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How To Master The Art Of Fall Garlic Planting

When it comes to foods that pack a punch, it’s hard to compete with garlic. Not only does this delicious root add so much flavor and dimension to some of our favorite meals, but it has impressive superfood health benefits too. 

While growing garlic is an exercise in patience, it doesn’t really take much effort or skill at all. Here in Iowa, you can plan ahead and plant your garlic crop now in the fall. That way, you can do a large part of the waiting over the winter when your garden is frozen anyways.

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Growing Garlic at Home

The key ingredient to planting garlic is patience, but it’s a very straightforward and simple process. In the end, you’ll be rewarded with cloves that simply taste better than anything you could buy from the store. You’ll save a little bit of money, but most importantly, your dinner table will appreciate the step-up. The intensity, aroma, and nuance in your garlic flavor will make a world of difference for all your favorite savory dishes.

Fall Garlic Planting Guide

Plant garlic in the fall so that it has the cold season to lay dormant and then start growing as soon as the weather and soil warm up again. Any time before the first frost while the soil is still workable is possible, but the best time is in early October. This gives them a chance to develop a root system to help them endure the winter. Earlier in the fall might trick your garlic into growing too soon, and too late might shock it with cool temperatures too soon, meaning that your patience will be wasted on a failed crop. 

Start by choosing the largest bulbs, focusing on those that have the fattest cloves that you can find at our garden center in Iowa. Size matters, so be picky with your bulbs! Avoid any bulbs with visible deformities, mold, or fungus, or any that feel squishy to the touch. If you’re going to invest the time in your garlic harvest, you want to be sure to pick a winner to start with.

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How to Plant and Grow Garlic

Start by breaking your garlic bulb into cloves. Resist the temptation to peel them like you would while making a delectable pasta sauce—each of the cloves will grow into its own bulb with some time, but it needs the protection of its papery covering to do so.

Choose a part of your garden for your garlic that has well-draining soil, verging on sandy, to help prevent any lingering moisture around the sensitive garlic bulbs. Full sun is ideal. Ensure that your chosen area is free of weeds and mark it out so that you don’t forget where you planted your bulbs once fall comes to an end, the snow arrives, and then thaws again. Your garlic plants will hate competing with others and need to be grown alone, so leaving their area alone is important. 

Plant the garlic cloves 6-8” apart and sprinkle some bone meal in each hole as you plant. Dig deep enough that the tops of your garlic cloves are about 2” below the surface of your garden. 

Mulching the site will not only keep your garden looking pristine, but it will help to insulate your bulbs and save them from any cold temperature shocks over the winter. If you’re dreaming of delicious garlicky recipes already, investing in mulch will make sure that your wait is rewarded with a tasty garlic harvest.  

After planting, the waiting game begins! We recommend that you spend your winter digging up all of your favorite recipes to use with your summer garlic harvest. The garlic will do a great job of taking care of itself if you set it up properly, you just need to find a way to wait until they’re ready. Keep an eye out in the summer for the bottom leaves dying to show you that the wait is finally over and you can harvest and enjoy your garden treats. If you’d like some help getting started with planting garlic this fall, visit Ted Lare in Des Moines, Iowa, and our experts will be happy to help!

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Fall Container Inspiration

It’s not just back to school season, there’s a chill in the air that is the unmistakable beginning of fall. While many of us lament the end of summer, the beginning of the fall season marks tons of great new opportunities for your garden. It’s not yet time to say goodbye to gorgeous growth, here’s how to make simply inspired fall creations to change up your landscape.

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Fall Container Plants
Autumn presents some unique challenges that many of our summer stars aren’t ready to face. With cooler nights, less daylight, and generally harsher conditions, the elements of your fall containers should be adapted to thriving in fall conditions. 

Think of plants that excel in cooler temperatures that might not have been the focus of your heat-loving summer displays. Many blooms and plants are the idea choices for fall containers with their gorgeous colors that pop on an autumn landscape. Here are some of our favorites:

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  • Chrysanthemums “Mums” are a fall classic for a reason. The cooler temperatures of the late season brings out the most gorgeous blooms on these plants, making them a great choice as the center of attention in any container. With tons of different styles and variations to choose from, there’s something for any aesthetic and container, though we love the look of some warm-toned blooms to embrace the new season. 
  • Flowering Kale are all about spectacular colors, not function or edibility. Another plant that embraces the cooler temperatures of the late summer/early autumn season, flowering kale will come into its own at this time of year. 
  • Purple Fountain Grass is a cool choice for a pop of color that isn’t flowering. Hardy and tough, you might have included this grass in a summer planter but it doesn’t need to stop with just one season. We love the purple tones of this grass and the texture that it brings to fall containers, giving it a rustic edge that you can’t achieve with flowers alone. 
  • Snapdragons shine in the cooler temperatures at the end of the season but are the perfect choice of bloom for gardeners that aren’t ready to say goodbye to the showy gorgeous colors of their summer gardens yet.
  • Pansies are the ultimate relief for your summer garden transitioning into a fall look. While they might have been featured in your garden during the summer, cool conditions are where they start to shine. Trim back or take out the heat-loving annuals of your summer look and get ready to be dazzled by the bounty of blooms that your pansies give you to celebrate every last day of the season before the first frost.

