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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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Container Garden Design 101

container garden design

Container gardening is a design process that works like all art forms, when creativity follows certain guidelines. These aren’t rules, the guidelines are essentially hints on how to create a promising creation that performs well and looks its best. In container gardening, these guidelines are so broad that your imagination is the limit in creating gorgeous, statement-making designs in your own yard.

Containers are the trendsetters of gardening, they’re about creating designs that don’t have any commitments. While trees, perennials or landscaping may be about enduring statements, containers are meant for experimentation and following whatever you dream up each year.

Here are a few guidelines to have your annual statements looking their best:

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Back to the Basics:
A few guidelines to keep your designs gorgeous every year:

  • Choose whatever shape and size of container that works for you, whether that’s short, tall, skinny, or wide. To keep a good sense of scale in your design, your plants should be 1.3x taller than your container (so, the height of the container, plus another third).
  • Place your centerpiece according to how your container is going to be viewed. If you want to look at your container from all directions, the centrepiece should be in the middle, but if it is against a wall, the centrepiece should go at the back. This will drastically change how much room you have at the sides of the container for color and filler plants, so choose the width of your pot or groupings of plants to suit your ideas.
  • Remember to check how big your plants will get when you are buying and designing, so that you keep in mind how your container will mature over the season.

Container Elements:
Well-designed containers tend to abide by a rule of having elements of a centerpiece, plants for body and volume, and trailing plants. How you combine these in your own containers is very flexible, allowing for unique and personalized trendy designs that are guaranteed to work.


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flower baskets

The “Thriller”
These are your centerpiece plants. They provide a focal point and are usually the most bold architectural feature in your design. There are many different varieties of styles to consider here, ranging from straight and vertical grasses, to lush and leafy. The shape and form of your centerpiece plant will have a lot of influence over the shape of your container and the rest of the plants you consider.

container garden design

The “Filler”
Central plants can be either flowering or foliage, but they function as the body and bulk of your container design. They typically have a mounding habit and fill in the shape of your container. This is the ideal element to use for tying everything in your container together to make a statement. Keep proportions in mind to keep your fillers in synchronization with the rest of your design.

container garden design

The “Spiller”
Trailing plants provide cascades of foliage or flowers out of the container and provide an improved sense of height to your container. Including trailing plants with more volume can do double duty as filler plants as well, as they might grow both upwards and down. Good planning can make these robust plants a lush element of the design, instead of competitors for space. If you have a tall container, or a container you don’t like as much as your design, long vines are a great choice to mask parts of it. On the other hand, trailing lengths of vines might not look well-proportioned in a shorter container.

The aspects of a Thriller, Filler, and Spiller are architectural guidelines for anyone to play with in their own containers. Other aspects like texture, color, and scent are also great ways to experiment with new trends each year and craft container designs that are perfect for you and your home, every time.

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Succulent Crafts

Succulent Crafts Wreath, driftwood, picture frames, troughs

Succulent Crafts: Wreaths, Driftwood, and Frames with Succulents

The Ted Lare Look

Succulents are the gardening world’s current favorite, skyrocketing in popularity due to their unique jewel tones and stunningly symmetrical appearance, but solidifying their place as reigning popularity royalty thanks to their versatility. Succulents are absolutely everywhere, and for those of us that crave a little bit of a DIY touch to our home decor, they are the perfect opportunity to get our hands busy.

Here are some of our favorite ways to get crafty with succulents and create lasting living arrangements that are sure to be the centerpiece and talking point of any room.

Succulent Crafts Wreath, driftwood, picture frames, troughs

How To Make Succulent Wreaths:
Wreaths aren’t just for the holidays, and you can use this popular style and shape to make a creative decoration to enjoy all year. Most plants would never be able to tolerate an environment growing vertically on display, but succulents have strong roots and are adaptable enough to flourish – even sideways.

Gather all of your succulents and materials before you get started. Make sure that the wire wreath frame you choose is strong and specifically made for planting live plants. From there, there are a few different methods to choose from, depending on what you’re interested in and what works for your home decor:

Burlap and soil: You’ll need burlap, a wire wreath form, cactus or succulent soil, some fibrous material (like coco fiber), a hot glue gun, and your favorite selected small succulents.

Place the burlap liner inside your wreath form, molding it to the shape. Next, you’ll cut a hole in the center of the wreath and trim off the excess burlap, allowing the fabric to extend a few inches past the edges of the wreath. Fill the wreath with cactus soil, packing it in firmly. Cover the soil with a piece of coco fiber or other fibrous material and use hot glue to fasten everything together to enclose the soil underneath. Fasten the back of your burlap ring to the wreath, and you’re ready to plant.

