The gardens are different each season of the year

Published 10:00 am Sunday, October 4, 2015

The deeply textured leaves of the ruby slippers oakleaf hydrangea adds much interest to the small garden, which  features it as a centerpiece. - Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

The deeply textured leaves of the ruby slippers oakleaf hydrangea adds much interest to the small garden, which
features it as a centerpiece. – Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hegel Lang

There’s more to a garden than just color, and it has taken me a long time to realize that. In the spring, summer and fall it is definitely color that takes precedence in the garden, but what about the winter months before the snow falls and all we see is black dirt? What do you feel about your garden then? W.E. Johns wrote this quote, and I have to say I agree with it. “One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides.”

Carol Hegel Lang

Carol Hegel Lang

When late September arrives, I wait impatiently for the sweet autumn clematis to bloom on the back fence. So often an early frost will arrive and with it comes the end of the blooms on the clematis. It breaks my heart because they don’t last very long and the fragrance is heavenly.  Another plant that I wait all season to enjoy is the ruby slippers oakleaf hydrangea that does not bloom for me because it is not hardy in zone 4. This plant has large oak-leaf shaped leaves that have a wonderful texture to them. The foliage turns a bright burgundy if we don’t have a hard frost before it turns color. The plant has grown over the years. I didn’t get it covered last winter and when spring arrived it was very slow to green-up. I had to trim off many of the branches.  Had I lost this shrub, I would have been just sick. It is in a very small garden at the back of the property, and it has become the centerpiece of it with the deeply textured leaves.

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When the rest of the flowers are waning, the grasses become the focal point with the billowy texture of the silky tassels swaying in the breezes. They will add texture to the gardens through most of the winter months and are easy to grow in containers or in the ground if they are zone 4 hardy.

Over the years I have learned that texture is so important to the gardens. I often consider the blooms on a plant to be secondary in importance. This summer I planted an ivy in the container on the fence next to the gazebo and then I added petunias for color. The petunias did not perform well so when late August came I pulled them out and tossed them into the composter.  This container looked very bare until I added some fall plants like ornamental peppers and then artificial fall flowers. As I looked at this container with the ivy trailing down, it reminded me of a waterfall, and I love the illusion it gave me. Now I have to decide what I will put in the container next year when I also add the ivy to have this illusion again.

Structural pieces also add interest to the gardens throughout the year as in my outhouse that I decorate for every season. It has a colorful wreath and pumpkins along with a yellow begonia that I moved to sit on the red metal chair and my cute rooster to give this section a bit of a country theme. Garden flags are used in some areas of the garden. They change with the season adding personality to the gardens along with the gazing balls. The large pergola adds structure and interest during the year and changes with the seasons as vines climb up it and bloom. In the winter the red devil sled and a winter garden flag adorn the pergola.

It is a struggle to make the gardens interesting in late fall after the colorful leaves have fallen before the snow covers it with a beautiful blanket of white. Trees, shrubs and structures become very important parts of the view of my gardens from the house at this time. The squirrels and birds add so much activity to the gardens that I love to just sit and see who is visiting them. As I begin cutting the gardens down and putting away some of the ornamental pieces, I wonder what can I add to keep me looking at them with the same appeal as the colorful flowers brought to the gardens. Perhaps it is time to just let them rest, but being the passionate gardener that I am that just isn’t an option. This is when I spend time reading all the garden magazines that have piled up and daydreaming.


“I really like the idea of feeling like you’re somewhere else when you’re in the garden.” — Larry Bellamy 


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