Serendipity Gardens: Looking ahead to getting hands dirty in the garden

Published 9:00 am Saturday, January 19, 2019

Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hegel Lang

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

It’s winter and I am already looking ahead to spring and getting my hands in the dirt again. I cannot wait to see color throughout the gardens instead of a blanket of white. Even though our winter thus far has been fairly mild, we have had enough snow to keep the gardens covered and protected. However, the mild temperatures lately have melted it down to where if we get some bitterly cold days, some of the plants will suffer from it.

Carol Hegel Lang

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Looking back at the 2018 gardens, they surpassed my expectations in spite of the crazy weather we had. Even being invaded by Japanese beetles didn’t really affect the gardens all that much. It seems like I have my usual plants that I put in containers every year that have been tried and true, but I also like to experiment with new ones or perhaps new colors. Coleus seem to be one of the plants that always makes an appearance in my containers, because they have varieties for both sun and shade and every year there are new colors available to try. Not being a big fan of either geraniums or petunias, I really limit the use of them. Instead, I use calibrachoa and petunias in place of petunias only. Begonias in all varieties are a must for me as they really give me a big bang for my buck.

The past couple of years I have used elephant ears to give me height and as a focal point in the very back part of the yard. There are a couple of new ones that I would love to try this year. Angelonia and lantana have become my must haves as the butterflies and hummingbirds love them. They come in a variety of colors. Cuphea, or the cigar plant or firecracker plant, is an absolute must for my hummers, and they flock to this plant. I plant three of them in a rectangular container and sit this on my patio and just wait for them to visit this plant. Mandevilla is another must have that is a gorgeous plant available in two varieties, and the colors are spectacular. I have used the trialing or climbing ones on my Victorian gazebo. By the end of the season, they have climbed to the top — another hummingbird favorite.

My shady gardens are filled with astilbe, hosta and shade-loving annuals like impatiens, begonias and wildflowers. In the sunny gardens, iris, daylilies, lilies, rudbeckia, phlox, zinnias, cosmos, Joe-pye weed, roses, coneflowers and many native plants add so much color. Hydrangeas in many varieties are used as accent plants or shrubs in all of the gardens and in containers around the house.

If you like hummingbirds, plant pentas in containers in a sunny location and watch the activity. I have a discarded patio table that I have many containers sitting on, and pentas are my go-to plant for this table along with lantana so I can watch the hummers up close. I also have containers of different heights sitting in front of the table to hide the legs of it, and both of these flowers are my choice, as this location faces west. The cement patio draws and holds the heat and both of these love that environment. Another great plant for hot locations is scaevola but it does need watering daily. If you have pets or children, please remember that lantana is poisonous, so keep it out of their reach.

If you want to get a bang for your buck, both daylilies and lilies will give you a long season of color. Many of the newer varieties of daylilies are repeat bloomers. I plant varieties that will bloom throughout the season so that I have color from June through late August. And don’t forget flowering trees and shrubs. Annuals provide many weeks to months of bloom and there are so many different ones available for a small amount of money, but as the name implies, you only get this one for one season and then they die back in late fall. Dreaming of spring already!

“In nature, light creates the color. In the picture, color creates the light.”    Hans Hofmann