Use scissors to cut holes in the burlap liner to expose the soil underneath, and then plant the loosened roots of your succulents right into the holes.

Sphagnum Moss: If the burlap method sounds too complicated and messy, a sphagnum moss frame is a great way to tidy the process up a little. It’s also the perfect choice for succulent cuttings that don’t have a great root system yet. You can purchase them ready to plant or you can make your own by filling up a tube of nylon mesh with loose moss. Soak your sphagnum wreath in water before you place it in your wireframe to get started.

Poke a hole in your frame through the mesh liner, and make space for your succulent or succulent cutting. Try mixing and matching bigger and smaller plants to create an exciting display full of color and texture. Once you have your wreath planted, you can tidy up the look by inserting some soft moss in the gaps to cover up the form underneath.

Lay your succulent wreath flat for a week or two after you build it so that the roots have time to establish themselves before their gravity-defying trick of growing horizontally. We also suggest laying your wreath flat when you water it, too, for better coverage and drainage.

Succulent Crafts Wreath, driftwood, picture frames, troughs

Easy Succulent Driftwood Planter:
Why buy a boring planter when there are perfectly good spots for your succulents in a cool piece of wood? Filling in all of the nooks and crannies of driftwood with succulents and moss is a great, earthy, and natural display piece that will catch the eye with unique forms and shapes to match its succulents.

You can shortcut and simply hot glue the succulents straight onto the driftwood, but giving them something for a base will help them to grow roots and last much longer. Glue some moss to your driftwood first to create a long-lasting display sure to please.

Finish off your artwork by fastening your succulents to the mossy areas – use hot glue, floral glue, fishing line, or craft wire for a secure but polished look. If your driftwood has any deep holes, you can always fill them with moss and cactus soil and plant your succulent straight into your display. Mist your plants to keep them happy and beautiful for longer.

Succulent Crafts Wreath, driftwood, picture frames, troughs

How to Make a Succulent Picture Frame:
What’s inside the picture frame is normally the most important part – displaying photos of loved ones and favorite memories to be treasured forever. We love the idea of making your home personal with photos, but your picture frame decor should match what you love! Picture frames and shadow boxes are actually idea homes for your favorite succulents!

For this DIY, you’ll need a shadow box or a glass panel picture frame with the back removed and some wood to make your own shadow box. We like using frames and boxes made of redwood and cedar, as they’re naturally water-resistant and will hold up more to time spent as an impromptu container. You’ll need hardware cloth, cactus soil, succulents, and cuttings – as well as some household tools, like a staple gun, a hammer, and some nails. Cuttings from plants should be given a few days to dry before you replant them, while whole plants can be planted directly.

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If you don’t have a shadow box, you’ll be creating one with your picture frame to give your succulents’ roots space to grow. Staple hardware cloth and insert it halfway into the box. You’ll be using this to push the roots of your plants through to keep them anchored, so midway or even at the top under the frame of your box is ideal. A half-inch grid should be enough to accommodate your stems but keep the soil locked in.

Fill your shadow box with cactus soil by pouring it on top of the hardware cloth and sifting it through the openings. Use a pencil to poke holes in the soil through the square holes in the grid and fill your frame up with plants! We recommend starting with your larger plants and moving toward smaller ones to fit them in more nicely next to each other – even if you have a favorite that you want to make sure is on display the most.

Like the succulent wreath, leave your box laying flat for a few weeks to let the roots start to settle and establish – as well as using greenings clips to keep everything in place. When your plants have rooted, you can hang your frame or prop it up on a shelf for a living display to go along with all of your favorite memories and photos.

Succulent Crafts Wreath, driftwood, picture frames, troughs

Succulents in Troughs:
For a display that’s a little more common sense and straight-forward, plant your succulents in a trough. They’re still more creative than a normal succulent container display with old planters, but they are more manageable for people that aren’t sure of their DIY capabilities. Choose from wood, terra cotta, metal, plastic, and even cement troughs for your plants, creating an aesthetic that both matches your decor and draws the eye. You can accentuate your darling succulents while still creating a lasting impact in your home’s style.

Once you’ve selected a trough planter, make sure that it is designed for drainage. If it has a solid bottom, you might want to drill some holes before filling with soil and planting or just layer the bottom with pebbles to improve drainage. Then, all you have to do is fill the trough with cactus soil and you’re ready to plant! These are the perfect planters for a tidy and neat succulent planting design to meet rustic style with your fun and unique container.

Once you start to think about the different and unique ways that you can plant beyond regular containers, the possibilities with succulents are endless. These are just a few of our favorite, creative DIY displays we’ve seen people come up with. Creating your own display is a fun craft, and it’s a perfect way to mesh together your personal style and personality with your home decor for something uniquely you.

