Serendipity Gardens: Winter a good time to prep for spring

Published 9:00 am Saturday, January 5, 2019

Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hegel Lang

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

Carol Hegel Lang

The cardinals have been plentiful at the feeders at dawn and dusk numbering from eight to 10 at a time. On this particular evening there were 13 of them; it was better than winning the lottery to see all of them on the pagoda dogwood tree. Grabbed my camera and videoed the activity and then posted it to my Facebook page, where everyone was so excited to see this event. If you want to watch the video, you can send me a friend request at Carol Hegel Lang and I will friend you so you can enjoy this spectacle as well as see all of the garden photos that I post.

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With another irruption — this time birds and not butterflies — many pinesiskin and red-breasted nuthatch have been visiting the feeders, much to my enjoyment.

The seed catalogs just keep coming, and my list is growing! One of my favorite zinnias the past couple of years has been Queen Red Lime and then I added Queen Lime Orange last year and I have to say they are gorgeous. Now this year they have added Queen Lime with blotch and Queen Lime green so of course I will placing them on my order list to try out. The lime with blotch is described as vibrant chartreuse with brilliant pink centers, while the lime green is a glowing chartreuse. Just the descriptions of them get me excited. The stems are about 25 inches while the flower heads are 2 to 3 inches.

Another zinnia I adore is the cupcake series described as a vibrantly-colored smorgasbord of scrumptious flowers with 2-inch blooms about 30 inches tall. The blooms double and open into puffy mounds of petals. Since I also grow my favorite Benary’s giant mix that grow to about 4 feet tall I need a few shorter ones in the front of borders. The zinnias are grown for the butterflies that are attracted to them as nectar plants in late July through early October. Whoever writes these delicious descriptions sure knew how to snag a customer!

Last year was a disaster for my tithonia with only one plant surviving, so my experiment of trying the yellow variety didn’t happen. This year I will be starting the plants and guarding the rows very carefully, as I really want to see the yellow variety and find out which color the butterflies prefer.

So far I have not received any catalogs with native plants yet and I am anxious to get that list going, as I know for sure that I will add more monarda (red beebalm – Monarda didyma) and bergamot (Monarda fistulosa – a lavender beebalm). They attract not only hummingbirds but also bees to the gardens. The compass plant (Silphium laciniatum) did not make it, so I will order at least one of those, as they attract butterflies and birds with their beautiful yellow blooms. They can have as many as 100 blooms on a single plant when mature.

Looking through the photos I shot of the gardens this past year is a sentimental journey for me as I remember how each and every flower bloomed, the beauty of birds, bees, butterflies and insects, and just the beauty of the gardens and how it blessed my soul. No garden tours this year, so the gardens are mine to work in at my leisure, and if there are weeds, so be it. Mother Nature is not perfect, and neither are my gardens.

As Ben Aaronovitch states in his quote — “In the winter she curls up around a good book and dreams away the cold” —that is exactly what I do. My dreams are of beautiful and lush gardens filled with every flower I love and serenaded by birds while butterflies fill my fantasy of flying. Who could not love gardening? Get busy, dream and then order your seeds to plant this spring and live in a world of beauty. Also takes photographs to enjoy during the cold winter months.

“Winter is a time to gather golden moments. Embark upon a sentimental journey, and enjoy every idle hour.” — John Boswell