Serendipity Gardens: So many different flowers and plants can be put in for butterflies

Published 9:00 am Saturday, September 2, 2017

Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hegel Lang

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

In real estate its location, location, location – but with my gardens it is all about the view of my winged visitors. When I started planning the cutting garden five years ago I asked myself what was the most important element of this garden? It was the view from the kitchen windows and the winged visitors.

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There was already the 40 foot long garden that ran the length of the driveway in front of this planned garden that was invading my mind, but I wanted something more. Even though the driveway garden is only one foot wide, it provided some late spring and summer color for me to enjoy. You would think that would be enough to satisfy me, but it wasn’t. When the zinnias bloomed it brought butterflies and hummingbirds, but I wanted more color and more visitors.

So my idea of for this new cutting garden was to expand on my desire for not only more color, but more nature that could be viewed from the kitchen. Cosmos, zinnias, larkspur, marigolds, poppies and other colorful annuals were planted from seeds to add immediate color that first season. It was lush and colorful, but could be viewed from only one of the five windows, which limited what I could see. After visiting the garden of a friend that had Joe-pye weed planted, I could see all of the bees and butterflies it attracted. I knew this gorgeous, tall, mauve-colored plant was what this garden needed for a centerpiece. This year it has out done itself.

The second year of the garden lilies, orange butterfly weed, phlox, bee balm, irises, blue globe thistle, bleeding heart, anise hyssop and a few tulips were added to hopefully add the punch of color I was looking for and to bring in more visitors. It also extended the length of time that this garden was in bloom. It just made my desire grow to see even more color and visitors from all of the kitchen windows.

The garden needed to be expanded for sure. The groan from my husband as I explained what I planned to do should have quelled this wild scheme of mine, but it didn’t. Then panic set in as I grabbed the can of white spray paint to mark the expansion out. Do I have enough old bricks for the border surrounding it? I don’t just use any bricks for my borders. They must be old ones with character. Already in my mind I could see butterflies flitting from flower to flower while birds enjoyed the feeder at the end of this garden. Back and forth with my garden cart I hauled bricks from behind the shed to the new garden. As I neared the end it looked like I would be short about five bricks. There had to be more bricks somewhere, so it was time to start checking all the places I stash them. Whew, I just made it using some of the broken bricks. Next it was to find someone to plow this space that was covered in grass. Everyone I called said it was too small for a big tiller and with the grass it’s not an easy task for a small tiller either. Luckily I found a fellow that said yes to the task.

My seed order was mostly annual cosmos and zinnias as I looked for a few perennials to add color and that attracted birds and butterflies. The wow factor that year far exceeded my expectations. Last fall I added purple coneflowers, rose milkweed, more orange butterfly weed and Karl Forrester oat grass to give some movement to this garden when the wind blows.

The garden, although not the prettiest with all of the weeds, has really been awesome as monarchs, swallowtails, goldfinch and so many bees and insects have been attracted to it. The squirrels planted sunflowers that bees and finches have enjoyed. The best part of it is that I have color and winged visitors that I can view from all five windows. Time to expand again!

“Happiness flutters in the air whilst we rest among the breaths of nature.” — Kelly Scheaffer