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Designing and Planting a Veggie Garden

Designing and Planting a Veggie Garden

Recent trends have us using our outdoor spaces for both beauty and utility. What better way to take advantage of all that your home and yard have to offer than by growing your own delicious, natural, healthy flavors right outside your door? Vegetable gardens are a marriage between fashion and function.

Your family meals and dinner parties will all get an upgrade with the inclusion of a vegetable garden in your yard this year. For those starting out, we have some tips to make growing your garden as effortless as it looks. Here are some of our top Ted Lare tips for how to design your veggie garden layout and grow your own food this summer.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

How To Get Your Garden Started:
The first step is sometimes the most exciting, but can also be the most intimidating! The first steps are all about creating your vision for what your garden is going to look like. Here’s how to design your vegetable garden:

1. Mark off a plot of land that’s big enough for all of what you’d like to plant. If your space is limited, you can always put some of your garden in containers for a fun and functional garden accent.

2. Choose your edibles, focusing both on what you want to eat more of and what’s easy for a beginner to grow. We recommend choosing foods that you use lots of already so that you get to take full advantage of your garden bounty. There are lots of trendy and fun new varieties of every vegetable you can imagine, so you won’t miss out on anything cool if you only choose a few staples!

3. Check the needs of your plants. Planning is about logistics, too, so look at the frost dates of your plants to make sure they’re a good fit for Iowa, as well as checking their drainage, soil, moisture, and sun requirements. This information can help you choose where to plant, what can be planted together, and whether you need to fix your soil before planting. To garden like a pro, you can place some plants together to help each other out – like using the big leaves of your squash plants to provide some shade to your more sunburn-prone veggies! This all-natural solution can help to reduce the time you need to invest in your vegetable garden.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Starting Your Garden from Seed or Starter:
Most gardens are grown from scratch with seeds, or by transplanting little seedlings that already have the first few weeks of growth under their belt. For some vegetables, the difference is all down to preference. For others – like those that need warm conditions or have long growing seasons – starting with seedlings is a great way to cheat our short summers. When you use a starter, you can transplant young veggie plants in the warm summer soil once the spring season is done, without losing weeks of growing time!

You can grow your own starters in the early spring by planting your warm-weather plant seeds indoors in a seed starting kit, or simply pick up starters from the store.

Vegetable Seeds to Sow in Spring:
These are the cold-weather plants that love spring and fall, which thrive in cool temperatures and give you early tasty harvests. Sow them directly into the spot you’ve planned for them in your garden.

  • Lettuce and leafy greens
  • Radishes
  • Peas
  • Carrots
  • Beans

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Warm Weather Plants to Transplant as Starters:

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Cucumber
  • Squash and zucchini

Other Easy Plants to Transplant as Starters:
Some plants simply aren’t easy to grow from seed at home, so if you want to include these easy garden vegetables you’ll need to pick up a starter from the store.

  • Basil
  • Mint
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano
  • Green onions
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Asparagus
fiddle-leaf fig plant

Challenging Plants:

Not every garden edible is created the same, and some are a little trickier to grow and might not be the best choice for your first garden if you want to avoid lots of work. These aren’t impossible to grow and are still an option for more dedicated gardeners, but their special needs and higher maintenance schedule might have first-time gardeners frustrated. Save these garden favorites for when you feel like you can take on a project.

  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Corn
  • Eggplant
  • Melons

Your very own edible garden is the perfect compliment to all of the beautiful things already going on in your backyard. Growing veggies is a delicious way to taste the best of what your property has to offer, and a fun way to be nurtured by what you nurture at home. Your new garden vegetables will forever change the way you think about produce!

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Creating Sanctuary with Water Features

Creating Sanctuary with Water Features

The best gardens are more than just beautiful. Some of our favorite outdoor designs are where function meets beauty. Outdoor spaces that have been transformed into someplace unique to the homeowner and their tastes, while offering an oasis for them to enjoy their time at home. While the visual appeal is an important element, what you leave up to the other senses is what completes the experience.

From fragrant flowers to delightful textured plants, your personal outdoor space can be full of everything you want to experience. And what better place to relax and enjoy time with family, friends, and loved ones than a calming garden getaway that provides a platform for entertaining? The easiest way to add sound and tranquility to your yard is with a water feature. Not only are they incredibly personalized and customizable, they are simpler to install than most people think – especially with the assistance of our team of landscape and design experts to guide the way.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Why We Love Water Features:
The benefits of adding the sound of trickling water to your garden are clear as soon as you step into a garden that has a water feature. They also pack a ton of other benefits by boosting ambient humidity for your garden to enjoy, and providing shelter and water for your favorite wildlife and beneficial insects.

