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Why We Need to Diversify Urban Landscapes: The Urban Forest

different types of trees in a landscape ted lare

Bio-diversity is an essential feature of a healthy and thriving eco-system. Not only is diversity better for wildlife, but it’s best for plants and trees as well. In recent history, urban forests have been sadly lacking in variety. 

Urban forests, in the broadest sense, are the entire tree and shrub community within an urban area, including the trees in parks, on public boulevards, or that beautiful Oak tree on your neighbor’s front yard. 

Every tree within city limits makes up a part of the urban forest.

Unfortunately, for the last 50-100 years, developers have tended to plant hundreds of just one tree species in our urban environments. While these uniform landscapes may look nice for a few years, this can cause huge environmental issues in the long run.

Having a tree monoculture means the entire urban forest is much more susceptible to an outbreak of disease or infestation of exotic pests. We’ve seen entire blocks of Elm trees destroyed by Dutch Elm Disease. Many of those neighborhoods were then replanted with Ash trees, which are now being attacked by Emerald Ash Borer. 

When an entire community of trees is decimated so quickly, it has far-reaching ripple effects on many other parts of the environment. It’s an environmental disaster. 

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Losing all the mature trees in an area has a significant negative impact on the native bird, mammal, and bug populations. Less tree diversity or loss of trees in an area will also affect the bio-diversity of smaller native plants that need the protection of trees to live. Furthermore, it affects air quality, ambient temperature, water retention, and erosion in a neighborhood. 

Besides all these environmental impacts, it affects your pocketbook, too. Property values drop in neighborhoods without trees, or where trees are sparse or immature. Communities without a canopy of shade trees experience higher utility bills for heating and cooling. And, homes without trees are more susceptible to damage from high winds because there is no windbreak. 

Tree Diversity for Healthier Communities

Studies show that when a variety of tree types are planted in an area, it slows and reduces pest infestations and disease. If there are only 2-3 of any given species of tree in a neighborhood, the impact of an invasive pest of disease on the community tree canopy is far less devastating. As a result, there will be less of an impact on the community overall. 

Many cities across the US have been working hard to change the ways they plant trees to develop more of a healthy mix on public land. Unfortunately, the importance of tree diversity has not yet been realized by developers, HOA’s, and private landowners. Many neighborhoods, residential and commercial, are still being planted with large populations of one type of tree. Recent calculations show that 80% of new trees being planted today are Oak or Maple varieties. 

You Can Help Improve Biodiversity In Your Yard

One way to help is to take a look around your neighborhood when you’re getting ready to plant trees. Make a list of all the different types of trees you see, bring it with you to the garden center, and do your best to plant something that isn’t on the list. 

If you’re not sure how to identify types of trees, take some clear photos and bring them with you to the nursery. A picture of the whole tree and a close-up photo of a leaf will give our staff a chance to help you identify which trees live in your neighborhood. 

There are so many unique trees to plant, and many of them feature beautiful fall colors in shades you may not have even realized were available!

5 Unique Trees To Plant In Your Yard 

Here are five types of trees that look beautiful, grow well in Iowa, and aren’t common in urban developments.

 

Fort McNair Horse Chestnut Ted Lare

Fort McNair Horse Chestnut 

A fantastic specimen tree that’s well suited for Iowa climates. Growing to heights of 35’ tall and up to 25’ wide, this tree has a nicely-rounded growth habit with beautiful pink, showy flowers that emerge in spring. Grows best in full sun or partial shade, and has great disease resistance to boot! 

 

American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

Sycamore is a large tree, growing up to 75-100′ tall with 50′ canopy. It features rounded and balanced upright growth. It’s a relatively fast-growing and stately tree with beautiful two-tone bark. Its fall color features a range of brilliant yellows and golds. 

 

Tulip Tree Ted Lare

Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) 

Tulip tree also gets to be pretty big; up to 65′ tall with a 30′ canopy. It has an upright growing habit and features yellow tulip-shaped flowers in May and June. Its leaves are a unique shape with four lobes. In the fall, the leaves turn a vibrant yellow. 

