Serendipity Gardens: Spring approaching, gardens abuzz

Published 9:00 am Saturday, March 17, 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

This next week spring officially arrives, but the gardens have been abuzz with wildlife all month — even with all the wind, rain, sleet and snow we have received. The robins, blackbirds and red-winged-blackbirds blew in with Winter Storm Quinn during the first week of March and they are keeping me busy filling feeders. Also making an appearance is the handsome song sparrow who seems a bit jittery at the feeders if others are also feeding. As I peered out the back door, a large cottontail rabbit was eating seeds under the platform feeder alongside the driveway. It disappointed me that Peter Rabbit was not all decked out in his blue jacket like in the books and new movie that is out — maybe he had it in for cleaning.

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It is time to get serious about what we will be planting in the gardens, and even though I have my seeds ordered, there are a few plants that I also should place orders for. The past couple of years I have had a hanging basket on the large pergola with a Santa Cruz begonia. I have really enjoyed all of the beautiful orange/red blooms they have. My idea this year is to also have a couple of smaller containers that I have sitting near the outhouse filled with this gem that does well in full sun to full shade. They do require excellent drainage, so I will make sure the planters have plenty of drainage holes in them. I love how they cascade over the sides of the containers and then hang down, so I am hoping to make a big statement in this area by using them.

On my wish list is a book by Felder Rushing entitled “Bottle Trees … and the Whimsical Art of Garden Glass” that I am hoping will give me some wonderful ideas to incorporate into my gardens, as I would love to have a bottle tree with cobalt glass bottles in the front garden. Over the years I have seen Felder on several gardening shows, and he always has great artistic ideas to use in your gardens.

A great plant to add to your gardens for the pollinators, caterpillars and birds would be sunflowers. With their bright yellow flower heads and seeds, they really can bring in the wildlife quickly to your gardens. The seeds are high-fat fuel for migrating birds in the fall also. Another great idea is to check the National Audubon Society’s Native Plant Database for what natives will do well in our Zone 4 gardens.

I love this quote by Rupi Kaur: “Despite knowing they won’t be here for long, they still choose to live their brightest lives — sunflowers.” Last year “Our Iowa” magazine gave to all of their subscribers a packet of five seeds of giant sunflowers to grow, and then they featured some of them in fall in their magazine. It was such a fun idea and so many people participated in this event.

With spring comes dandelion season, and too many people spray their yards with chemicals to get rid of them, but they play an important part in the life of pollinators, especially female bees who are just coming out of hibernation, and they nourish indigo buntings and goldfinch on their spring migration.

Please think twice before obliterating them from your yards.

It won’t be long before gardeners are starting seeds indoors to plant outside when the weather gets warmer in their gardens, but many of the vegetables will do very well when planted in containers if you don’t have space for a garden. If you have a shady area, lettuce, spinach, bush beans, scallions, radishes, kale Swiss chard and some herbs do well in light shade with only 4 to 6 hours of sun. Just think how wonderful fresh-from-the-garden veggies will taste later on. Mascotte bush beans are great for containers and will produce a heavy crop of slender green beans for your enjoyment.

Enjoy watching spring arrive!

“Down in the forest something stirred: it was only the note of a bird.” — Harold Simpson