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Serendipity Gardens: Enjoying the little things in a life-filled garden

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.

Everywhere I look there is something that draws my eyes to it, which leads me to sit and enjoy for a few moments. The pagoda dogwood is loaded with berries that are ripe. The birds have been flocking to the tree and snacking on them. A young oriole surprised me the other day as I didn’t know I still had some around here. Robins, blue jays, chickadees and blackbirds are just a few of the birds taking advantage of this delicious source of fruit. On the suet feeder you can always find a nuthatch, chickadee, starling or many others who feast on what falls to the ground.

Carol Hegel Lang

The small birdbath sitting among the profusion of zinnias along the driveway had a robin taking a bath. He was enjoying it all to himself. My little girl fountain is a place for the small birds to get a quick drink. The chickadees often bathe there. The wrens are in houses in the front and back garden and they serenade me from morning to dusk. At the first sign of dawn the cardinals and wrens let me know they are awake which means I better fill the feeders for the birds.  Every night I take in the feeders because the raccoons come out after dark. They invade them, toss them to the ground and drink the syrup in the hummingbird feeders.

The garden along the driveway — my pollinator gardens — have been abuzz with, you guessed it — pollinators. The killer cicada wasps have been spending a lot of time on the rose milkweed, along with many different kinds of bees. Monarch butterflies, both male and female, flit from milkweed to zinnias and the few painted ladies are also sipping nectar from them. Only a couple of swallowtail butterflies have been seen in the gardens this year, as I only have two small dill plants for them to lay eggs on. No monarch caterpillars have been found, but there was evidence of them munching the leaves of the rose milkweed. 

If you are on Facebook, there are a couple of great local sites to discuss garden problems and solutions — including Minnesota Home Gardening — Zone 4b and Albert Lea Gardening Exchange, the latter is for Albert Lea area — that I am really enjoying being a part of and you might also. You can see some beautiful gardens, find solutions to problems, ask questions and find sources for plants that you are looking for.

One of the native grasses that I added this year was Chasmanthium latofolium, or northern sea oats. It is just starting to bloom, so I will be keeping tabs on it to see how it does.  The Salvia azurea (blue sage) has not bloomed, so I am keeping my fingers crossed that it will soon. The hoary vervain and monarda, or bee balm, are blooming. A few hummers have found them already. I just love sitting quietly and watching the gardens as they fill with pollinators drifting from plant to plant for nectar. The dwarf cherry is still not planted but it bloomed and produced fruit that was quickly devoured by birds. This fall I will need to find a permanent home for it in the front gardens.  The flowers on the hosta plants have had bees and hummers visiting them daily.

So much to see and so little time to just sit and enjoy it all. If I take a few minutes here and there as I do my garden chores, I feel so blessed to have all of this activity in my gardens. Even though I only have a few zinnias and cosmos, they still attract the butterflies to the gardens. I have already planned where and how many rows of both these flowers will be planted next year in the pollinator garden. My sunflowers this year really took over this small area, and soon the goldfinch will flock to them looking for seeds. Just think of all the color and sounds they will provide for me to enjoy.

“The hum of the bees is the voice of the garden.” — Elizabeth Lawrence