 

Cucumber Tree Ted Lare

Cucumber Tree (Magnolia acuminata) 

This is one of the hardiest magnolia varieties available. It does get relatively large; up 40-60′ tall and spreading out to 35′. This upright tree has large, fragrant, cream-colored flowers in late spring. The leaves turn gold in the fall. 

 

American Hornbeam Ted Lare

American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) 

American Hornbeam is a medium to small tree, only getting to about 20-35′ tall and wide. It’s an adaptable tree and can survive well in shade or full sun. It is a bit of a slower grower, but it rewards owners with its stunning display of yellow, orange, red, and purple leaves. 

 

If you’d like to contribute to stronger biodiversity in your neighborhood with any of these trees, visit our garden center! We can help you choose the perfect tree to complement our shared urban forest.

 

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Dazzling Daylilies for Your Iowa Garden

Who doesn’t love daylilies? They’re a reliable, easy to grow perennial that flowers beautifully. Because they’re so popular and easy to grow, breeders have developed and registered over 15,000 varieties!

Daylilies are a great plant to make the transition from spring to midsummer. These are primarily a June to July bloomer here in Iowa. They are named daylilies because each individual flower lasts only a single day. But, new flowers continually open, almost every day, and the blooming period can last three weeks or more. 

Daylilies have come a long way from the orange or yellow ones that used to be so common. They now come in a staggering variety of styles, heights, and colors. Almost any color, and color combination, that you can think of! 

There are early, late, and even reblooming varieties of daylily. Some varieties have double blossoms, some have wider open-faced flowers, some have long, slender, curving leaves, and some have a ruffled edge on their petals. The new varieties are also great because, unlike the old ditch lilies, the new varieties don’t take over your flower beds. 

 

daylily garden ted lare

How to Grow Daylilies

Daylilies are pretty low maintenance; if you get them set up in a good location, they’ll reward you with blooms for many years to come. You can essentially plant these and forget about them. Water when you plant them, and let them get to growing. If the weather is really dry, it would be good to water them every now and then. You can use some bulb fertilizer when you plant them, but you won’t need to fertilize them again. 

Daylilies need good drainage and full sun for at least half the day. Some shade in the afternoon is ok and can help some of the darker colored daylilies retain their blossom color. 

  

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Daylilies should be divided every 4-5 years when they become crowded and flowering declines. Late summer is the best time to separate them. Simply dig up the whole clump and use a sharp knife to split them into smaller clumps, with 2-3 fans of leaves and lots of roots. Immediately replant them and cut the foliage back to about 6 inches tall. 

Here are a few Awesome Daylilies to add to your collection.

Tuscawilla Tigress has huge tangerine-orange blooms with soft orange rays. These flowers may get as big as 8 inches across!

tuscawilla tigress and Moses fire daylily ted lare

 

Moses Fire is a stunning mid-season rebloomer. Its cherry-red double blossoms feature gold edges with hints of gold variegations on the petals. 


Bridgeton Invention is a stunning mid-season rebloomer. It features creamy-white petals with a deep magenta eye-zone that fades into the yellow throat.

 

Bright Invention and Scarlet Orbit daylily greenstreet gardens

 

Scarlet Orbit is a gorgeous deep red daylily with a chartreuse yellow throat.  It is an early bloomer and has a beautiful fragrance. . 

Chesapeake Crab Legs a showstopping mid-season rebloomer with ruffled spider style flowers. It features rich orangey-red petals with subtle rays of orange and a chevron pattern at the top of its yellow throat.

 

chesapeake crab legs and witch's hand ted lare

 

Witches Hand is a mid-season rebloomer featuring dark burgundy-almost black petals, with a golden yellow throat. 

Now is an excellent time to add some daylilies to your garden for gorgeous and reliable flowers every year. You may even get a few blooms on mid-season varieties this season! Stop by the garden center, shop online, or call ahead to find out what varieties we have available. 