In terms of design, there are many reasons why people fall in love with the idea of having a water feature in their backyard. While they are certainly more than achievable for nearly anyone’s garden today, we can’t help but associate fountains and ponds with luxury. In ancient Babylon, Kings used water (along with feats of engineering and lots of manpower) to create lush tropical oases in the middle of the desert. More recently, in France, the royal family created impressive fountains and gardens for their opulent palace in Versailles.

These days there are so many customizable options that anyone can have all the luxury of the royal water features of the past in their own backyard. You’ll appreciate the benefits of having a place to go home and relax, even if you don’t rule a kingdom.

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The Benefits of Water Features:
Our gardens are our own sanctuary, so it makes sense that we optimize the space for sharing with loved ones and for relaxing. With the sound of water dripping and flowing, your whole yard is filled with ambient noise that promotes relaxation. The constantly moving water will also help to boost your garden’s health by increasing humidity, which your tropical plants will enjoy, and by attracting the right type of natural visitors to your backyard space.

Water features themselves offer a host of benefits to the overall experience in your yard, but they are visually stunning as well. There are so many options for types and styles of water installations, your options are endless for designing a beautiful water feature that perfectly compliments your existing outdoor aesthetic.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Water Feature Options:
There are a few basic types of water features to choose from. Depending on your ambition, you can opt for a pre-made feature, or something completely one-of-a-kind.

The simpler method of starting a water feature is with a fountain. These are easy to source and come in all shapes, sizes, materials, and prices. Fountains add a certain elegance to your garden – we can’t help but associate them with formal French gardens. This elegant solution comes with relatively simple upkeep and maintenance. They’re easy to install, are affordable, and often offer a simple enclosed system of circulating water that is easy to manage. While you can always scale your project to be bigger and more elaborate, the simplest of fountains are easy to add to an existing landscape design without much extra work.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Ponds are popular options for people that are willing to put in a bit more work and regular maintenance for a stunning centerpiece that really ties the whole landscape together. Instead of a feature in your design, ponds tend to be a commanding central point that focuses the entire look of your yard. These features add a naturalistic beauty to your yard that’s perfect for relaxing conversation spaces.

Waterfalls and water walls can either be incorporated into a pond or built to be free-standing. Waterfalls and water walls can be sculpted with concrete, granite or natural stone to create a dramatically beautiful focal point. Our experts are a great starting point for an ambitious project like installing a waterfall. With help from the Ted Lare design team, you can create a water feature that works well with your home and lifestyle, with the confidence that it will be done right.

However you decide to incorporate your water feature, you’ll be rewarded with an outdoor experience that rewards all your senses. Installing a new feature is an investment in your property as well as an investment in your time spent outside – for you and everyone you welcome into your home each year.

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Custom Designed Pool Installations

Outdoor Pool Design

Summer is the perfect time to dream of relaxing in paradise and what better way to wash away all of your worries than soaking up the sun and summer heat poolside! While we are lucky here in Iowa to have a truly dazzling assortment of beautiful lakes and beaches to relax on, the convenience of having your own private getaway right in your backyard simply can’t be beaten.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Why a Custom Pool Might Be Right for You:

Pools are not only a spot of recreational fun or an oasis of relaxation in the comfort and privacy of your own home, but they are also a natural gathering place for entertaining guests all summer. Everyone loves the idea of slipping into a refreshing pool with the convenience of home only a few paces away – and your family, friends, and neighbors will naturally want to join in the fun and enjoy the benefits, too.

With all the advancements in home pool materials and technology, adding a pool to your yard is no longer just about function, but it an opportunity for design, too. Your home pool is an integral part of your landscape design and your dream for the perfect backyard getaway – and you now have all the power to make the decisions for the perfect custom-fit pool to suit your needs and desires.

Along with the obvious aesthetic and entertaining benefits, your desire to have the perfect spot for summer relaxation cannot be understated. With the often extreme summer weather that we can see here in Iowa, many of us want to get outside to enjoy our outdoor spaces as much as we possibly can – and incorporating a functional pool into your beautiful backyard landscape is the ideal way to make the most of your entire property.

