Four seasons of interest and three seasons of color creates the perfect garden

Published 9:00 am Sunday, October 19, 2014

Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hegel Lang

The perfect garden, is there really such a thing? We all strive to have the perfect garden, and I am no different than most gardeners, but how many of us really will achieve what we consider “the perfect garden?” Over the 40-some years that I have been gardening, each and every garden has changed as my skills increased. This spring I finally achieved “my perfect garden.”

Lang planted three sedum to give color and interest into late fall in her “perfect garden.” – Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

Lang planted three sedum to give color and interest into late fall in her “perfect garden.” – Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

So what do I consider makes “the perfect garden?” Four seasons of interest is my first requirement and color in three of those seasons. This spring I renovated the front garden. Slowly over the gardening season I have added plants, hardscape and mulch. When I started the renovation I knew that to make it my dream garden I needed to add some shrubs so that during the winter I had visual interest and color in this garden. Let me take a step back and say that this garden was started in the early 1990s with three pine trees, mulch and lots of bricks for a path and to border the garden. As the trees grew I knew it would be necessary to enlarge this garden at some point.

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The first plants added in this garden were hostas, tiarella and daylilies and as the garden grew shadier the daylilies needed to be moved to a sunnier location. Because the neighbor’s oak trees also shade this garden I went with more shade tolerant plants. In the very corner of the split-rail fence I planted a Miss Kim lilac because it receives morning and early afternoon sun. Next white bleeding hearts, astilbe and, where there was morning sun, daylilies and coneflowers were added. Later spring blooming perennials such as alliums, creeping phlox and Siberian irises added lots of color to this small garden. Pots of annual flowers were also placed in the sunnier locations of the garden for additional summer color.

This spring, as I started the renovation, the first thing added was a dwarf Alberta spruce that will give height to the garden as well as winter interest as the green of the shrub will highlight the snowy garden. Several daylilies, lilies, bugbane and mukdenia and more annuals in containers spread color throughout this garden. The path was extended to the front of the expansion, a birdbath was put in the center of the circle of bricks for the birds to use, and a bench was put in the unfinished part of the garden for me to sit and enjoy the space. The garden was not done yet because I wanted to add some small hydrangeas for year-round interest so two of the new bobo hydrangeas were nestled into the area where the bench sits.

Carol Hegel Lang

Carol Hegel Lang

At this point the garden was getting closer to being the perfect garden but a small area behind the bench remained unplanted as I tried to decide what to plant there. A visit to the garden center and I came home with three brunnera macrophylla that would be placed in the one small section, leaving another small area where I finally planted three variegated hosta. In the small containers I used patio gerbera in a lovely deep pink color and another container had my favorite blue plant, browallia. Along the split-rail fence tall red cannas added so much color from summer to hard frost as well as more height.

One small area remains unplanted and at the very front of it I added a catmint plant for the feral cats to enjoy sniffing and chewing, so hopefully it will make it through the winter. This little area will have annuals planted in it every spring to give color all season. I will also be adding a few more lilies throughout the garden. Three sedum are adding so much color and interest this fall, taking the garden from spring through fall with lots to enjoy. This has become my “perfect garden.” Will it change again over the years? Probably.

“It takes a while to grasp that not all failures are self-imposed, the result of ignorance, carelessness or inexperience. It takes a while to grasp that a garden isn’t a testing ground for character and to stop asking, what did I do wrong? Maybe nothing.” — Eleanor Perényi, “Green Thoughts,” 1981


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