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Fall Planter Ideas

Fall Window box Ideas: Create a fun and fall-themed window box by getting creative with your container. Take a hollow birch log for a rustic-looking container that is bursting with your favorite fall seasonal plants that is ready to perch on your window and cheer your view for the rest of the season. Simply hollow out a log, fill with soil, and plant! 

Focus on Fall Container Colors: The classic colors of fall are warm tones that range from yellow through red. While we love a hint of these in your fall containers, many of us get enough of these tones from our fabulous autumn foliage. Try including snippets of icy blue (try adding juniper for a unique color and texture) or purples (ranging from Violets to deep burgundy ‘mums) to add depth to your autumn display. 

Fall Containers Focus on Foliage: Autumn is all about the fabulous foliage, and there’s no reason to stop that celebration in your containers, too! Choose plants with interesting colors like Blackcurrant Euphorbia or Black Pearl Huechera for something bold that fits perfectly with your autumn aesthetic.

Fall Planter Pumpkin: Mix up your planter style to include something iconically fall-themed like a pumpkin. Hollow out one of these autumn gourds, but instead of carving a jack-o-lantern, fill it up with soil and some of your favorite cool-weather annuals. 

Autumn might mark the end of the summer but there’s still so much in store for your garden and months of stylish looks before the end of the growing season. Choose one of our stylish tips to create a fall look that is unique and beautiful.

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10 Best Plants for Fall Color

Fall is nearly upon us and we’re starting to feel that telltale chill in the air during the evenings. Some people lament the end of summer as the end of the growing season, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! Fall offers an opportunity for new plants and colors to shine through for a gorgeous new autumn aesthetic to enjoy for months before the winter settles in. Here are some of our favorite plants to focus on for outstanding fall color:

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Chrysanthemums “Mums”

No fall list would be complete without mention of one of our favorite autumn blooms, the mum. An incredibly diverse bloom, there’s a fall style available for anyone, with variations in both color and shape. With the right care, enjoy them from late summer until the first frost. These are great flowers to incorporate into your garden late in the season to inject new life, vivacity, and color.

Plant in rich, well-draining soil in a location that will receive plenty of sunlight. Try them planted in beds or as a container plant! Some mums can be planted in the spring to overwinter as a perennial, but many gardeners find that it is easier and very cost effective to just purchase them as a fall annual.

Sumac

This shrub or small tree provides great year-round interest, but it truly shines in the fall. Incredibly hardy, it is a foolproof addition to any landscape to step up the foliage and vegetation game. Enjoy the feathery, green leaves in the summer that turn to shades of fiery red when temperatures start to drop. The red fruit even survives into the winter, adding a point of interest to your landscape when the weather is dreary. 

Plant your sumac where there is a natural barrier to prevent the sucker roots from spreading too much so that they don’t take over your landscape entirely. Choose a location that gets plenty of sun and consider mixing in some mulch when planting. This perennial shrub will last for years, providing lots of color and variety to your home, from season to season.

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Goldenrod

Goldenrod is the perfect pick for the fall thanks to its autumn-themed colors that simply pop on the landscape. This perennial will return year after year with barely any care required, thanks to its being adapted to our native landscape. Blooming from late summer into fall, this gorgeous flower is a great addition to both native gardens and other landscapes. Although some people think that goldenrod causes hay fever, the real culprit is actually ragweed, which simply blooms at the same time. 

Plant goldenrod in full sun with well-draining soil and enjoy its low-maintenance growing style, requiring minimal, if any, additional watering. Thriving goldenrod plants will need to be divided every 5 or so years.

Pansies

This cold-weather favorite is sometimes forgotten about in the fall and only thought of in the springtime. Planting some pansies, or even pruning to rejuvenate existing ones, is a great way to make the most of the changing seasons and cooler fall temperatures. Pansies thrive in the cooler temperatures of spring and fall, so this is the time of year that they take over for the summer-bloomers. 

If you already have pansies planted, trim them back and treat them with heavy watering and fertilizer to get that skip back in their step. To insert fall life where it’s lacking, plant new pansies to be enjoyed until the first frost.

Toad Lily

Toad lilies add a little bit of exotic flair to the fall shade garden with their tiny orchid like blooms and glossy foliage that is often spotted or variegated.  They grow well in part sun to shade and prefer a moist spot in the garden. Treat them right and they will add some beautiful color the the shade garden during the fall months.  