With all these benefits in mind, it’s also important to remember that a pool is not only an investment in your lifestyle, but an investment in your property value. An appraiser will help you determine how much value a pool can add to your property, but many pool design projects end up returning most of the money invested through an increase in property value that can be useful in the future.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Planning for Your Custom Pool Area:

A custom pool is a significant investment, but once you get used to the benefits of owning one, it’s hard to imagine life without it. Instead of travelling to crowded locations to try to relax, you’ll have a poolside escape mere steps outside of your back door – the perfect place for your weekend R&R or for luxury patio entertaining all summer. When you’re dreaming up your own ideal backyard pool, here are some things to consider to make sure the real thing lives up to your imagination:

There are a lot of things to keep in mind to make your custom inground pool everything that you want it to be. The process to design your pool is comprehensive, taking all above and below ground factors into consideration and balancing them with design, function, and style. Plan far in advance to make sure that you have enough time to get everything perfect – many people start their pool installation process about a year before they’re planning to take their first swim.

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After you’ve decided to take the dive into getting a pool and have a rough idea of what you’d like, the first step is to contact a pool design company. The design team that you work with will help to realize your dreams, making sure that all of the logistics line up. They’ll help you to get a handle on your space, design, permits, materials, and installation – all so that you don’t have to worry about them.

It’s important to remember that your pool is not just an idealistic spa getaway, but it is also a part of the greater design of your landscape as a whole. Designers will help with everything from making your dreams fit into your yard in a way that works to recommending and sourcing the best products and materials for you. A pool is an investment in your property and your future, and you’ll want the best and most knowledgeable help to guide you along the way.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Building a Pool:

You’ll work with the design team to decide on the particulars of your backyard landscape and pool design. You’ll get to make decisions about nearly every aspect of your pool so that it’s a perfect fit for your space and your family. Chlorinated or salt water? Concrete, vinyl liner, or fiberglass? Auto cover or manual? Shape? Hot tub and spa included? How do you imagine your new custom pool fitting in with the rest of your backyard aesthetic? Different design choices and materials all come with their own costs, benefits, and price tags, so it’s good to have the help of a team to walk you through finding the perfect fit.

Cover every detail of your vision for the perfect backyard pool installation that you hope to achieve, even if you don’t want to build everything at once. If your designers are aware of the big picture, they can help plan ahead to make every step work together seamlessly as you work towards your goals. They’ll also help you to manage a budget and come up with the preliminary design so you can figure out exactly how to meet those goals.

With a plan in place, you’ll get to get into all the little details that make your pool match your family and aesthetic perfectly, in addition to suiting your needs. Get creative with your designers and pick out the best finishes and details. Once you start pricing out different materials, like tiles and finishes, you’ll be ready to get excited about your final vision for the pool.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

The next step is the construction of your pool. As your backyard is transformed, there are usually inevitable modifications to the big design plan that can be worked into your vision as you see it come to life. Between excavation, grading, pool installation and other construction, final grading, planting, lighting, and touch-ups, you can expect your yard to be a work-in-progress for about 4-6 weeks.

Taking on a big landscaping and construction project in your backyard can be daunting, and the waitlist for good designers (and even the waiting time as your yard is under construction) can be difficult to get through if you’re excited about your new investment. If you spend your summer wishing you could be poolside with friends and family, enjoying the very best of relaxation inside the peaceful confines of your fence, then investing in a gorgeous and functional pool might be the right choice for your home – so dive in!

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Gardening Trends for 2019

Gardening Trends of 2019

A new year and upcoming fresh start in the spring is all you need to inspire the backyard retreat you’ve been dreaming of. While some staples of our backyards are so reliable they never change, there’s always something new and trendy to transform your living space into something ready to impress. Be warned, your friends and neighbors will be asking for your decorating and plantscaping secrets! Here’s all the inspiration you’ll need for updating your outdoor space this year:

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Outdoor Spaces for Multiple Purposes:

The traditional layout of the backyard is simple, but cookie cutter and unimaginative. The lawn may be nice, green, and lush, but only our kids and dogs are getting any use out of it. In 2019, we’re embracing new ways to make use of all of our property, all day. From outdoor yoga in your own backyard sanctuary in the morning, to afternoon games of pick-up football, to spending an evening with a projector and your favorite films, your backyard is there for you to enjoy! This trend doesn’t really call for any drastic or expensive changes to your home, but instead for a shift in perspective to do more of your daily activities in your outdoor space. If you have a beautiful space outside, lots of room, and privacy from neighbors, it’s time to think up more ways to get out and enjoy your own backyards.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Indoor Plantscaping:

We already know that we spend a lot of time inside, even in the summer. While it’s encouraging to think of all of the exciting ways that we can get out to enjoy our backyards when the weather is good, there’s just no escaping the indoors – and it shouldn’t feel like it needs escaping from! Whether you’re working a 9-5 office job, or cozied up inside escaping from the winter weather, the design of the spaces that you inhabit have a surprising effect on your mind and body. We all have to live indoors sometimes, so we might as well make our indoor spaces a little more lively with plantscaping.

