Serendipity Gardens: Preparing the gardens for cold weather and snow

Published 9:00 am Saturday, September 30, 2017

Adding a decorative item, such as a wind spinner , can add more color and motion to a garden. Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hegel Lang

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

With the arrival of fall, it’s time for me to begin thinking about what I need to get done, in the gardens before the snow and cold weather arrive.

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The obvious things are cutting down the gardens and putting away the containers and garden ornaments. But before that gets done I need to get out the camera and take some photos of things that I want to change in the gardens. Moving plants to a better location, adding more native plants and garden accents are always on the top of my list. So it is necessary to get some photos of the gardens as they are now in order to make a list of the changes to make next year.

Carol Hegel Lang

If you are planning on adding more color to your spring gardens, now is the time to plant those tulips, daffodils and alliums. For me, it also means I need to gather seeds from the annuals from this year’s gardens to save for planting next season. I will also sow seeds for my milkweed later this fall, when the soil temperatures are down to 65 degrees so they don’t germinate. This is typically around Halloween.

Perhaps you plan on adding some structures to your garden like a gazebo, pergola, fence, walkways or other types of hardscape. This is a great time to evaluate your gardens and then sketch the additions into your garden plans.

When everything is at its full height and width you’ll have a better idea of how much space the new design will take.

I love the colors of fall and the leaves tumbling to the ground. For me it means it is time to gather those leaves to use as mulch on the gardens. Some of them will also go into my composter to make black gold to use in the gardens next spring. You can never have enough compost!

Perhaps you are thinking of adding trees or shrubs to your landscape. This is the ideal time to plant those. Just make sure you keep them well-watered until the ground freezes. Trees and shrubs can also provide habitat for wildlife as well as food if they have berries. They also take carbon dioxide out of the air.

If you have a place to plant an understory tree can I suggest pagoda dogwood, a native small tree to our part of Minnesota. It grows about 15 feet tall and wide with berries in June. The birds love the berries and the fall burgundy color is gorgeous. The tree does prefer some shade, but after we lost our oak tree it has managed to do very well in full sun.

Another shrub-like tree is tiger eye sumac. The tree is a delicious lime green color that will add so much pizzazz to your landscape.

This is also a great time to find some cozy nooks and crannies in your gardens, where you can sit, relax and enjoy the beauty you have in your own backyard. This year I painted a small metal chair a purple color and have placed it underneath the sumac tree. It took me all summer to discover this would be a great place for a chair to enjoy the garden views from. A wind spinner was added to the gardens that I will enjoy all year long — especially during the snowy white winter days.

So as I go about the hectic schedule of putting the gardens to bed for the winter and getting the leaves raked up, I hope to spend some quiet time in the gardens and remember all of the beauty and serenity they have provided me during this stressful year. The birds, bees and butterflies have added joy to my life. So has just taking time to thank God for providing this place for me to speak with him.

“In the garden autumn is, indeed, the crowning glory of the year, bringing us the fruition of months of thought and care and toil. And at no season, save perhaps in daffodil time, do we get such superb colour effects as from August to November.” — Rose G. Kingsley