Iron Butterfly

A native plant to Arkansas this plant will add a beautiful pop of violet purple color to the late summer and early fall garden.  Iron butterfly prefers a sunny spot in the garden but will tolerate a wide range of soils and handle drought conditions making it an extremely tough plant to add to the garden.  The fine needle like leaves will add beautiful texture to the gardens and the blooms will be adored by the pollinators.  

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Russian Sage

When you want a garden that not only looks good, but also smells amazing, Russian sage is the right choice! This perennial is very attractive, with silvery, green-gray leaves and purple, spiked blooms. Requiring very minimal care, this plant is great to add to the garden and then forget about, simply sitting back to enjoy how the lavender-purple blooms contrast against all our favorite fall colors.

Plant in full sun and well-draining soil—this perennial loves dry conditions. In our area of Iowa, add a layer of pine mulch over the plants in the winter to protect them from the coldest of temperatures; but remember to clear it away in time for spring growth.

Sweetspire ‘Little Henry’

With colorful features spanning three full seasons, Little Henry is one of the best shrubs for brightening up your landscape. Growing to about 3’ tall and wide and offering whimsical, white spring flowers and showstopping orange and red fall foliage, you’ll never get tired of seeing this beauty flourish in your yard. This easy-to-take-care-of plant can take full sun, part shade, and even full shade, if it is not too dense!

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Burning Bush

A commonly planted shrub in the midwest, chances are, you are already familiar with the bold beauty that is the burning bush. And for good reason—the fall color is simply amazing! Nothing else compares to the intense reds it provides in the landscape, truly transforming your yard into a picture-perfect fall getaway. 

Make sure to plant these shrubs where you have lots of space, as they can easily grow to 8’ tall and wide. Plant in full sun or part shade for best results, although they do tolerate full shade.

Serviceberry Trees

Serviceberry trees provide awesome spring and fall color, which is pretty rare among ornamental trees, as most just provide one or the other. Blooming white in the spring and providing a range of color in the fall, from yellow to orange to red—it all depends on the year and the environment around them. Plant in full sun to part shade for best results, but shade can also be tolerated as well. 

Fall is a time to celebrate all the fantastic colors that are available to us and to make the most of the entire growing season, not just the summer. Choose any of these great annual and perennial options for your fall growing season to inject a little color into your landscape!

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Weeping Willows & Other Weeping Trees

Weeping Willows Ted Lare Iowa

Weeping trees are a popular commodity in our area, and one look at their striking style is enough to tell you why. There’s something stunning and beautiful about weeping-style trees that adds an air of sophistication, whimsy, and elegance to your property. While the weeping willow might be the most iconic variety, there are actually lots of options to look in to if you want to add a weeping tree to your property for improved privacy and presence on your block.

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Weeping Trees – The Style Icon That Never Gets Old
These gorgeous trees add interest to your landscape all year long. Instead of growing in the vertical branching pattern we’re used to, their branches sweep downwards, creating a cascading effect that catches the eye with its uniqueness. 

As a style of ornamental tree, weeping trees are incredibly diverse. They range in size from massive mature trees with upward of 70 feet tall, that are ideal for a statement piece that provides functional privacy and style, to dwarf varieties that are more manageable statements for a space with less square footage. Choosing the right variety for your space is a very individualized decision that our design teams can help you with, but to spark the imagination, here are some of our favorites:

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Weeping Japanese Maple

These trees bear branches with delicate and lacy foliage that gracefully bend towards the ground. This ornamental tree is a best used as a specimen planting in a protected area due the fragile nature of their leaves.  They rarely get larger than 10 feet tall so they are often a good choice if your space is limited. They also have spectacular fall colors of bright hues of red, orange or yellow depending on the variety of tree you select.  Two of our favorite varieties are Tamukeyama or Ever Red.  

Weeping Redbud Tree

Another gorgeous flowering weeping tree, the weeping redbud offers cascades of blooms in the spring. Native to the Eastern United States, this flowering tree has no issues thriving in Iowa. The blooms are followed by a summer of bright green foliage to decorate your landscape. Our favorite weeping redbud variety is the Lavender Twist Weeping Redbud, which rewards the arrival of spring with a fountain of rose-purple blooms.

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Weeping Pine Tree 

Changing the pace from the previous trees, another one of our favorites is the weeping pine, a lovely coniferous specimen. With the weeping pine tree, you will be able to enjoy the most out of your evergreen tree in all of the seasons, rather than mostly only during the summer like other deciduous trees. Our favorite weeping pine is the white weeping pine, which is an elegant shrub with the eye-catching shape expected of weeping varieties. With proper pruning, though, this shrub could become a small tree, reaching heights of 12 feet. 