Make room on your bookshelves for trailing plants, mini terrariums, and decorative vases next to your treasured memories and photos. Modern plantscaping in 2019 isn’t all about big statement plants, but also places a big emphasis on inserting plants into your spaces as they are. Your home is already the perfect place to display plants, and the addition of a little bit of green life is the lift that your spaces (and your mood) might need, especially if your decor scheme is very neutral.  

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Native and Drought Tolerant Plants:

Except a select few that make a nearly full-time hobby out of maintaining their garden and landscape, most of us want to spend more of our time outdoors enjoying our home rather than toiling away at maintaining it. Instead of mowing, watering, trimming, and doting on your plants all summer, you could be kicking back with a beverage and some friends, enjoying the natural beauty of your outdoor space. Choosing plants that are native to our area and drought-resistant is the perfect way to cater to the hot-dry heat we’re prone to Central Iowa.

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These plants are tough enough to survive our area’s climate naturally so they’re ready to look their best all summer without all of the work. Not only are native plants trendy, gorgeous, and convenient, but less watering is beneficial to the environment, too. Native plants are the foundation that your landscape needs this year to look spectacular and to provide the platform that the rest of your garden needs to make those accent annuals shine – while keeping your social time intact.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Growing the Next Generation of Gardeners:

Going ‘eco-friendly’ and maintaining a healthy relationship with our food is a huge modern trend, and part of it means passing on our passion for natural beauty and nurturing plants to a new generation. There isn’t much of a better life lesson to teach than how to nurture plants, especially within an edible garden that nurtures us in return. It’s even sweeter knowing that this is a hot topic moving into 2019, and that by handing down your knowledge and passion to younger kids, you can set the tone for a lifetime of ethical thinking.

Start with something simple like catgrass and easy vegetables. When kids are young they might spend more time exploring your garden than growing, but once they get older they’ll be excited to learn more and take on more garden duties.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Beneficial Insects in the Garden:

Not every creepy-crawly is created the same, and many are like a natural garden maintenance crew that help to keep your plants looking their best. Beneficial insects include popular favorites like Ladybugs and Monarch butterflies, who are not only beautiful additions to your garden, but also help to keep your plants healthy.

Ladybugs protect your plants from being ravaged by pests like aphids and mealybugs. These adorable and beneficial bugs are like a chemical-free pesticide for your whole yard.

Monarch butterflies, like the ever-popular bee, are important pollinators. This is an essential building block in your garden’s health, so it’s great to have such stunning and colorful specialists on the job.

Both beneficial insects are actually available for purchase so that you can jump-start your garden with gorgeous accents of living creatures that make your gardening duties easier! Just be sure to purchase from a reputable company, such as the ones we proudly stock on our shelves.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Say Yes To Mint:

Every year there are new color trends that are set to take over everyone’s gardens. We are in love with the shades of mint we’re seeing this year – after all, it’s more than just a delicious herb! Mint brings to mind freshness and rejuvenation, which is exactly what we’re excited to be seeing in our gardens this spring. By bringing this popular minty-blue color into your garden and summer containers, your garden design will get a fresh, on-trend pop of color.

Coral Comes Alive:

Another popular color this year is Living Coral, the Pantone color of the year. This cheerful shade looks electric in garden beds, borders, and container gardens. With so many new annuals available in this shade, it’ll be easy to add some Living Coral into your garden design. If you can’t get enough of this color, try one of our jaw-dropping hot coral perennials.

2019 is the year of smarter gardening techniques, eco-focused living, and relaxing color palettes. Make it your goal this year to achieve a stunning garden design that is environmentally responsible, and easy to enjoy. Your home can be healthy from the roots up, and embellished with the trendiest color of the year to make your living space up to date and beautiful to suit all of your needs.

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Landscaping Essentials for Building a New House

Landscaping Essentials for Building a New House

Homes are where we let dreams happen. A new home comes with a new start, and a new chance for your surroundings to reflect your family’s style. Home is the place we go back to every day, where we build our futures, and where we feel safest – it makes sense that we’d want to shape them to fit us and our needs.

New homes can also be overwhelming. With so much hope and expectation, it can be tough to know where to start. It’s important to keep in mind that there’s no rush. There’s a lot to be enjoyed about moving into your new home, and you don’t want to rush through the milestones. You don’t need to go from bare dirt to a prize winning garden in one month. Setting goals is important, but so is the process.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Getting Started with New Landscaping:

As you make plans for the construction of your new home, it is important to also think about the outdoor spaces as well.  As you select the size and layout of your home, think about how much space is left on the lot and how you want to shape the outdoors of your home. Think about the activities you want enjoy and how your new yard is going to accommodate them.  If you like to play sports in the backyard or are entertaining the idea of a pool area, then you want to create or preserve a large level lawn area for these activities.

