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Letting the gardens go for the season

The September gardens are filled with color from mums, sedum and rudbeckia, adding to the joy of visiting the gardens. - Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

The September gardens are filled with color from mums, sedum and rudbeckia, adding to the joy of visiting the gardens. – Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hegel Lang

Spreading joy one flower at a time should be the motto for my gardens because every person that visits them comes away with something different. The month of August is my time to spend enjoying each and every flower in the gardens before I start dismantling them for the winter months. Even though the gardens were officially closed to the public beginning the first of August, there were only two days that I didn’t have visitors and now that September is here we still have people who want to visit.

Carol Hegel Lang

Carol Hegel Lang

When August drags on with heat and humidity — like it did this year — I tend to let the gardens go. I don’t fertilize weekly, but rather every other week and most of the plants don’t get deadheaded because I want them to stop producing flowers. This allows them to go into the dry-down mode so I can gather seeds. There is no way that I can refuse a visitor a tour of the gardens. I enjoy sharing the flowers and wildlife with them and just talking about the gardens brings a smile to so many of their faces.

Quite often visitors will share stories with me of their gardens or flowers that have meant something special to them and I love hearing about them. Every flower seems to have its own story to tell whether it is in my gardens or theirs. When the phlox are blooming it brings back memories of my neighbor behind the fence who lived there for many years before we bought our home and when it was time for her to go to a nursing care facility she allowed me to take some of her phlox for my own gardens. For many years I had enjoyed seeing these beautiful tall garden phlox in her gardens and then she kindly offered to let me have some so that I could love them in my own gardens.

When the white violets bloom in the spring, they bring back memories of time spent at Chet and Ethel’s home and all of our talks about her small garden that she loved. She loved her little garden at the only home Chet had ever lived in as this was his boyhood home. As they were getting on in age and their health started to deteriorate they were faced with selling their home and also moving to an assisted living facility, but the thought of leaving her little garden broke her heart. For Ethel this was probably the hardest part of the move and she knew how much I loved to garden so she asked me to take some of her plants so she could still come and visit them in my gardens. Chet passed on, but Ethel lived to be 100 years old. I would bring photos of the garden or cut flowers for her to enjoy. We both loved these flowers.

Over the years I have added many flowers from other people’s gardens and when I tell the stories of each plant to others they seem to find the same joy in them that I do. When someone asks about a particular flower I often relate the story behind it. When I started a different job and became friends with one of my co-workers who also loved to garden I was able to share many of my flowers with her over the years and now when I visit her gardens she will show them to me and I am able to enjoy them again.

Watching the joy on the faces of visitors to my gardens has made it so worthwhile to open the gardens to the public. Each and every person sees something different in them and perhaps it brought back memories to them of their gardens or someone special in their lives or encouraged them to garden when they didn’t think they had time or space for it. The thank you notes that come from them brings joy to my heart and then I realize that the gardens are a very special place not only to me but to them also.

Just recently I connected with some very special people through a gardening site and have formed some wonderful friendships with people who love to garden as much as I do where we share the joys of gardening and some of our success stories and failures.  Some of the seeds I have collected will grace their gardens next year and bring back memories of mine.

“My soul can find no staircase to Heaven unless it would be through Earth’s loveliness.”  — Michaelangelo Bounardo 

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