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Small Shade Trees: Your Best Options for Small Spaces

small garden with shade trees ted lare

You love those colorfully blooming trees that you see everywhere in spring, but your yard is fully shaded and surrounded by large trees. So can you add a smaller colorful tree? You definitely can. Several kinds of trees will perform well in shady places with lots of other trees around. 

First, you need to determine the amount of shade your yard gets throughout the day. It varies from yard to yard and season to season, based on the sun’s angle and the placement of trees and buildings. 

Most yards have areas that get shade for part of the day, and sun at other parts of the day. If the site where you want a tree receives a half-day of sun or more, then full-sun trees will perform best. If the spot only gets sun for a small portion of the day, or doesn’t get any sun at all, it’s considered a full-shade site. 

Here are a few small trees that will work best in locations that are in the shade for most of the day and are hardy enough to survive our Iowa winters.    

 

japanese maple, serviceberry, and eastern redhead trees ted lare

Japanese Maples 

These trees are great for shaded sites, and many have lovely colored leaves that can bring new life to a shady spot, they range in sizes but most stay under 25-30′ tall and 15-20′ wide. There are even a few varieties such as Threadleaf Japanese Maples that stay 5′ tall 10′ wide. Pixie Japanese Maple is also a miniature version, only getting about 6′ tall and 6′ wide. Many of these trees have the added bonus of absolutely stunning fall color.     

Serviceberry 

These are great trees if you’re looking for pretty white blooms in shaded sites. This tree is native to woodland areas and is happy in part sun to part shade conditions, but will also grow in full sun. The berries this tree produce are edible and taste great. They make excellent jams and syrups! Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry is a beautiful variety that grows to about 20′ tall to 20′ wide, and have the added bonus of beautiful orange leaves in fall.     

Redbud 

This tree is native to Iowa and is usually found growing in the edges of woodland. They feel very at home in part sun and part shade. These trees have stunning deep pink flowers that fill the branches in spring before the leaves emerge. Redbuds can grow to about 25′ tall by 20′ wide. The large, heart-shaped leaves of this tree are attractive through the season, and they turn yellow in the fall. There are weeping varieties of this tree, like Lavender Twist Redbud, that stay within 10′ tall or less and have a unique weeping growth habit. 

    

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 Umbrella Magnolia 

These magnolias are not common around here, but they’re hardy enough to thrive as far north as Minnesota! One of the more impressive trees on this list, Umbrella Magnolia is one of the only Magnolias that can grow in full shade! One of the best features of this tree is its huge tropical-looking leaves; they can grow to be 3′ long and resemble an umbrella. The flowers beautifully showy, measuring up to 10″ across in a gorgeous shade of creamy white. The tree matures to 25-30′ tall and 15′ wide.     

umbrella magnolia and Sousa flowering dogwood ted lare

Kousa Flowering Dogwoods 

These are Chinese hybrids of the native Flowering Dogwood. These bloom much later than other Dogwoods, and the flowers are a bit smaller. Kousa is a hardier variety as well, which makes them suitable for Iowa. The flowers are usually white or pink, and the leaves turn a beautiful dark red in the fall. These trees reach about 18′ tall and 13′ wide.  

Ready to add a beautiful smaller tree to your yard? Give us a call to find out what we have in stock, or stop by the garden center to browse our tree lot. Our landscape designers can help you find trees to suit the level of shade in your yard.

 

 

 

 

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5 Popular Ornamental Grasses for Iowa

dropseed prairie ornamental grass ted lare

Ornamental grasses add unique texture and structure to landscaping. They are also low maintenance, drought-tolerant, and many of them provide year-round interest in gardens. From lower mounding types to over 6 feet tall, and ranging in colors for ice blue to deep purple to vibrant green, there is a wide variety of grasses to choose from. 

Grasses used to dominate the landscape in Iowa, with over 80% of the state being classified as tallgrass prairie, though there is much less now. This means we can grow a wide variety of beautiful grasses, some of which are beneficial for our local ecosystems. Here are 5 of our favorite ornamental grasses.