Here are some general questions you can think about as you plan the build of your new home:

  1. What direction do I want the backyard and frontyard to face? Think about shade and sun, wind direction, and the existing views at different lots you may be looking at.
  2. Do I want the backyard to be shady or sunny?
  3. Will there be enough room on the sides of the home for lawn equipment to access the backyard?
  4. Will we want a privacy fence in the backyard?
  5. Are there views from the home you want to preserve?
  6. Are there other views you want to hide or screen with plantings?
  7. What size of patio or deck do you need?  Consider everyday activities with family and other occasions where you might want more space?
  8. What outdoor functional features do you want to include or plan for in the future? (firepit, outdoor kitchen, pool areas, shade structures, additional patio space)

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Spend a little time with your family talking about all of your wants and dreams for your new outdoor spaces included with your new home.  Then spend a little time prioritizing these different items on your list. Similar to the indoors of your home, you may need to trim some items off the list as budgets are developed for your new landscape construction.

As you get started building your new home, you will want to get a reputable Landscape Designer involved during the building process.  Our design team is the perfect resource for any new homeowner looking to get started. We’ll help you navigate the planning, design, and execution stages to guide you towards your dream yard. If you are looking for a truly unique design, try to get a designer involved early in the building process as you are budgeting for all of your expenses.  We can help with generating ideas for your outdoor spaces and shaping your own ideas into conceptual designs for construction.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Steps to Landscaping your New Home:

It can be overwhelming to landscape your entire home.  Here are the steps we recommend to prioritize your new home landscaping.

  1. Budget for Sod and Irrigation
  2. Assess how much you want to spend on the new landscaping for your home.
  3. Pick a Landscape Designer to work with and obtain Estimates for Hardscapes (pool, patios, retaining walls, paths, etc.), Tree Plantings, and Planting Beds.
  4. Review estimates for proposed work to see what fits your budget.
  5. Revise hardscape and planting designs to fit your initial install budget.
  6. Continue to refine the design and material choices as construction approaches

We recommend trying to get as much of the heavy construction installed upfront, such as patios and retaining walls, during the initial home construction. These items are much easier and less costly to install before your lot is sodded.

Tree plantings are also nice to get started early as well, as they will take a while to grow into large shade trees.  Other than that, the front planting will most likely be required by your development. Hardscapes, Front landscaping, and Tree plantings are the areas to focus on first. Other items are easy to take care of down the road.  

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Preparing for New Plantings & Sod:

A vibrant and beautiful garden is impossible without good soil, and setting a good foundation is a great investment in making your gardening and yard maintenance easier for years to come. With a new home you’ve got a great opportunity to set this foundation – without any landscaping in place you can address your soil before you get started with anything else.

Some developers try to cut corners by leaving you with very little black soil, scraping it off and leaving a frustrating and unworkable amount for you by the time you move in. As you sign contracts with your home builder, ask questions about black soil depths in the lot and what is expected after the final build. The deeper the black soil the better, as you will have to water your lawn less and any new plants will thrive in black soil, compared to compacted clay. Four inches of black soil is the absolute minimum you’ll need for a healthy lawn, but of course more is better and even required for things like gardens and flower beds.

Even if you’re confident you’ve received the promised top soil, it can be a good idea to supplement additional black soil while everything is exposed, especially for areas you plan to plant during construction or later down the road. A full dump truck of black dirt spread across your front foundation will make a big difference to your future plantings installed with your new landscaping.  We recommend having 12” of black soil for planting bed areas if possible.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Landscaping Design for your New Home:

The toughest exercise in self-restraint can be planning your hardscaping and waiting until you have a confident idea of what you’d like your yard to look like before you start laying down permanent fixtures.

Our landscape experts are the best source of knowledge to help set your plans and designs in stone. We can help you through the entire process, from preliminary planning and conceptual design all the way through final construction.  All of our designers have years of experience and the creative vision to help you build the new home of your dreams. Our detailed plans will let us help you do it right the first time. By taking the time to do it right, you can make the most of your opportunity to design a perfectly-customized outdoor space. When you are ready to start planning the backyard of your dreams, get in touch with your design team to get started.

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Decoding and Caring For Air Plants

The most popular trends in houseplant and indoor gardening is embracing the uniquely beautiful. From the jewel-toned, alien appearance of succulents to the broad-leafed tropical wonder of fiddle leaf figs, we’re embracing the plants that are like no other. When it comes to breathtaking and unique, though, nothing captures our eye quite like air plants.

