Serendipity Gardens: Some creatures welcome in garden, others not

Published 9:00 am Saturday, February 2, 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

James Herriott’s book “All Creatures Great and Small” is one of my favorite books to read, but I hate to admit not all creatures great and small are welcome guests in my gardens. Recently, just after most of the snow had melted and before the big storm arrived, I was putting Roosevelt outside for his last trip of the evening. I turned on the outside light, which I always do to check to make sure no skunks are in the yard. Instead, there was a big, fat raccoon staring me right in the face. I glanced over at the platform feeder about 10 feet away from this guy, and here was another one climbing up unto it going after the seeds. Then here strolls another one around the side of the gazebo. Once the light was on and my loud voice shooed them away, they all scampered off. This delayed Roosevelt’s trip outside for about 10 minutes until the coast was clear.

Carol Hegel Lang

Email newsletter signup

Skunks are my worst enemies because some of our dogs have been sprayed by them over the years. But those pesky raccoons rip open hanging feeders and drain the sugar water feeders I put out for the spring migratory birds and the hummingbirds during the summer months. As a result, I have to take the feeders inside at night. Grape jelly and oranges are also a veritable feast for some of these critters, so those feeders also have to be taken in every night. It’s not that I mind doing this chore to ensure the safety of the feeders, but sometimes I forget, or on rainy evenings I don’t really want to be outside.

One of the most delightful visitors have been my little green tree frogs. Only recently have they been visiting my gardens, and I look forward to them every spring. The dragonflies and damsel flies are another of my favorites and always make me wish I had a small water feature for them. Maybe to possibly even invite frogs or turtles into my gardens. We even had a pheasant one year that roosted in the neighbors spruce tree, while another year we had several mallard ducks. I love seeing what we will get next.

So far no deer, even though they are very close to our street. Having seen a small herd of them on Front Street, where the railroad track used to run across, I’m hopeful they will not make their way the two blocks to my gardens.

I keep watching for a praying mantis in my gardens, and thus far none have been seen.

Now that I am planting native species and not using chemicals, it seems like every year more and more creatures are visiting the gardens, much to my delight. The number of birds and insects have increased yearly, and I can’t wait until spring and the migratory birds pass through. This balance of nature has been awesome to watch. Yes, there certainly are insects I am not crazy about — like those Japanese beetles that came last year — but when you look at the grand scheme of it, you have to take the bad with the good for a balance in nature.

Over the years I have become more tolerant of creatures that visit the gardens, and I am learning so much about nature watching all of the different ones that call my gardens home. This winter having a flock of 13 cardinals has brought so much joy and excitement to me on a daily basis. The little red-breasted nuthatches that are regulars along with the pinesiskins make me want to get up every morning and go outside, regardless of the weather, and fill the feeders. Yes, some of those cold, windy and snowy mornings it would be nice to stay snuggled in bed, but then I know the birds need food to maintain warmth in these inclement weather conditions, so I put on all my clothes and head outside.

“Every gardener knows that under the cloak of winter lies a miracle… a seed waiting to sprout, a bulb opening to the light, a bud straining to unfurl. And anticipation nurtures our dream.” — Barbara Winkler