Autumn arrives with a patchwork quilt of colorful leaves on trees

Published 9:00 am Sunday, October 12, 2014

Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hegel Lang

Autumn’s colors burn brightly on the trees in my neighborhood, looking like a patchwork quilt my mother might have made. Everywhere my eyes wander I see bright orange, red, burgundy and yellow color sparkling in the sunshine. The maples are awfully colorful this year and I am waiting for my red oak to turn but it is much later than the maples. The tiger eye sumac really catches your eyes as you walk into the backyard with the lime green, yellow and a bit of pink on it. The purples of the alyssum and phlox, the yellow and green of the bleeding heart foliage and the blood red Japanese maple really are pretty. Throughout the gardens I have placed bright orange pumpkins and some fall garden accents to add even more color.

Brightly colored maples can resemble a patchwork quilt of many different colors. – Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

Brightly colored maples can resemble a patchwork quilt of many different colors. – Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

My sweet autumn clematis on the back fence is finally blooming and every year it is a race with the killing frost to see if it will bloom. When we visit my husband’s family on the farm in September she has one that covers a bell tower that must be 20 feet in the air and it is covered with the fragrant white blooms; I am so envious of hers. Because mine is in a shady location it blooms later and, also, doesn’t have as many blooms so I should probably bite the bullet and get another one that I can plant on the large pergola that is in a mostly sunny location.

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This year I planted deep purple salvias in the container along the back fence and it has really improved over the summer months. Now with cooler weather it is beautiful and has really attracted both the hummingbirds and the sphinx moths to it. When I looked at the plant at the garden center I hesitated buying because I didn’t think it was going to be very pretty. It was such a deep shade of grape/purple. Luckily I found a pink calibrachoa that had a purple throat and the two together worked out very well. If I do this same combination next year I will also use purple alyssum as the spiller for even more color.

All of the hydrangeas that I planted this spring have done very well and I am keeping my fingers crossed they will survive the winter, especially the two planted in containers. What an added bonus these smaller hydrangeas have been in the small gardens where I was in need of plants that would complement everything else, but also add a wow factor, which they did. Now I am waiting for the ruby slippers foliage to turn burgundy and really make a statement in that small garden in the back. It has never flowered for me as it is zone 5 but the foliage is worth more than flowers to me.

Carol Hegel Lang

Carol Hegel Lang

Our fall weather thus far has been beautiful, even though we have had rain and now the end of the first week in October is supposed to turn cooler. The days of autumn just seem to fly by and then we will have those gray days of November and hopefully no snow.

Roosevelt loves the gardens and the other day, while I was pulling out the cosmos, he decided the daylily should also be cut down and he had foliage strewn all over the driveway. The three feral kittens hide in the cutting garden and will jump out at him if he gets too close. They don’t know what to make of this fluffy brown bundle of energy. If we let him off leash in the oval garden he disappears and the only way I know where he is is by watching the movement of the flowers. He loves the gardens, but it sure would be nice if when we called him he would come out of them. My gardens have so many critters in them and I enjoy watching him and the kittens as well as the birds and butterflies that share it.

“Then summer fades and passes, and October comes. We’ll smell smoke then, and feel an unexpected sharpness, a thrill of nervousness, swift elation, a sense of sadness and departure.” — Thomas Wolfe 


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