Prairie Dropseed

Prairie Dropseed is one of the smaller ornamental grasses, getting up to 2-3’ tall. It adds a light and airy feel to the garden with its finely textured leaves and stocks. The seedheads are long and feathery, and sway in the breeze. This ornamental grass doesn’t self-seed very often, so it won’t take over your yard. The foliage turns a rich copper-gold color in the fall. 

 

prairie dropseed and little bluestem ted lare

Little Blue Stem

This Iowa native perennial grass features silvery-blue leaves that turn a gorgeous dark red in the fall. It gets up to 3 feet tall and is quite easy to grow. If you don’t want it to spread in your yard, you may want to remove the seedheads. Its foliage will last through most of the winter unless crushed by lots of snow. Little Blue Stem grass does best in a full sun location. 

Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass

This popular Feather Reed grass is a hardy perennial and easy to grow. It doesn’t set seed, so you won’t have to worry about it taking over your yard. It spreads by rhizomes underground, but it’s quite slow. It gets 4-6 feet tall and features pretty feathery plumes above dark green leaves. Karl Foerster does well in part sun to full sun.

 

Karl Foerester Feather Reed Grass and switchgrass ted lare

Switchgrass

Switchgrass is another Iowa native grass that is a great structural grass. It gets up to 4-6 feet tall, and several different varieties are available. There are varieties with very dark summer foliage, or with blue-gray foliage. Some types turn a gorgeous red in the fall. Switchgrass does well in full sun or partial shade.

Ravenna Grass

This is also known as Hardy Pampas Grass. Other varieties of Pampas Grass can be invasive, so check tags carefully. This is the perfect grass for privacy screening, reaching up to 10 feet tall, and clumps can get as much as 4-6 feet wide. Ravenna grass needs full sun to thrive.

 

ravenna grass and purple flame maiden grass ted lare

Purple Flame Maiden Grass

Purple Flame Maiden Grass adds a unique color variation to your garden. In the summer it’s a grayish-green color, and in the fall it turns to a brilliant red-orange. This taller grass, getting 5-6’ tall, adds structure and contrast to your garden all summer, and all winter. It features soft mauve plumes above the foliage that seem to dance in the slightest breeze. 

There are so many ways you can incorporate ornamental grasses into landscaping. Besides being beautiful, they’re a great way to add architectural structure and texture different from shrubs and flowers. They’re also an excellent choice as a backdrop to highlight beautiful flowering plants. Grasses also provide shelter and food for a variety of birds and pollinators. 


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Ornamental grasses are the perfect low-maintenance statement plant because they really don’t require much once they’ve been planted. If you’re not sure how to incorporate grasses into your landscape, have a chat with one of our professional landscape designers. We can help you figure out the best places in your yard to plant ornamental grasses, and the best varieties to suit your style. 

 

 

 

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The Best Perennials for All-Summer Color

perennial salvia-ted lare

Our early spring blooming perennials are starting to wind down in Iowa, and we’re heading into summer. Flower gardens are looking fresh and full across the state, but as we head into the hottest months, some of those spring and early summer blooms are starting to fade a bit in the intensity of summer heat. 

There are actually quite a few different perennials that bloom beautifully for a long time and can withstand our hottest summer temperatures. Here are some of our favorite summer-blooming perennials to add long-lasting color to your garden.

 

garden phlox, daylily, shasta daisy ted lare

Garden Phlox 

Phlox usually starts blooming in mid-July, and it keeps producing clumps of pretty flowers on tall stalks, overlapping with many fall-blooming perennials. Phlox does self-seed, so keep up with deadheading. Garden Phlox is available in a wide variety of colors like pink, red, purple, orange, and white.

Reblooming Daylily

Most daylilies only bloom for a couple of weeks each summer, but reblooming cultivars bloom multiple times in a season. There are two types; early/late bloomers and successive bloomers. Early/late bloomers usually flower in the spring and then again in the late summer or fall. Successive blooming daylilies produce batches of blooms, one shortly after another for several months. Reblooming varieties are available in a wide range of colors.

