Serendipity Gardens: Still winter, still worrying for garden

Published 9:00 am Saturday, March 16, 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

As I gaze out my kitchen windows, the snow piles are glistening in the sunshine like expensive diamonds, twinkling to catch my attention. It has been a few years since we have seen this amount of snow, and things in the garden are buried beneath it all. The outhouse is barely visible and the only part of the bottle tree that I can see are the colorful bottles. Tunnels have been shoveled to the birdfeeders and from the garage to the south fence. Roosevelt loves to run up and down it for exercise, barking happily, because he can actually move around without getting stuck.

Carol Hegel Lang

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Spring on the calendar is only a few days away, but my gardens tell a different story.

With all the snow this year, I am hoping that it has insulated the shrubs, trees and plants that I put in last spring and fall. Then I also wonder if the rabbits have burrowed down to nibble on these tender shoots.

It seems like gardening is never far from my thoughts, and how the gardens fare during the cold winter months is always a worry. I question whether or not they will survive the stress they are put through.

The sale garden catalogs have been arriving and tempting me to place a few orders. Then my eyes wander over to the gardens, and I am wondering if I will even be planting before the end of June.

One of my favorite annuals for containers the past couple of years is the Santa Cruz sunset begonia. The blooms are a stunning scarlet cascading over the sides of the container, and the serrated leaves are abundant. It is heat-, drought- and rain-tolerant and does well in shade, partial shade and full shade. The jury is still out as to whether or not I break down and place an order for six of them.

Another favorite plant that I use to add height and interest fill containers in the back part of my gardens and belongs to the elephant ear family. The teacup forms a distinctive cup shape, and when it rains the foliage holds its cup shape, filling with water until the stems arch to pour it out like a water feature. The other one that I love is upright elephant ear. The massive leaves soar skyward on strong stems to nine feet tall to create a magnificent focal point.

Both of these bulbs must be brought in for the winter months. They require partial to full shade, although some will tolerate full sun and make wonderful plants for water features like a pond.

The Maximillian sunflower is a plant that has failed to thrive in my gardens and should be so easy to grow because they are native to the area. This drought-tolerant plant can grow up to 10 feet high, so give it plenty of space if you plant it. The bright yellow flowers are a butterfly magnet, and it can withstand poor soils and intense heat. I have planted it twice, with no luck getting it to grow. Hopefully, this year it will grow for me.

Globe thistle is a gorgeous addition to gardens and will self-sow in the right conditions. The bright blue globes are drought-tolerant and prefer dry and sandy sites. When dried, they are wonderful cut flowers for bouquets. It is one of my favorite flowers in the cutting garden and adds so much interest in the late-season garden.

Is your garden in shade or partial shade? Try astilbe, with its feathery blooms in shades of red, pink, mauve and white. I do have a few in full sun, but they require extra water in those conditions. Otherwise, they do well in shade.

Columbine is an early bloomer in late spring or early summer that hummingbirds love to visit. They tolerate full sun to partial shade and are lovely in rock gardens. Another gem in shady gardens would be fernleaf bleeding heart, available in colors of pink, white and red.

“Springtime is the land awakening. The March winds are the morning yawn.” — Lewis Grizzard