August leaves gardens dry for autumn

Published 9:00 am Sunday, August 31, 2014

Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hegel Lang

The gardens are starting to wane as we head into the month of September after a very dry August. Even some of the annuals are looking pretty sad. This is when the stars of the garden strut their stuff to give us some color and, for me, that is the hydrangeas. I have many lovely hydrangeas and this past year I have added several more to give me that extra bit of interest as the gardens start to die down. This spring I added two more paniculatas to the menu with strawberry sundae and bobo. Both of these are smaller versions meant for either containers or small gardens and I have to say, I really love them.

Begonias and celosia will add color in the gardens until a frost if kept watered and fertilized. – Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

Begonias and celosia will add color in the gardens until a frost if kept watered and fertilized. – Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

My daughter gave me four sedums from their garden early this spring and I am waiting to see what color the blooms will be as she didn’t remember the variety they are. Three of them are planted in the front garden and the fourth is in the cutting garden and they will extend the blooms in these gardens well into very late fall.

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The morning glories have been so colorful, scrambling across the fence and greeting me every morning. I just love them. The fuchsias are still going strong and will provide lots of nectar for the hummingbirds as they stop by the gardens on their way south. If you don’t have your feeders up yet now is the time to get them out. The key to keeping these lovely plants going is lots of water and a diluted liquid fertilizer once a week.

Rudbeckia, aster and mums play a huge role in adding color to the late gardens and I have planted mums in containers in places where the color is waning. I don’t plant asters or mums in the garden because I just don’t have the space for them but I always add them in late August to containers to give me that extra bit of color to extend the season until a good frost kills them.

Many years ago I added clethra, or summersweet, a lovely shrub with pink bottlebrush like blooms that really attract the hummers and bees. This shrub does extra duty in my fall gardens as the foliage turns a bright golden color that really stands out against the gray fence. My biggest problem is that I don’t have space to add more of these beauties or I would definitely make a hedge of them.

Finally this year, the tithonia I planted from seed is blooming and the five plants appear to have many buds on them, a far cry from the four blooms I had last year on all of them. This is a daisy-like flower that is bright orange and really heats up the garden with its striking color. This flower is very attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds, so if you have room for it in your garden you might want to add it.

Carol Hegel Lang

Carol Hegel Lang

The repeat blooming daylilies are still going strong as long as I keep them well watered. As dry as it has been the past month, this has been a challenge. A couple of years ago I ordered them through one of the catalogs I received and have been very pleased with them. The flowers are very large; the colors are nice and vivid with extra thick and long stems. They are well worth the extra money that I spent for them.

This spring I ordered axminster gold comfrey from another catalog after seeing the plant in one of my gardening magazines to use as an alternative to hosta, and let me tell you that I am very pleased with the results. The leaves are big and bold with gold streaks throughout them and the hairy leaves make them unpalatable to hungry pests.  It was difficult to locate but when I found a nursery in Connecticut that carried them they really bent over backwards to ship them to me. Thank you, Stan, at Variegated Foliage Nursery.

“There is harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been.” — Percy Bysshe Shelley


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