May brings flowers, birds, color

Published 9:00 am Sunday, May 10, 2015

A sunny yellow pansies on a red chair and a rooster who is singing out his joy of the merry month of May provide a colorful arrangement for the garden. - Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

A sunny yellow pansies on a red chair and a rooster who is singing out his joy of the merry month of May provide a colorful arrangement for the garden. – Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hegel Lang

The merry month of May has brought us flowers and migrating birds to add so much color to our lives. The tradition of May baskets seems to have gone by the wayside, but when I was a child it was one of the very special days for children. Your doorbell would ring and a lovely May basket was left filled with candy. When my granddaughter was small I would always fill a basket for her, but over the years as she grew up I guess I let the tradition die away. Every day something is starting to bloom in the gardens and I for one am so happy to greet all of these beauties with a smile on my face.

On a daily basis I walk the gardens with my notebook to keep track of what is blooming and to find flowers that I had forgotten about. Last year I planted some new things in the expanded front garden and one of those flowers is red leafed mukdenia (mukdenia r. ‘karasuba’). It was late when I planted it so no blooms, but the fall color of the foliage was a gorgeous fire red/orange color. A low growing plant (8 to 12 inches tall) it was near the very front of a small section of the garden that is edged with bricks and against the brown mulch it was a nice surprise indeed. The requirements for this plant are part shade and a humus rich soil in a woodland situation. Now I wish I had purchased more of them.

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Another shady part of the border along the split-rail fence has some pretty spring blooming flowers called pulmonaria. For years I have had Mrs. Moon with its pretty flowers that look blue, but open to a lovely pink. Last year I had a bit of open space that needed more plants so I added two other varieties; variegated catchfly streaker has light pink blooms while raspberry splash is a much darker coral pink. Once the blooms have faded away I cut them back to the leaves that are an elongated dark blue/green with white speckles that brighten up this semi-shady area.

My bridal wreath spirea was not eaten down by the rabbits this year so it is actually blooming and brings back so many memories of my mother’s garden as she had a hedge of them along the driveway and then in front of the porch on either side of the step. Mom would cut bouquets of them and bring into the house to sit on the kitchen table. I wish I had more than one bush as this one is now almost hidden by the eastern white pine tree that has grown so large.

The expanded front garden had many new plants added to the mix last spring and summer and another one that was new to my gardens was brunnera. Two Jack Frost were planted in another small section behind the bench and later I added emerald mist. Once these are fully grown I might see how many more I have room for as the heart-shaped variegated leaves add so much to this area. Wispy panicles with tiny blue forget-me-not flowers are an added bonus in spring.

Cimicifuga, or snakeroot as some call it, was another new plant that I added in two different gardens. In the front garden black negligee with its lacey black foliage and later in the season creamy white flowers is quite pretty. In the backyard chocoholic with deep bronze purple leaves will have mauve pink to white bottlebrush flowers and it is planted next to ligularia ‘the rocket’ to brighten this partly shaded area along the fence. Ever so slowly these shady gardens are being planted with something other than hosta as I keep trying to add some more colors and textures.

Another thing I love about the month of May are apple trees that are in bloom all over the city adding a real wow factor along Fountain Lake. What must our nation’s capital look like when the cherry blossoms are blooming? Those beautiful and fragrant magnolias are also in bloom along with azaleas.

If you plant impatiens the bounce variety that is resistant to mildew are available locally at several garden centers so ask for them. Thank goodness they were able to come up with an alternative.

Robin Williams once said, “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’”


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