Serendipity Gardens: Winter gives gardeners chance to plan

Published 9:00 am Saturday, December 9, 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

Even though winter doesn’t officially arrive until Dec. 21, my Facebook page is already coming up with a countdown to spring. With the lack of snow on the ground it really doesn’t seem like winter is imminent in my gardens. They might not be showing anything green growing right now, but I can still see the bare bones of them and remember where each and every beauty was before I cut down the gardens this fall.

Carol Hegel Lang

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Already the 2018 seed catalogs are arriving and I have started my list with a new tithonia (Mexican sunflower) that is yellow. That is really exciting for me as I love this annual as do the butterflies and before it was only available in bright orange. I will definitely be testing this one to see which color they prefer.

The birds and feral cats have been enjoying the heated birdbath that sits under the branches of the tiger eye sumac tree along the north fence. The cats climb up the trunk of the tree and then reach over the side of the birdbath to get a drink. The birds take turns sitting on the branches and getting a quick drink or bath. Why didn’t I ever think about placing it in this location before? It is the perfect place for me to watch the activity from my vantage point in the Victorian reading room, where I can see several of the feeders as well.

When the gardens are bare it gives me time to really look at the structure of them. It also gives me time to see what I need to do to make them even better for viewing when they are in bloom. So often I forget what they really look like when they are full of blooming flowers that hide the design of them. In many of my gardening magazines, they encourages gardeners to maker sure a person needs to walk around them to see everything, instead of being viewed from only one angle.

Along with that concept, I would like to add that you should make viewing places or little nooks and crannies where you can view a small portion of the garden that has a focal point. My gardens have benches everywhere just for this concept of viewing only a small portion of that particular garden. I like to have something very special that grabs a person’s attention. Perhaps it is a plant or a garden ornament that catches one’s eye.

At the front of the entry garden sitting between two bobo hydrangeas and with the large Eastern white pine providing shade behind it sits a small wooden bench. This little nook gives me a view of the backside of the cutting garden — now named the pollinator garden — where the colorful zinnias and tithonia invite the butterflies in to enjoy their nectar. It is a quiet place that provides a view of just the backside of this garden, a peak at the Victorian gazebo garden and if I turn either right or left the entry garden. Early morning and late afternoon sun hit this garden for a few hours. The rest of the time the tall pine shades the entry garden filled with shade-loving perennials.

In the backyard another of my favorite little crannies is under the large pergola with clematis clambering up the one side and morning glories on the east side. Both garden No. 1 and No. 2 are visible from this vantage point. These are small gardens bordered by the fence on the south and west sides with mostly perennials growing in them. When June arrives it gives me a great view of the William Baffin climbing rose that hovers over the gardens. Along the walkway are containers with colorful annuals and another hydrangea (pinky winky) that is a small tree.

I have been sitting out there on these nice fall days taking a careful look at these gardens as I need to make some changes in them and now is when I can clearly see what needs to change.

“Silently, like thoughts that come and go, the snowflakes fall, each one a gem.” — William Hamilton Gibson