubt was very challenging with the heat, humidity and drought. It also made me grow as both a gardener and a person as I faced challenges I had never dealt with before. Most of the time I am more introverted and do not like being in the spotlight but this year hosting three garden tours and having the gardens filmed for PBS made me step up to the plate and walk outside of my comfort zones. I matured as a gardener accepting that my gardens are just as good as the next persons and to be proud of what I have accomplished.

Carol Lang

So as I look back on this past gardening season I thought I would share some of those moments with all of you. Our gardening season started very early this year with the warm temperatures we experienced in March and everything started growing way ahead of schedule. Although we had very little snow cover last winter and virtually no rain, the gardens grew.

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My daffodils were the first things to bloom in the garden and they were so pretty as the stately yellow flowers with bonnets nodded in the breezes. I gave up on tulips years ago because the squirrels always managed to dig them up and eat them but they left the daffodils alone. Right in front of the daffodils is a small patch of crocuses in a deep purple so the combination is always quite stunning.

As the coneflowers came up I tried to keep both them and the daylilies that are in the Victorian gazebo garden watered since we still had not had any measurable rain showers.  As the coneflowers grew and began to put forth buds I noticed they were slightly deformed and the foliage was almost a finely textured lime green. I had recently read an article in one of my gardening magazines about a virus that affects members of the aster family of which coneflowers belong, called asters yellow. I wasn’t ready to admit this might be what the problem was so I left them in the flower beds.

The next beautiful blooms came from the alliums I had planted last fall and what a show they put on. When the seed heads were finished blooming they dried up and I left them until July when I cut the dried heads off and made a lovely arrangement to bring into the house where I can enjoy them for a long time. I just planted three more varieties of alliums this fall so I am anxious to see how they improve next spring’s flower show.

Shown is a container with dicondra ‘silver falls’, dianthus and ivy geranium; also hosta, Asiatic and orietnal lilies, bleeding heart, birdbath and wren house. Photo by Carol Hegel Lang.

In May I planted seeds of several flowers in the new cutting garden; they included marigolds, bachelor buttons, four o’clocks, zinnia, balsam, tithonia and several varieties of cosmos. All I can say is, wow, what a show they all put on right up until I cut down the gardens. All of my seeds with the exception of the marigolds came from my favorite seed company catalog where I have ordered from for many years. If you haven’t tried the new double click series of cosmos I highly recommend them.

Every year I get canna bulbs from my gardening friend, Jane; I have no place to store them over winter and she does. As usual I planted some in the raised beds along the fence just for the hummingbirds, and they add a pop of color to the gray fence. This year I also planted some in containers next to the house so that I could see the hummingbirds up close and personal. They did very well in the containers and it was easier to dig them out of containers than the ground.

Last year I found an annual penstemon at a local garden center, and they again had them but this year in both red and purple. The hummingbirds loved them, they bloomed until hard frost and I will again add them to next year’s gardens.

This year I tried mandevilla for the first time planting the pot so they would grow up the sides of the Victorian gazebo. They were absolutely gorgeous and next year I will do three pots of them. I like to try new things every gardening season to see what will work in the different gardens.

The lilies (oriental, Asiatic and trumpet) did exceptionally well and the fragrance was so wonderful when I walked into the backyard. I added several new ones this fall and will probably add more in the spring if I have room for them.

My roses were mediocre at best this year; it was just too hot and dry for them. Even the William Baffin climber was not loaded with blooms like it usually is so hopefully next year they will do better. I need to move one of the flower carpet roses but will wait until next spring when hopefully we will have more moisture.

My sweet autumn clematis actually got to bloom for more than a few days since the killing frosts didn’t come until the middle of October in my gardens. They are so lovely and have lots of fragrance but most years they only last a few days in my gardens before the frost hits them.

Next year will be a whole new ballgame in the gardens and I am already making lists of plants to add to the gardens. With the certification of my gardens as a backyard wildlife habitat in June I will be looking for more plants for the wildlife.

“Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.” — Stanley Horowitz


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