Planning ahead is key for spring gardening

Published 9:22 am Sunday, February 2, 2014

Column: Serendipity Gardens, by Carol Hegel Lang

As the calendar pages are changed over to February it is time to get serious about what I am planning for the 2014 garden season. My seeds have been ordered, some have already arrived and I have contacted my local nursery about what perennials I have an interest in for this year and confirmed that they will be carrying them. Because the garden will be going through a major renovation I am planning to limit the number of containers planted with annuals this year until we have finished the project.

Carol Hegel Lang

Carol Hegel Lang

Last fall I started moving plants around as well as the ‘Pinky Winky’ hydrangea and took out many perennials that I just wasn’t satisfied with their performance. Now I will have to wait until spring to see if everything survived or if they will need to be replaced. Thankfully all of the gardens received a heavy layer of leaves to protect them from the freezing and thawing that goes on during the winter months and to help hold moisture around them.

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As soon as the snow and frost is gone we can start on the area between the Victorian gazebo garden and the west stand of spruce trees. We need to lay a foundation for the new greenhouse that we will be putting up in that area. The greenhouse is not large, only 8 feet by 8 feet, but it will be large enough to hold plants started from seed in the springtime and then to over winter tender perennials in containers surrounded by straw bales to protect them from freezing. The greenhouse will not include heat so I will be limited on what can stay there for the winter months.

I have already reserved several hydrangea paniculata that will be planted in containers and they include ‘Bobo’ and ‘Strawberry Sundae,’ both of which are meant for smaller gardens or containers. Another ‘Dwarf Alberta’ spruce will be planted along the split-rail fence close to the Little Free Library that we put in last fall. This is a great small spruce, and I have three others in the back area of the yard and really like how they add so much to the winter landscape in the gardens.

This past year I planted catmint for the first time in a container, and then in the fall it went into the cutting garden. I will be planting several of the Nepeta ‘Cats Meow’ in the same area as the ‘Walkers Low’ as I love how it tumbled over the container with pretty blue blossoms all summer as long as I kept it trimmed up when it started looking a bit ratty. I try not to plant very many new flowers until I see how they do in the gardens and whether it is something that I really like because it takes up precious space if you don’t like it.

A few years ago we planted ‘Diablo’ ninebark which is a small tree with peeling bark and gorgeous crimson leaves that also happens to have very appealing white flowers in the spring. I was so impressed with it that I intend to plant a smaller version this year of the Physocarpus called ‘Tiny Wine.’ This will be used in front of the ‘Dwarf Alberta’ spruce to add a complimentary color combination in that area as well as winter interest.

Several years ago I planted Lonicera sempevirens ‘Major Wheeler’ honeysuckle in the back of garden No. 1 but with the drought the first two years after planting and the fact that I could not get back to where it was to keep it well watered it died out on me. This year I will again introduce at least two of them to the gardens as they are a huge attraction for the hummingbirds but they will be in a better location now that the rose bushes are gone. Trying to add plants, trees and shrubs for the wildlife has become a passion of mine now that the gardens are a certified backyard wildlife habitat and ‘Major Wheeler’ is not invasive so it will be a great addition to the gardens.

This is the area south of Carol Hegel Lang’s driveway were she will be doing garden renovations. --Submitted

This is the area south of Carol Hegel Lang’s driveway were she will be doing garden renovations. –Submitted

With the renovation that we plan to do on the south side of the driveway by widening the border where the pine trees are standing it will give me more space to add some smaller shrubs that are attractive to wildlife as well as perennials. At this point I am not sure exactly what perennials I will be adding and only a few will probably be planted this year until I can sit back and really look at this area for ideas. Over the years I have learned to take it slow and get it right the first time and since this was a lesson hard learned I will probably procrastinate over this area for some time before adding very many plants.

If my readers take away only one lesson from my columns it is that you don’t have to plant an area all at one time, take your time and see what the area needs and what you have for sunlight in the area. Experiment with containers before planting to see if this really is what you want there and how it looks.Look at other gardens in your area and see what they have planted to give you some ideas. A garden is a never-ending project and you spend lots of money, so don’t feel it has to be perfect the first year.

“Despite the gardener’s best intentions, Nature will improvise.” — Michael P. Garafalo


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