Gardens are full of splendor as autumn starts to arrive

Published 6:00 am Sunday, October 6, 2013

Column: Serendipity Gardens, by Carol Hegel Lang

The beautiful season of autumn is upon us, and I for one shall savor these days because all too soon the ground will be covered in white and the gardens will be no more. With the days getting shorter and morning’s cooler, the colorful spectacle of autumn will start to show her lovely presence to us.

Autumn should be declared an official holiday so that everyone can spend some time outdoors enjoying all of this beauty and celebrating the end of the gardening season. Hot apple cider to warm our tummies, a delectable s’more to satisfy our chocolate habit and a crisp, tart apple to munch on with popcorn these are what I love about autumn.

Email newsletter signup

Serendipity Gardens closed officially to the public with the beginning of September so that I could start some garden renovations that have been on hold the past two seasons while hundreds of people toured the gardens. Thank you to each and every one of you who took the time out of your busy schedule to tour the gardens and chat with me while we meandered through them.

Getting to meet and know all of you was wonderful, and I hope that you enjoyed the time we spent together. Because the gardens are an official backyard wildlife habitat I felt it was very important to teach people about why it is crucial to garden for the wildlife even if you only have a small space.

As I started with the garden renovations I have taken the time to sit quietly in each garden area and really look at the gardens and how they were being utilized by birds, bees, butterflies and critters. When you can sit and see what is going on you really can appreciate what God has given us.

The hummingbirds were abundant in the gardens all summer and so many of the flowers that I have planted were specifically for them. Now that fall is here and many of the perennials are done blooming my annuals have carried the gardens for the hummers. The zinnias have been great to attract them as well as the verbena bonariensis that is a self-seeding annual.

Although we didn’t have as many monarch butterflies as we usually do in September we did have them in larger quantities. I have swamp milkweed that they use as a host plant for the caterpillars, but you also need nectar plants when they emerge as butterflies. Trying to maintain a balance of annuals, perennials and self-seeding plants has helped to invite more and more butterflies into my gardens.

As the plants start to dwindle in blooms, the butterflies and hummingbirds will start their fall migrations. I always feel sad when I no longer spot them in the gardens because they bring me so much joy watching them. Soon leaves will be falling and it will be time to rake them up and put them in the compost pile where next spring they will provide me with “black gold.” Autumn can be a very busy time of the year for gardeners as they put the garden to bed for the winter and start spending less time outdoors and more indoors.

Memories of days spent with my granddaughter raking the leaves into a huge pile and then jumping into it make me a bit melancholy as she is now a tween and those days are gone of frolicking in the piles. Also memories of days when I lived in Iowa and my dad would have a huge bonfire where we would roast marshmallows, of my brother’s children raising pumpkins and painting faces on them and sitting around the picnic table watching the bonfire or looking at the night sky. Autumn splendor in every moment.

Even though I don’t grow perennial mums or asters in my gardens I do buy annual mums and put them in containers throughout the gardens to add color in September and October until we get a killing frost. The outhouse/garden shed is decorated with a colorful wreath and pumpkins are sitting by it making a very festive scene. My late season perennials like rudbeckia, Joe-pye weed, solidago and phlox give me color until October, and then I rely on foliage to add interest in the gardens.

While I was renovating the gardens I took a look around to see where I could add more of these perennials to brighten up the gardens in fall. Almost every garden area now has Joe-pye weed and phlox planted in them so I am excited to see the results next year.

I came across the quote by Edwin Way Teale and I thought how true it is: “For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together. For nature, it is a time of sowing, of scattering abroad.”

Many of the annuals in my gardens self-seed in the fall to produce flowers for me the next spring. I also collect seeds from many of the annuals to plant myself in the spring, this in itself is remarkable to me that I can take and enjoy a marigold all summer, collect seeds in the fall and then plant them in the spring and the cycle continues on.

So get outside and enjoy these fleeting days before the cold weather arrives and gray days of November. John Donne said: “No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace as I have seen in one autumnal face.”


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