Weeping White Spruce

We love the stately form of the weeping white spruce.  It’s branches are covered with densely packed blue green needles which gracefully weep down.  While they can achieve heights of nearly 50 feet they never get wider than 10 feet which make them perfect for that sunny narrow spot in the garden.  

Weeping trees of any size are a great way to add some presence to your property with their eye-catching style and elegant shape. Whether you just want something small to be a piece of interest or a full tree to dominate your landscape, we have options to fit your lifestyle and home! Come visit our garden center to view our large selection of trees, weeping and upright!

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Seasonal Needle Drop

Evergreen Seasonal Teds Gardens Des Moines Iowa

We like to imagine that our evergreens will stay green forever, but that’s sometimes not the case. While your tree isn’t likely to go entirely bald in preparation for our chilly Des Moines winter like deciduous trees do, it isn’t unlikely to see a few needles shed to make room for new ones, especially in the fall. 

Any time your evergreen starts to turn a shade of yellow or brown, we’re quick to be concerned— there are several diseases, pests, and illnesses that could be affecting your tree. If you are noticing discoloration and needle drop, pay close attention to your tree. If the needles are mostly yellowing and dropping from the older branches closer to the trunk, then it is likely to be normal seasonal needle drop, also known as fall needle drop, and it is a natural part of your tree’s life cycle.

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Seasonal Needle Drop
Sometimes needle drop occurs so slowly that the aesthetic of your tree and landscape is never compromised, and you won’t even notice the exchange of older needles to newer. Needle drop is most noticeable when several of your trees start to lose needles at the same time– as a seasonal process, this isn’t unheard of. As a natural part of the life cycle, there isn’t much that you can do to fight it, and you’ll have to tolerate the yellowed (or reddish-brown) appearance of your trees for a few weeks to months. 

Throughout normal seasonal needle drop, you may notice color changes on the inner areas of your evergreen, and some bareness with needles carpeting the landscape under and around the tree, all before new needles emerge to take the place of the old.

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When Yellowing Needles Are a Sign of Trouble
Not all yellowing needles are a sign of seasonal drop, and knowing the difference can help to alleviate your concerns or direct you towards taking proper care for your evergreen. 

Yellowing early in the season or the yellowing on newer growth might be a cause of concern. Look for other causes like drought, pests (such as spider mites), or other symptoms in the needles, bark, or roots that could point to an alternative cause for the needles to be dropping out of season. Normal seasonal needle drop happens across the whole tree in the fall, so if you see yellowing in isolated parts of the tree, or discoloration starting in one area and spreading, it could be a sign of distress. If in doubt, our experts are willing to help diagnose tree issues if you have concerns.

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Evergreen Trees Prone to Seasonal Needle Drop

Not every cone-bearing tree or shrub is an evergreen, and different evergreens may drop their needles at different rates. Some deciduous conifers that grow in Des Moines, such as bald cypress, dawn redwood, larch, and tamarack, seasonally drop all of their needles in preparation for the fall, so yellowing and dramatic needle loss can be expected. 

For evergreens, each species has its own life cycle. Pine trees can be expected to shed every two to five years, while spruce might only shed every five to seven. Others, like the Eastern white pine, tend to have a dramatic shed every two or three years, dropping an entire year or two of needles at once before winter. You might have a sparse looking tree, but it’ll recover in the spring. The Austrian pine and Scotch pines are on the other end of the spectrum, easily covering the loss of their needles so that their seasonal needle drop is barely perceptible. 

It can be alarming to discover your evergreen, a stand-out star in many yards here in Des Moines, is dropping needles and looking sickly in the fall when you expect it to be green all year. Keep an eye out for the telltale signs of seasonal needle drop to explain the loss in needle coverage, or possibly for signs of illness that might be affecting your tree. With seasonal needle drop, it’s all part of a natural cycle intended to have your tree looking fresh and full again in the spring.

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Late Summer Garden Care

Late Summer Garden Care Ted Lare Iowa

There never seems to be enough of the summer to go around here in Iowa, and before you know it, July is behind us. If the words “late summer” make you nervous about the season slipping through your hands, you aren’t alone. But don’t worry, there are tons of ways to make sure that your home, garden, and landscape are top performers straight through until fall. Time to make the most out of the final month of summer left!

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Replacing Tired Annuals

The annuals that we planted in the spring are sprinters, not marathon runners, and some may be looking a little tired this time of year, dragging down the look and mood of your landscape with them. Once aphids arrive, it could be game over for some of these one-season plants. But this is normal, and your garden and planters still have lots of life left!

Summer annuals, especially the heat-lovers, are built for an explosive display of color and life during the height of our Iowa gardening season, so, understandably, they run out of energy when the nights start to cool off a little. They simply aren’t built to last for a whole season and have trouble adjusting to the cooling late summer weather. The solution is to pull them out entirely and replace them with a selection of late summer annuals that are ready to give your landscape a facelift. 