Shasta Daisy

Shasta daisy is an underrated summer blooming perennial. They’re usually white, making them versatile for pairing with other plants, and they’re a long-blooming, pollinator-friendly perennial. Daisies add a touch of classic simplicity to flower gardens. They bloom from July through the fall, with flower stems up to 3-4 feet tall.

 

perennial salvia, russian sage, yarrow ted lare

Perennial Salvia

The Salvia family of plants includes both perennials and annuals. Salvia nemorosa, Salvia × sylvestris, and Salvia farinacea are perennial varieties. Salvia blooms for most of the summer, and if you keep up with deadheading you can extend their season even longer. 

Russian Sage

Russian Sage has a bit of a different look, with its many tiny purple flowers on thin spikes. While its foliage and flowers might be delicate and wispy, the plant manages to take up quite a bit of space. It can get as tall as 5′, and sprawl nearly as wide. 

Yarrow

Yarrow is a classic summer blooming perennial. It’s soft fern-like foliage sets off clusters of brightly colored flowers, from 1-3 feet tall. Yarrow is available in pinks, reds, yellows, and oranges. Yarrow does tend to naturalize and spread itself quite efficiently, making it ideal for pollinator gardens, xeriscaping, and re-wilding larger properties. 

 

coneflower, coreopis, allium ted lare

Coneflower

Coneflowers are another reliable all-summer bloomer, starting in June and going right through August, and beyond if the weather stays good. They do get quite tall, sometimes reaching heights of up 5 feet. Coneflowers are available in a wide variety of colors, including pink, purple, white, orange, yellow, red, and even green.

Coreopsis

Coreopsis produces small daisy-like flowers above fine, fern-like foliage. Heights vary a lot from one type to the next. Coreopsis bloom most of the summer, and when the flowers start to go off in late summer, you can encourage a second blooming by shearing back up to ⅓ of the whole plant. 

Allium

Alliums are truly a multi-season plant. While they don’t necessarily bloom all season long, their unique globe-like flowers turn into striking seedheads that provide beautiful visual interest all summer and stay standing in the winter. Most alliums come in shades of purple, but they’re also available in a wide variety of other colors. Different varieties feature varying shades of red, pink, white, and yellow. There are also early- and late-blooming varieties available. 


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Summer-blooming perennials can help carry our gardens through the hottest days of the year, when other plants might struggle with the heat. They’ll also keep the garden looking great when you don’t want to spend a ton of time deadheading, pruning, or weeding under the hot sun! Check out the
perennial selection at our garden center to add a few of these summer-bloomers to your Des Moines garden. 

 

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How to Grow Citrus in Iowa

While an imported orange from Florida or California might hit the spot, imagine the satisfaction of biting into an orange from your own personal grove! Some citrus trees do very well as houseplants, so you can grow them yourself right here in Iowa! All you need to grow citrus is a little patience and care. You’re not limited to just oranges either—lemons, limes, and even kumquats are all on the list of citrus fruits you can grow in containers!    

How to Choose A Citrus Tree

The most important thing to know is that you’ll have to keep your tree indoors for the winter, so choose a dwarf variety. The added bonus of dwarf citrus trees is that many of them also produce fruit at a younger age. 

Meyer Lemons are among the best options. They grow up to about 4′ in height, and they will even produce fruit on young plants that are barely 2′ tall!

Dwarf Key Lime is another fantastic choice. It grows 4-6′ tall and will bear delicious fruit in 1-3 years. Be patient, don’t give up on it, and it will eventually come through with a bounty of limes for your pies, mojitos, tacos, and more!

Nagami Kumquats do well here, too. They can get up to 8′ tall. If you’ve never tried a kumquat, it’s like a small tangerine that has a lovely sweet flavor. Even better, the flowers are amazingly fragrant!

Citrus Tree Growing Conditions  

Citrus trees like acidic soil (no surprises there!), so your citrus tree will do best in a specific citrus soil mix. It’s also important to fertilize with citrus fertilizer once a month from April to September. 

