Garden struggles may be deterring, but press on

Published 9:00 am Sunday, July 20, 2014

Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hegel Lang

My Horticulture magazine arrived the other day, and as I opened it the editor’s note, written by Meghan Shinn, caught my eye. She was talking about one of the writers who had mentioned to her how much she loved doing the stories on gardens and the gardener because “you can see the love they put into it.” Meghan went on to write, “I know exactly what she meant by that, don’t you? There is a real love that goes into gardening. Gardening takes thought and effort. Sometimes it brings disappointment thanks to the weather or certain wildlife or even just our own expectations. To put up with this long enough to create and maintain a great garden — and I mean a garden that’s great in your view, not by someone else’s standards — you need to love it.”

Carol Hegel Lang

Carol Hegel Lang

That is a pretty jolting couple of sentences, telling us that we don’t need to worry about what others think of our gardens, but rather that we should love them ourselves and take pride in them. Sometimes I have to admit that I really do worry about what others think of the gardens, because when they come and walk through them quickly they are only seeing the bare bones of the garden. That tiny little seed that I planted and watered and then worried over when the temperatures dropped down on those chilly nights was maybe struggling to just get going on the day they were here and it wasn’t looking so beautiful, but I know the poor little thing has made giant strides.

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My rose bushes that have holes in the leaves from beneficial insects munching on them don’t get sprayed because of my commitment to not use pesticides, but the blooms are oh so pretty. Did they really look at the gorgeous blooms or did they just look at the ratty leaves and pass on by? How do I explain to them that they really do have to stop and smell the roses or any other plant that is blooming and not pass judgment because it wasn’t as beautiful as they thought it should be?

Perhaps they don’t know the struggles I have faced this year with the squirrels, when on a daily basis they are digging the plants out of the containers and those poor little root systems are having a tough time taking hold. The past two years, when we had heat in the triple digits and I spent most of the day watering the containers just to keep them alive, were so challenging. If they stopped by in the heat of the day and some of the flowers were drooping, did they pass judgment on the gardens? So many questions run through my mind worrying about what other people think, and in the past few weeks I have finally come to terms with what Meghan wrote. These are my gardens and I love each and every plant that is growing in them, even if they aren’t growing or blooming up to expectation.

Begonias and ivy in Lang’s oval garden resulted from a broken favorite container and a new planting scheme. – Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

Begonias and ivy in Lang’s oval garden resulted from a broken favorite container and a new planting scheme. – Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

My expanded garden may not look fancy, but it was a lot of sweat equity that I put into it on some very hot and humid days when I would rather have been in the air-conditioned house sipping a cool lemonade. No, there aren’t many flowers in them yet, but this fall I will be adding about 50 more lilies and next year they will be bordered with colorful zinnias. That was a lot of bricks that had to be put down and then newspapers to kill the grass and mulch on top of that just to get them to where they are now. The spruce was put in to anchor the garden and add winter interest and along the fence canna lilies will be blooming in a couple of weeks. My wren family didn’t permit me to finish adding mulch to the back of this garden, but now that they have fledged I can get back to work in it. Already I love this garden with the bobo hydrangeas and a bench to sit on.


Carol Hegel Lang is a green thumb residing in Albert Lea. Her column appears weekly. Email her at