Gardening this year was challenging, but worth it

Published 6:02 am Sunday, September 1, 2013

Column: Serendipity Gardens, by Carol Hegel Lang

Now that we have past the dog days of summer fall will soon be upon us. It’s time to sit back and reflect on the gardening season of 2013. For the past couple of years it seems Mother Nature has put forth a challenge to us gardeners to see who will prevail, the gardener or Mother Nature. I met her challenge head-on, and I think I won this year as the gardens were once again beautiful.

Carol Hegel Lang took this photo of daylilies, zinnias and salvia. In the container are alyssum, ivy geraniums, angelonia and dracena.

Carol Hegel Lang took this photo of daylilies, zinnias and salvia. In the container are alyssum, ivy geraniums, angelonia and dracena.

It would be difficult to name a single season that performed the best or the worst because each season provided its own set of challenges. My spring gardens brought renewal to my senses after a tough winter. And recovering from a nasty broken wrist had me wondering if I would even be gardening this year. It taught me to take gardening one day at a time while I was healing and to enjoy each day.

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The joy of seeing my Angelique tulips blooming gave me a sense of pride because the squirrels did not dig up the bulbs and eat them, and the rabbits didn’t dine on the exquisite blooms. Watching the daffodils, Virginia bluebells, bleeding hearts, pagoda dogwood and weeping cherry add a spectacular show of color and fragrance to the gardens brightened my dampened spirits that the weather had taken from me. I was beginning to doubt that spring was ever going to come this year.

God did not disappoint us gardeners but he sure did challenge us during the month of May. Who would have dreamt we’d have a blizzard in May followed two weeks later with record high temperatures in the 100s? God is definitely the almighty gardener, and we are just the keeper of his gardens.

The new varieties of coleus I tried this year were some of the prettiest colors I’ve ever grown, and I sure hope they will be available again next year. They were such bright colors that really perked up the dark shady areas of my gardens. It is always difficult to find plants to brighten up the shady areas, and coleus are usually the plants that I look to for that color.

Worldwide there has been a problem with powdery mildew in bedding impatiens. In 2011 they were wiped out in Europe, and 2012 the Dallas Arboretum lost 20,000 of them. Luckily they were available here in our part of the country. I purchased mine through local garden centers and not the big box stores or grocery chains that sell bedding plants and had no problems. However several people locally did have the mildew and had to pull out their impatiens.

My New Millennium delphiniums stole the show in the oval garden as they were in full bloom for the garden tours. Standing more than six feet tall with the blooms well over three feet, they greeted people as they walked through the garden gate into my backyard. I will miss them in the flower beds next year as they will be going to my friend Jane who has room for them in her country cottage gardens where they will be a colorful backdrop against her gray house.

Carol Hegel Lang

Carol Hegel Lang

The fuchsia plants, all eight of them, have been loaded with blooms. They have added such great color as well as height hanging off the fences and gazebos. They have flourished in the cooler and cloudier days this summer but it is the faithful watering twice daily and fertilizing with a weak solution of Miracle Gro weekly that have sustained them. These plants keep the hummingbirds in my gardens all summer long and have earned a high honor status from me.

A new plant for me this year has been King Tut papyrus, and it will definitely be added to the garden again next year as well as a smaller version named Baby Tut. This plant loves water, so would be ideal in a pond setting or very wet location. For me it gave the wow factor and height along the back patio with a large portion of the back of my house needing something to cover it. It sure was a conversation piece with the garden tours as nearly everyone inquired about it. The cat enjoyed batting the blooms, too.

The zinnias, in a rainbow of colors, are stealing the show in August, and this year I added several new varieties to try. Although many of the annual seeds I planted were drowned out, a few of the Double Click cosmos managed to survive and they were lovely. Finally after several seasons of failure with ammi majus this year they did splendidly, but oh how I wish I could find the old variety with the red center again. Kiss me over the garden gate, rudbeckia and sunflowers are adding so much color to the late season gardens.

If I didn’t mention the daylilies with their huge blooms this year I would be remiss as I have never had such a lovely display of them. Also the lilies (Asiatic, oriental and tiger) have also rallied in the gardens to add height, fragrance and so much color in late July and August. Joe-pye weed and kiss mes are inviting so many birds, bees and butterflies into the gardens. Lots of goldfinches are eating the sunflowers seeds, and it is always a joy to see these colorful birds and listen to their chatter. The phlox is one of the staples in my late season gardens, and boy do the butterflies, bees and hummingbirds flock to them.

It certainly has been a colorful and challenging garden season but I wouldn’t have missed a single day of it.


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