Citrus trees need 8-12 hours of bright sunshine every day. They’ll do best near a large sunny south-facing window. In the winter, you’ll need to supplement with strong grow lights. They like consistent temperatures of about 65ºF, and they don’t appreciate drafts.

One way to give your citrus tree a boost is to let it enjoy a summer vacation outdoors! It’s critical to transition your citrus tree outdoors slowly, once overnight temperatures are consistently above 55ºF. The process is similar to hardening off your plants, but it should be a 2-3 week process. Start transitioning back inside when overnight temperatures are dropping below 65ºF; it should take another 2-3 weeks. Keep your eyes peeled for pests when you bring them inside in the fall. If you spot any, make sure to keep your tree isolated from other plants in the home until the pest problem is resolved.

Citrus Leaf Drop

Don’t be too alarmed if you see leaves falling off your citrus tree in the winter. They can go into a semi-dormant state and may defoliate. Any unripe fruit will continue to ripen slowly, even if the plant loses many leaves. Cut back on watering if you notice leaves falling.  

Watering Citrus Trees

All citrus trees like high humidity and evenly moist soil. Water your tree when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch and cut back on watering a bit during the winter months. Humidity is critical, and your citrus tree will need a humidifier to sustain it through the winter.  


Citrus Tree Pollination  

Pollination might be the most important, and most frequently overlooked, part of owning a citrus tree. Indoor trees are self-pollinated, so you don’t need two trees. But, you do need to do the pollination yourself. Run a Q-tip or small paintbrush all over the inside of a flower, especially around the greenish center. Then, repeat the process on each of the other flowers to spread the pollen that will allow them to produce fruit. This is the job that bees do in the wild, so go ahead and treat yourself to some honey once you’ve finished!

If your citrus tree is going to spend the summer outside, the real bees will take care of this process for you. Luckily, they’re always grateful for the work!


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Following these care steps and you will be enjoying Iowa grown citrus no time. Stop by our garden center to pick up a citrus tree of your own today!

 

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The Best Flowering Shrubs for Des Moines

weigelias-ted lare

Flowering shrubs are an excellent addition to any yard. They add structure and depth to your landscaping, they can be used for hedging or as accents, and when in flower, they add gorgeous color and even fragrance to your yard!

Here are a few of our favorite flowering shrubs that thrive in Central Iowa. 

Summersweet

Aptly named, Summersweet features clusters of sweetly fragrant white flowers that open in the middle of summer. It’s perfect for full to part sun conditions and grows up to 4′ high and wide. 

 

Rhododendrons

Evergreen shrubs feature purple or pink flowers that open in mid- to late spring, depending on the variety. These shrubs do well in part shade to mostly shade. They range anywhere from 5′ tall and 5′ wide to 2′ tall and 3′ wide.        

Forsythia

Thousands of bright yellow flowers cover forsythia shrubs every spring; it’s a real showstopper! Be sure to choose an Iowa flower bud hardy variety. These do well in full sun to part sun and grow to be about 4-5′ tall and wide.        

 

Hydrangeas

These are an excellent choice for large beautiful blooms in the summer season. Some Hydrangeas like the full sun while others are better suited to the shade. Colors range from pink to white and even blue, depending on the variety and the soil pH. They range in size from 3′ tall and wide to 5′ tall and wide.

Weigelias

An awesome late spring bloomer, tiny trumpet-shaped flowers cover these shrubs around May each year. Hummingbirds enjoy these blooms. Some Weigelias are up to 6-7′ while others are short and compact, staying closer to 4′ tall and wide. Flower colors range from pinks to reds to white.

 

Lilacs

Known for their marvelous fragrance, these shrubs can perfume an entire yard with a sweet scent that seems to float on a light spring breeze. Some get rather tall—up to 12′!—and would work great as a privacy screen. Dwarf varieties stay closer to 4-5′ tall and wide. Most lilacs like full sun, but can tolerate up to half the day in the shade.            

