Reflect on the past year’s gardens

Published 6:02 am Monday, August 10, 2015

Tardiva hydrangea paniculata is now covered in blooms. After many years of drought, the rains this year have really helped them. Carol Hegel Lang/Ålbert Lea Tribune

Tardiva hydrangea paniculata is now covered in blooms. After many years of drought, the rains this year have really helped them. Carol Hegel Lang/Ålbert Lea Tribune

Now that the month of August is upon us, I have time to reflect back on the gardens this past year and how they did; my personal favorites and mishaps that I don’t want to repeat. Even though I have been gardening for about 40 years, each year is different because of the weather or the plants that I have chosen for the gardens. As a result, no two years are ever the same.  My biggest disappointment this year is the lack of zinnias and cosmos due to poor seed germination. I so look forward to July and my gardens filled with both of these gems to add color and to attract butterflies. This year I have very few of them.

Carol Hegel Lang

Carol Hegel Lang

It is hard sometimes to accept that when you have been gardening this long that sometimes you do have things that happen and the gardens are not at their best. For me it is just another lesson learned. I always make my own concoction of potting soil using a recipe that has always worked well for me by adding peat moss, compost and sand to bagged potting soil that I purchase. This year I tried a different combination and learned the hard way that this mixture was a bit on the heavy side and the plants were not getting enough breathing space in the mixture. Next year I will go back to my old recipe again. I love all of the ingredients, but I went heavier on the bagged potting soil with sand and it was just too much. None of my containers that were located in full sun performed well and the calibrachoas were pathetic for me. All but one of the containers has already been relegated to the compost heap that had this plant in it.  Surprisingly the ones in part sun seemed to do all right.

With all of the rain we have had this year my trees and shrubs that have been languishing the past couple of years with the drought are magnificent. The tardiva hydrangea paniculata has never had so many blooms on it, and it looks like it is snow covered there are so many blooms. The pinky winky paniculata that I transplanted in late fall of 2013 had only a handful of blooms last year. After a bit of trimming off some of the dead branches, it has flourished and is covered in blooms.

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The coleus that have come out in the last couple of years have been just wonderful performers in my containers whether in full sun or part sun. Next to the garage on what would be the north side of it this container only gets a few hours of filtered sun and the rest of the time it is part shade. The two plants that I have used the past couple of years are wasabi and trusty rusty for this container and let me tell you they are enormous and very healthy. The plant markers list these as full sun and shade with two to six hours of full sun. They do get fertilizer weekly and lots of water to keep them growing well.

The sun container with coleus requires watering twice a day because not only is it in a shallow pot, but it’s not in a very large container. When I planted each plant I had to squeeze the root ball free of most of the soil so they would fit in the container and then trim off a lot of the roots. The first month I wasn’t sure if the coleus were going to make it since I also trimmed them down to about three inches tall, but once they recovered from the shock they have done quite nicely.  In this container I have a sedge carex in the center with one honey crisp and sedona coleus on the front and back of the container. On either side of the sedge is ‘sweet Caroline green yellow’ and sweet Caroline light green sweet potato vine. I will definitely repeat this combination next year as they are planted in a cobalt blue pedestal pot.

My absolutely necessary annuals for containers are scaevola (fan flower) and angelonia (summer snapdragon).  Both of these plants are stellar performers in the heat of summer and love containers or planting in the ground. Thanks to everyone who has stopped by the gardens for a visit this year.

This quote by Mary Engelbreit has become my gardening mantra — “If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”


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