You’ll be surprised how much a splash of fresh-faced color improves the look of your home, and with late summer prices for annuals, it’s very manageable to do. Our favorites are pansies, asters, kale, and sunflowers for a late-season update. Also, late-blooming perennials are a good choice for some August color, as they’ll shine while the rest of the garden is lacking.

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Give Your Annuals Some Maintenance:

Sometimes your annuals don’t need to be pulled out entirely, and they look like they could thrive with a second chance. Many times you can revive your annuals in the late summer with some extra care so that they are ready to keep performing all season. 

Apply fertilizer, which works best when plants are on the dry side and not waterlogged. Even if there’s been lots of wet weather and moisture, it’s important to try to give your plants some fertilizer to fuel their recovery. If possible, move your containers somewhere with a little more shelter and prune back the plants so that they have room to thrive in the rest of the season. You’ll be amazed at their vibrancy and second round of growth, creating a totally flawless summer look.

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Plant Fresh Vegetables:

Just because the summer is ending soon doesn’t mean that you have to give up your fresh garden vegetables. These cooler Iowa days actually provide the perfect growing conditions for many of your favorite greens. August is the ideal time for growing lettuce, spinach, and even peas, which can withstand a little light frost.

Before you plant, check the information on the seeds to see how long it takes to grow to maturation. You’ll want to select plants that will be ready to eat in 30 to 50 days so that they’ll be ready to eat before the end of the season. Depending on how late in August you start (and how much you like to gamble) you’ll need to adjust your growing times. Thankfully, cooler temperatures and evenings make for crisper, more flavorful food, and growing produce is a great way to insert some life and greenery in your yard, all while receiving a pretty sweet payoff of veggies in return.

The end of summer is the time for the season to start winding down, but there’s no reason for your yard and garden to give up prematurely! By giving your landscape and garden a little pick-me-up in the tail end of the season, you’ll be ready to impress and entertain with a spectacular, thriving garden until the first frost of the season.

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Creating Shade

It’s no accident that many of us wistfully imagine a shady sanctuary, relaxing under the leafy boughs of a tree. The image of a perfect afternoon spent under the cool shadow of a tree has been romanticized by poets and painters for centuries. We can’t deny that there’s something nostalgic about letting our minds drift off underneath a beautiful shady tree – and what better location than from the convenient security of your own backyard?

When you think of creating your own backyard oasis, you aren’t limited to giant trees with decades of growth. There are some fantastic options that provide the shade and elegance that you want, some of which can fit into the corners of even the smallest suburban lots. Here are some of our favorites that you might have seen in your neighbors’ yards:

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Best Large Shade Trees for Iowa (over 30 ft tall and wide)

Ted’s Pick: Swamp White Oak

Tall, mature trees are destined to become landmarks in the neighborhood. Thanks to its faster rate of growth (compared to other oaks), Swamp White Oak reaches its mature height sooner, bathing everything around it in cool shade. 

Swamp White Oak is also well-suited to the landscape because of its high tolerance for urban soils. It’s tough, and yet also ruggedly handsome. The thick, straight trunk has attractive peeling, flat-ridged bark. Its leaves spend the spring and summer with dark green surfaces and white, fuzzy undersides. In the fall, the color matures into lovely shades of yellow and golden brown.

Other large shade trees to try:

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Best Medium-Sized Shade Trees (around 30 ft tall)

Ted’s Pick: Hot Wings Tartarian Maple 

It’s hard to beat a maple when it comes to fall color. What sets Hot Wings apart is the presence of red tones before the fall begins. During the summer, the branches bear clusters of bright red samaras that look almost like fruit or flowers against the brilliant green foliage. In the fall, the leaves take on a gorgeous display of red, orange, and yellow tones.

A fast-growing specimen, Hot Wings Tartarian Maple grows “out” as much as it grows tall, which gives it an attractive rounded habit at maturity. On top of offering plenty of shade and color, this maple is also very cold-hardy and has no trouble surviving a Des Moines winter.

Other medium shade trees to try:

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Best Compact Shade Trees for Patio Areas or Corners of Home (under 30 ft)

Ted’s Pick: Serviceberry

There’s so much to love about serviceberry trees. Not only are they wonderful choices for adding three-season interest, they produce delicious edible berries similar in color and flavor to blueberries. The Autumn Brilliance cultivar is especially beautiful, with its intense orange-red fall foliage.

In the early spring, the serviceberry blooms profusely with crisp white flowers. As spring fades into summer and the flowers are replaced with berries, you’ll notice your yard becoming a lot more popular with the local birds!

Serviceberries are medium growers, which allows them to look well-established after a few years while remaining compact.