Also known as tillandsia, these plants defy every expectation. They grow without soil, make the tall canopies of the jungle their home, and come in unique shapes and colors. We love the creativity that people have in displaying them in their home – after all, a home design and lifestyle as unique and exciting as yours deserves a plant that can keep pace.

Air Plant Basics:
Despite all of their unique characteristics, air plants are among some of the easiest houseplants to take care of. They’re slow growers with simple needs that cater towards unique ways of displaying them. Without the burden of planting them in soil, the options for them are almost limitless.

These plants survive mainly by taking in moisture and nutrients through tiny pores that line their leaves, so you’ll find that misting them regularly and occasionally submerging them is enough to keep them satisfied. With their easy care they’re the perfect plant for anyone – from those with a hectic schedule that doesn’t accommodate needier plants well to the houseplant connoisseur that is looking for a unique statement piece that brings something new and exciting to their home.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

How to Take Care of Your Air Plant:
Despite their nickname, these plants can’t quite make it on air alone. Their soilless life certainly opens up lots of opportunities to get creative with design, but they are still plants that have some basic needs to live and thrive. They’re easy to meet, but understanding the basics can help clear up some popular myths and confusion, and understanding how they work helps you to help them thrive.

Air Plant Care – Water:
This is the most complicated part of air plant care, but it’s actually quite simple – even if it’s different from what you’re used to with other plants.

These plants come from a variety of places, from tropical jungles to cliff sides, and the type of plant helps you figure out their needs. It’s not complicated, though. If your air plant has lush, green leaves, it’s likely tropical and needs water 2-3 times a week. Misting will help, but your plants will need a drink by being run under a gentle stream of room-temperature water. If you notice drooping or curling leaves, you can give your plant a better refresher by submerging them for an hour. Just be careful not to submerge any blooms, as they’ll dissolve!

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Plants with silvery-grey leaves are from more arid homes, so they won’t need water as frequently. Dial back your misting and watering to 1 or maybe 2 times a week. Watch the curling and condition of your plant’s leaves for hints about what you need to do!

Be careful to use tap water and never distilled when you water, no matter they type of air plant. Distilled water is so pure it will draw nutrients out of the leaves and away from your plant! Thanks to their pores, they’re constantly feeding, so air plants don’t really need fertilizer. If your heart is set on it, though, you’ll need to be careful not to burn them with something too intense. Use an all-purpose fertilizer at a quarter strength and no more frequent than once a month.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Air Plant Care – Light:

The second trick to a happy air plant is lots of light. Choose a spot for them that proudly puts them on display where they get lots of light – and you can appreciate them! The best spot is in a well-lit room, maybe near a window. They’ll even do well in offices with fluorescents, as long as there’s lots of light. Not only healthy for your plant, better lighting means that you can highlight your plant as much as possible. Given a bright and prominent place in your home, and it’s sure to quickly become a centerpiece.

Design Your Air Plant:
With care requirements out of the way, you’re free to imagine all the fun ways to bring an air plant home with you. While they don’t come with the same foolproof pot-on-a-windowsill design as some other houseplant classics, their unique look and needs opens the door to tons of fun and creative displays. A quick Pinterest or Google search will show you all the amazing things that people are doing to highlight their favorite air plants at home, but here are some of our favorite ideas that make the most of these unique and trendy plants:

Pre-made Arrangements: If you’re unsure or not confident about what to do with an air plant but you’ve fallen in love with their look like we have, it’s easy to still make a trendy statement. There are many premade options that you can select to bring one home – from driftwood arrangements to glass ornaments.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Terrariums: Making a terrarium is a great way to play around with combining your favorite sizes, textures, and colors to make a fun a stylish arrangement! Keep in mind the different needs of tropical and arid air plants as you mix and match to ensure that you have a creation with needs that are easy to meet, but embrace the flexibility of a terrarium as a display piece that makes it easy to remove and water your plants. Try adding other decorative elements instead of soil – like colorful sand or crystals – and even hang your design for everyone to see!

Wood Displays: Another fun way to get a natural framing of your plant that celebrates it’s unique soilless needs, driftwood or grapewood are perfect options that are ready for display. You can use fishing line or wire to attach an air plant to your wood piece, or you can even use a very small amount of floral or hot glue to keep it attached.

We can instantly see why these plants are so popular as our eyes are naturally drawn to them as a centerpiece in a room. They’re incredibly versatile and unique, and we love to take advantage of all of their special qualities to make something that stands out. For anyone that is bored of the same, traditional houseplants, wants to capture the newest trends at home, or wants something that they can be more creative with in creating a signature design, air plants are a versatile and charming option that won’t disappoint!