Guest Column: Winter, March weather a test of patience for green thumb garden-lovers

Published 9:00 am Saturday, March 3, 2018

Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hegel Lang

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

“I’ve banished winter, saith the spring, awake! Arise, ye flowers! Brisk breezes blow, bright sunshine glow and rouse the young year’s powers.” — Henry James Slack

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This will be my theme during the days preceding the arrival of spring because we all know what the month of March can hold for us, from blizzards, warm sunny days and thunderstorms to just plain cold and windy days.

For me, the month of March is never-ending. My desire to get out into the gardens becomes overwhelming some days. Sometimes my patience just really runs thin when Mother Nature tests me during this crazy weather month.

Carol Hegel Lang

Soon the migrating birds will start to appear in the gardens and I will keep my eyes focused to see the first of the robins as they arrive. Once the orioles and grosbeaks make it here, then I am usually pretty sure spring has arrived in the gardens. But there have been years when we had lots of snow in May, so I really shouldn’t get too excited.

How does one hold back their joy as we watch the spring ephemerals pop through the ground to announce their arrival? My crocuses have dwindled down over the last years, so the only patch I have is one in the small gardens in the backyard, where usually the snow has not melted when I spy them. Shortly after the crocuses show up, the daffodils start poking their heads through the soil right next to them.

The dictionary defines “ephemeral” as being short-lived, which means they bloom and disappear until next year.

The Virginia bluebells take up a large portion of the back half of the oval garden in late April and early May, and then by June the foliage has already started to dry up and they completely disappear until next spring.

As soon as the snow starts melting in March, I start dead-heading the blooms on the hydrangeas so they will be ready once the leaves start forming. Another task is to cut back the clematis that I grow to about 12 inches.

Before you do either your hydrangeas or clematis, you need to know when they bloom and if it is on old wood or new. Just Google the variety you have and you usually can get the information on when to cut them back. This fall I did not cut back the honeysuckle that grows on the fence, so I will just have to wait until it is done blooming this fall to do that task.

I was finally able to get the William Baffin climbing rose thinned out this past fall, as over the past few years there has been a lot of dieback in the branches. My intention was to cut it all the way down, but after I did the thinning out I decided to let it go for another year and see how it looks.

This year I am so looking forward to getting the topper on the gazebo on the patio so I have a shady place to sit on those hot summer days. It is also where I do my potting, so having shade is really appreciated.

With my husband battling pancreatic cancer the past two years, the topper didn’t get put on, and I sure did miss being able to sit out there during the daytime and enjoy the garden and birds.

As a child growing up, I was an early riser. I  would sit on the swing and enjoy my mother’s garden and listen to the birds and just watch the town come alive for the morning. This is still my daily ritual — even if the weather is not perfect. I want to be outdoors watching the world as the sun comes up and enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the gardens. It is a time to reflect on the beauty of nature that God has provided for me to enjoy and take care of.

“What can your eye desire to see, your ears to hear, your mouth to take, or your nose to smell that is not to be had in a garden?” — William Lawson