Other compact shade trees to try:

These trees are great options for people looking to create shade in their backyard landscape. They provide a relaxing respite for you and your plants, soaking up the sun in any area where you’d rather not. Provided a little bit of space, some good soil, and simple regular upkeep, even a modest tree can be a practical addition to your backyard that gives back year after year. 

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Hydrangeas: When to Prune & How To Bloom

Hydrangea Ted Lare Iowa

Even just planting hydrangeas will have your garden dressed to impress as they amaze you with their style. These gorgeous blooms are a popular choice for good reason – they’re straightforward to care for, they thrive in an array of conditions, and their blooms just can’t be competed with. They’re stylish in a single tone, with color choices from blue, to pink, to white and options in between, and some are even able to bloom in a variety of colors on a single plant. 

Hydrangeas are already versatile and gorgeous, but knowing all of the tricks for how to maintain them best here in Iowa will have you pruning your way to the best hydrangeas on the block.

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(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Hydrangea Care

Thankfully, hydrangeas are beautiful even when they aren’t blooming, with elegant foliage that compliments the landscape around them. As great as their lovely leaves are, everyone knows that the main event for these popular plants is their stunning blooms. Knowing how to best care for them will provide your garden with better blooms every season. 

Although these flowers are versatile and can grow in many of our Iowa conditions, you’ll have the best results if they’re planted in moist, rich soil that has good drainage. Consider using compost to enrich the soil with more nutrients when planting, and each spring afterwards. Using mulch around the base of the plant is a great way to retain moisture at a more consistent level, all while preventing weeds from sprouting and ruining the visual effect. 

Choose a location for your hydrangeas that gets plenty of sun in the morning and is shaded from the afternoon heat. We suggest planting them close to larger trees as a great way to ensure the right sun exposure as well as protection from our desiccating prairie winds.

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(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

How to Prune Hydrangeas

Producing the best hydrangea blooms mostly comes down to proper pruning techniques. As the blooms for each season are set, you’ll need to be careful not to snip them off while you’re trimming, or you’ll have a year of lovely foliage but not much else. 

Pruning correctly relies on knowing where the buds set. With most species, like Bigleaf, Endless Summer, or Oakleaf, the new buds bloom on last year’s stems—also known as old wood. This is important to keep in mind so that you don’t clip them off when pruning. Old wood hydrangeas tend to bloom in the early summer. To prevent snipping away all of the best blooms for next year, prune old wood hydrangeas immediately after blooming ends in the summer. That will ensure that you can prune back the hydrangea without endangering new buds that will simply set on the wood remaining after pruning. 

Some hydrangeas, however, bloom on new wood, or the new spring growth. For these hydrangeas, like the Panicle hydrangea, pruning is simple, and you can snip back the shrub in the fall or early spring while the plant is dormant, before the buds are set. 

To simplify, check the label of your hydrangea when you plant to see what type it is to guide your pruning decisions.
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(Photo courtesy of NetPS Plant Finder)

Blooming Hydrangeas

Pruning is the most important factor in having gorgeous hydrangea blooms, but there are a few other factors that you can control to make sure that yours are the best of the best:

  • Keep the foliage clean and dry. Hydrangeas are prone to leaf fungus, which not only ruins the look of your plant but can weaken it and affect its ability to bloom to its full potential. Water your hydrangeas close to the ground to prevent muddy water from splattering the leaves, especially in cooler weather when fungus can thrive.
  • Concentrate your trimming on removing the oldest parts of the plant that produce weak flowers. Consider pruning aggressively to get the biggest flowers, but keep in mind that moderate pruning is the best way to have decent blooms on sturdy stems and avoiding a floppy appearance.
  • Choose the right fertilizer. Excessive fertilizing can result in a busy hydrangea with limited blooms. Stick to a 10-10-10 fertilizer for the healthiest plant with gorgeous flowers. Make sure to consult a team member if you’re not familiar with fertilizer formulas—the best fertilizers for houseplants won’t necessarily be ideal for your hydrangeas
  • Alter soil pH to manipulate the bloom color. Some hydrangeas can change the color of their blooms between pink and blue—though it’s usually easier to change from pink to blue instead of the other way around. Improve the tone of your alkaline-preferring pink blooms by boosting the soil pH with lime and fertilizers high in phosphorus. To change from pink to blue, you’ll need more acidic soil, which you can achieve by adding aluminum sulphate to the soil. The shade of blue you get with this color change is ethereal and stunning, and a rare color in the garden that is worth cultivating. 

Hydrangeas are a gift to our gardens with their heaps of blooms every year, and solving how to take care of them is easy once you know how to prune them. There are so many great choices when it comes to the perfect hydrangea for your home—it all comes down to what style and type of bloom is your favorite to enjoy.

