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Whatever it is, make your garden ‘you’

Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hegel Lang

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

When I started gardening, I had only been married a few years and we had finally purchased our first home. It was just screaming for a garden. The only remnants of the former owner were a couple of peony bushes in the backyard, which were planted under a sprawling oak tree that gave them limited sun in the afternoon.

Like all new gardeners, I started out slowly because I knew very little about gardening. Even though my mother was a gardener, I had not bothered to pay attention to what she did and just knew that her garden was beautiful. Oh, how I wished I had a friend that could teach me about gardening.

Back then, the gardening shows on television actually taught you how to garden and are not like most of them we see now of magnificent public gardens on the East coast. This quotation by Angela Miller should have been plastered on my forehead: “If you have a good idea and a passion, don’t wait. Just jump in and start swimming.”

That is really what I did, and you sure learn fast from your mistakes. The number of flowers and roses I killed in my first years could fill a greenhouse. The biggest thing I can pass along to aspiring gardeners is not to be afraid to ask questions or check out the Internet for answers.

The first time I grew bush green beans I planted them along our garage because our yard was shaded with this big oak tree. I was hoping to at least get some afternoon sun for them and thankfully it was just enough for them to grow and produce a bountiful crop. Since then, I have learned to try different locations to see what the best location is even if the seed package says full sun or full shade.

There is a big difference in what shade terms mean because of dappled, half and full shade. Our oak tree was high trimmed and gave dappled shade versus a maple tree in my neighbor’s yard that shaded our garage most of the day.

Another bit of wisdom from me is always make your garden your very own — don’t try to make it just like another one you have seen. That doesn’t mean you can’t take some ideas from another garden and incorporate them into yours, but still make it your own. Your garden should reflect your personality. Even though my mother’s garden was beautiful, it would not have been perfect for me, so I took some of her cottage garden ideas for my own and when I look at it, I am reminded of her gardens.

Another bit of wisdom that I have passed along several times is that you don’t have to conform to the rules of gardening. Every gardener has heard that you should plant uneven numbers of plants to make it look good but sometimes I just don’t have room to plant three, five or seven and four-packs come in fours, so what do I do with the one left over? You have to use common sense sometimes. Have fun with your garden and don’t get all stressed out about it.

When you plan a garden or add another one, draw up a plan that shows the location of the garden and house, garage or other gardens so that you have an idea of what it will look like when it is finished. Include plants that you wish to incorporate, trees and shrubs to give you a general outlook of the garden. The easiest way to plan a garden is take the garden hose and lay it out in the shape you want the garden and then spray the area with white paint, so you can look at it for several days before you start spading up an area. Set things like cans or buckets where you want to plant trees or shrubs or even stick a post in the spot to give you a better idea.

“Unexpected intrusions of beauty. This is what life is.” — Saul Bellow