Serendipity Gardens: Gardener reminisces on time spent with helper

Published 9:00 am Saturday, September 1, 2018

An old photo of Carol Hegel Lang’s granddaughter, standng with a garden statue, brings back many memories for her. Carol Hegel Lang/Albert Lea Tribune

Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hegel Lang

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

It is hard to believe that my granddaughter, my garden buddy for so many years, just started her senior year in high school.  Where did those years disappear to?  She started with me her very first year. She sat in her baby carrier, under the shade of the pergola, while I gardened. I recited the names of the birds that sang to us and the flowers I worked around while weeding, watering and fertilizing.  The conversation was one-sided at that point, but I hoped she would learn the names of everything just from repetition.

Carol Hegel Lang

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As the years progressed, we built snowmen and sat under the branches of the trees, watching the snowflakes cascade down while we enjoyed our winter picnics of peanut butter sandwiches and juice boxes. When she was old enough, it was her job to get the kneeling pads out of the garage so our bottoms would not freeze while we enjoyed everything Mother Nature provided us. 

Fast forward a few years, and she helped plant flowers and seeds in the gardens as I patiently showed her just how deep they needed to be planted. I have kept a birding journal for many, many years, and she also helped me with that. She would get out the pad and write the names of the birds we saw. If I didn’t have the day’s journal started and the cardinals had already arrived, she would grab the journal and write that down. It was a wonderful way to teach her correct spelling while having fun.

Kiss-me-over the garden gate provided her with so many wonderful adventures. In the fall we pulled the stalks — that are similar to bamboo — out of the ground. Then we would strip off the leaves and flowers and put them in the garden shed over the winter to dry. She used them to make tent stakes, fishing poles and many other fun things. She and Buddy, our Bearded Collie, had many adventures in the backyard, and they always seemed to involve using those dried canes. Every spring she would ask me if we would have more of those flowers, which we always had plenty as they are a prolific self-seeder because she would need them for playing her make believe games.

Of course we always had to take the hose while watering and spray each other squealing as the cold water pelted our bodies. So many memories were made during those years.

Our little cement Polly was one of the first ornaments put out every spring so that we could take her picture with her in the gardens. Our little saying was “Polly put the kettle on and we’ll all have tea” was chanted as we found just the perfect place for her. Grandpa put up a swing for her in the maple tree, and we got a turtle sandbox and picnic table to make a cozy play area on the south side of the garage. That swing got so much use, and we would sing a little song that we made up as she squealed to go higher. It was so sad when that swing finally came down because the tree was getting unsafe to have her swinging from it.

Many years she would gather seed heads and petals of brightly colored flowers to make her “soup” recipe that she was so proud of. When we had Marley, our cat, she would sit on the bench under the gazebo holding him while reading to him as he purred. She was a lover of cats that is for sure.

Now the gardens are no longer of interest to her as she is a busy young lady with school, sports and a job, but I hope she will always hold fond memories of days spent with grandma in her gardens. It won’t be long and she will be in college. Oh my goodness!

“In revisitation and remembrance, we bring back that which is not always fresh in the mind but always familiar to the heart.” — India Hicks