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Adding Art to the Garden Artfully

Art in the Garden - Ted Lare - Des Moines

Gardens on their own are an expression of art, but sometimes adding a tangible piece of art to the garden can elevate the whole space in a new way. Art and gardens blend quite naturally together. There are plenty of garden and yard art ideas available online to help you get started. If you’re considering adding art to your garden, or if you’ve impulse-purchased a piece of art and need to decide where to put it, there are a few things to consider.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

7 Steps to Creating an Elegant Art Installation

1. Start with inspiration

There are plenty of options for finding garden art inspiration. The first one that pops to mind is Pinterest. Even if you don’t find much inspiration on Pinterest, it’s a great place to start a photo collection of garden art that you like. You can also gather ideas by visiting botanical gardens around Iowa and observing their art installations, wandering through your local garden center, watching garden shows on TV, attending home/trade shows, and even observing how your town or city has integrated art installations.

2. Refine your style

Once you’ve collected a variety of inspiring ideas, it’s a good idea to narrow it down. If you haven’t browsed through Pinterest before, now’s the time to start! You can easily review the things you’ve added and start to notice patterns in your choices. You can also easily remove things that you don’t love as much as when you first saw it. You should be able to see patterns in the personality or feeling your choices evoke. You’ll also notice consistencies in what mediums you like. 

Since a piece of garden art is going to be exposed to the elements year-round, you’ll probably want to stick with either metal, wood, stone/concrete, or something that will hold up to rain, high heat, wind, and below-freezing temperatures. Garden art pieces are most commonly sculptural, in some way. In fact, many famous sculpture gardens are planned exclusively to complement art installations.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

3. Source it

Once you’ve refined your style, it’s time to decide if you want, or if your budget allows, for a custom piece of art made by an artist, or a commercially available option from a supplier. There are plenty of options for where to find your art piece once you’ve decided what you’re looking for. 

For commercial art, garden centers and boutiques typically carry a nice selection of garden art pieces.  You can find art pieces that glow or move in the wind. As well as art in all sorts of shapes and sizes from contemporary to traditional.

For custom art, there are a few options you may not have thought of. Most garden centers and boutiques in Iowa (like us) are likely to have custom art from local artisans, so they’re still a great option. But if you want a truly custom piece, it’s worth doing a little more investigation to find an artist local to Iowa. If you like metal art, talk to local welders, machine shops, or blacksmiths. They may have someone on staff or know of someone who creates beautiful art on the side. The same goes for wood pieces— check with a local carpenter, cabinet maker, or furniture builder. For stonework, check with your local stonemason, concrete company, or landscaping company. We have a nice list of artists we refer our customers to help them create 

You can also often find artisans at local farmers and craft markets. We offer a spring and fall art market where you can find dozens of artists.  Several other popular art shows in central Iowa such as Artfest MidwestDes Moines Art Festival, and Reiman Gardens Art Show are some great ones to check out local artists. Don’t hesitate to reach out— most skilled tradespeople have a surprising amount of creativity in them and are capable of creating some amazing things with their day-job skills. There are plenty of talented artisans in Iowa, so keep your eyes peeled for something that aligns with your ideal aesthetic.

Last but not least, and perhaps the most obvious, you can check in with local art galleries, or browse through the Etsy marketplace online. 

If you’re artistic yourself, it can be fun to create your own custom piece of beautiful homemade garden art for your space. If you need some inspo, search for some DIY tutorials on fun, easy art projects to do at home.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

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4. Start simple

Some of the best garden art installations are the simplest. It’s a good idea to start with just one piece, or you’ll risk overcrowding or mixing too many styles that don’t mesh well together. If possible, try placing your art piece in a few different locations around your garden before permanently installing it. Leave it in one spot for a while, even a day or two. Notice how the light hits it at different times of day, and how it looks from different angles and perspectives in your home.

Once you’ve found the perfect spot, install it, or get it professionally installed. If you’ve had a custom piece created by an artist they can probably advise how best to install it. If you’ve picked up large commercial pieces, it’s probably best to consult with a local landscaping company, or your local garden center, about the best installation method.

5. Enjoy it

Observe and enjoy your art piece for some time, even up to a year. Notice how the plants interact with it, complement it, or don’t. 

6. Document the process

If your art piece is integrative, if it is part of a fountain, or if it’s a frame that climbing plants will grow over, document it throughout the year. You’ll love being able to look back on how your art piece has changed your garden over time. 

7. Consider adding another piece of art to your garden

Chances are you’ve fallen even more in love with your art piece (or maybe you secretly hate it now?!) Either way, after you’ve had your art in the garden for a whole year, you’re probably ready to add another art element, or replace the first one— whatever suits you. It’s your garden!

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10 Best Full Sun Perennials for Iowa

perennials for full sun in iowa feature

While we try not to pick favorites in our garden and every plant in our landscape has its benefits and chance to shine, there’s something about the sunny disposition of some full sun perennials that gives them a special place in our hearts. Filling that sunny spot with a reliable perennial that will thrill you every summer for years to come is a great choice, and there are so great perennials to choose from. We’ve helped to narrow it down with a list of our favorite full sun perennials to plant in our own landscapes:

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Allium 

These balls of purple blooms are a great addition to the landscape where they add something geometric and different in classic shades of purple and indigo. Looking at them, you’d hardly guess that these gorgeous flowers are actually close relatives to the onion. While these flowers aren’t edible, taking care of them also won’t make you cry as they’re incredibly hardy and easy to manage, even in a hot spot in the yard. 

While it’s impossible to make a bad choice with Alliums, we’re particularly fond of the Millennium variety, which bloom in such dense clumps you’ll be welcomed with a patch of vibrant purple in the garden in the middle of the summer. 

Beardtongue (or Penstemon)

Penstemon, also known colloquially as Beard Tongue, is a gorgeous flower that blooms in spikes of color. With little bells of plants blooming on a long stalk, there’s no shortage of showmanship when you include this plant in your landscape. Not only pretty to look at, but these flowers will enhance your landscape experience even more when they attract a host of pollinators and birds to your property, too.

While Penstemon comes in a rainbow of colors, we’re particularly fond of the vibrant Husker Red that has an interesting contrast between burgundy foliage and white blooms. The unique foliage color is a statement maker for your landscape that is ready to perform during the best days of the summer. 

Black Eyed Susan 

There’s nothing quite like a classic and in many instances, there’s a good reason that some plants have been a favorite for years. The Black Eyed Susan has that summer feeling that we just can’t get enough of this time of year, and performs well under the hot sun of mid-summer. For a classic look, we love the Viette’s Little Suzy for a compact patch of more blooms than other varieties. 

Coneflowers 

Another garden classic, Coneflowers are a perfect choice for elegant and simple color and attracting all of the local pollinators to your landscape. Coneflowers, with their uniquely shaped bloom splayed around a large center come in an entire rainbow of shades, thrive with very little help from you all summer. Coneflowers are a perfect example of how when something works for a long time, you just don’t need to do anything to fix it.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Coreopsis

Perfect for a sunny spot in your landscape, this flower is like sunshine encapsulated, blooming in gorgeous shades of gold and yellow for the ultimate summer look. For gardeners that want more bang for their buck this flower is ideal, offering long lasting blooms that are drought-resistant and easy to care for. 

We particularly love the Zagreb variety for its hardiness and versatility, growing in vast patches of gold, or Creme Brulee, which has larger flowers in greater quantity, growing in shades of buttery yellow. 

Daylilies 

These short-lived flowers live up to their name with each bloom lasting a fleeting day. Don’t worry, while their blooms are short-lived, they offer lots of subsequent flowers all summer long, so that you have something pretty to enjoy all the time. There’s something exquisite and classic about the aesthetic of a lily that adds an air of sophistication and romance to a landscape, and Daylilies are a perfect way to bring that style home to your yard. 

Garden Phlox

Blooming from July through September, planting Phlox in your garden is a great way to ensure that your whole summer is filled with gorgeous color. With heads full of billowy blooms these flowers are a statement piece to decorate your landscape. 

There’s a type of Garden Phlox for practically every color in the rainbow and more, so gardeners are sure to have something that is the perfect fit for their taste and style. For those undecided on a favorite shade, we particularly love Grape Lollipop (in shades of purple and magenta with light highlights) and Coral Cream Drop (offering bright blooms in shades of pink).

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fiddle-leaf fig plant

Russian Sage

Planting Russian Sage is a great way to ensure that your landscape is an experience for more than one sense — not only is the plant a gorgeous shade of silver and lavender-purple, but it has an intoxicating scent that is calming and relaxing, the perfect addition to a landscape you intend to be outside to enjoy a lot. The more sun, the better with this plant that thrives without very much intervention from the gardener. 

Salvia 

This fragrant bloom is a great choice to add to a part of the garden that you spend a lot of time relaxing in. Not only attractive to us, these blooms are incredibly popular with local hummingbirds, which you can attract to your home. 

Known for their rich display of flower spikes, our favorite of the Salvia varieties is Caradonna. With deep indigo blooms on uniquely dark stems, they make for the best visual impact of their family of flowers, ready to impress all summer long. 

Yarrow 

For the gardener that loves pollinators coming to visit their home, there isn’t much of a better choice of perennial than Yarrow. Not only is it practically a care-free addition to your home, but the heads of dense blooms are irresistible to your local pollinators that will love a native bloom that they recognize.

There’s a lot of choice when it comes to color palette for yarrow, but we simply can’t resist the berry-red tones of the Strawberry Seduction variety.