Viburnums

While some are grown for their fall leaves, many Viburnums have beautiful flowers. Some varieties are fragrant, others are not, and some have unique flower clusters that look almost like snowballs. Viburnum’s clusters of flowers coat the shrub during spring to early summer. Spring bloomers are quite fragrant, similar to Lilacs. Viburnums range from 3-4′ tall up to 12′ tall, depending on the variety. They are quite adaptable and will enjoy full sun or mostly shady conditions.  

 

Hardy Hibiscus

If you are looking for a shrub with extra-large dinner-plate-sized flowers, this is it. Hardy Hibiscus shrubs have blooms that look like they belong in the tropics. These shrubs need a little extra patience in the spring as they can be late to come up. The colors are usually two-toned, with one color on the outside and another in the inner part of the flowers. Color options range from white to pink to red. These beauties really love a hot, full sun location! They get to about 4-5′ tall and bloom in the middle to end of summer. 


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If you’d like to add any of these beautiful flowering shrubs to your yard this summer, give us a call, or stop by the garden center to pick out the ones you love the most.      



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Try These Cool Plants in Your Spring Hanging Baskets

Hanging baskets are a fun and fast way to add some brilliant color and visual interest to your yard. They’re absolutely beautiful when they’re loaded with blooms, and as long as you take good care of them, they’ll look fabulous all summer long. The best part is that you get to change them up every year to suit your garden themes or color palettes!

Designing your own hanging baskets is fun and easy if you follow the thriller, filler, and spiller recipe. Thrillers are taller plants, generally placed in the middle of a hanging basket, fillers are mounding, or low bushy plants that go around the thriller, and spillers are the cascading plants that hang down over the sides of a hanging planter. 

We’ve picked out a few plants for each of the categories above, and a few tips about where and how they’ll grow best in your Des Moines yard. 

 

Thrillers

Begonias are shade and moisture-loving plants. With their large colorful single or double flowers, they’re the perfect centerpiece for a hanging basket. They do like consistently moist soil, so check if they need water regularly.

Angelonia are an elegant flower that comes in beautiful shades of pink, purple and white and will add some height to the center of your container.  They love warmth and heat and will thrive during the summer months.

Geraniums feature vibrant, upright flowerheads in a wide variety of electric colors. These gorgeous annuals make an eye-catching center for hanging baskets, and many varieties have a lovely fragrance. They adore the sun, and will happily bloom all summer long. They do need to be deadheaded, so don’t hang them too far out of reach. In a hot and sunny location, they’ll need to be watered pretty frequently.

 

Fillers

Coleus is a shade lover with unique colorful leaves. It is an excellent hanging basket filler to surround a bright flowering thriller plant. Coleus like consistently moist, but not saturated soil.

Impatiens come in a variety of colors and can easily be the feature of a hanging basket, or use them to fill a basket all on their own. They prefer a part to full-shade location and moist soil. They’ll let you know they need water when they get a bit droopy.

Petunias are a sun-loving hanging basket filler. Petunias can fill quite a bit of space, so you’ll want to pair them with a tall thriller plant, or let them fill a basket on their own. With so many blooms, petunias are thirsty, and on the hottest days of the year, they’ll often need to be watered twice a day.
 
Calibrachoas are basically mini-petunias that come in an incredible range of colors. They’re an excellent filler, and will even spill out of your containers with their candy-colored trumpet-shaped flowers. They also love the sun and will need frequent watering, but unlike most petunia varieties, most calibrachoas don’t require deadheading.

 

Spillers

Lobelias are a pretty hanging basket spiller for partial shade spots. Their delicate foliage and dainty flowers in pink, white, purple, or blue are a perfect complement for larger thriller or filler flowering plants. They like a little sun, but they don’t love the heat of the afternoon and will perform better in a cooler spot. Lobelia does best with frequent water, check the soil every other day.

Sweet potato vine is a grow-anywhere vine that trails gracefully from hanging baskets. Its unique leaves are visually interesting and contrast well with more delicate flowers or foliage. Sweet potato vine is available in electric shades of green or deep, dark purple. From full sun to full shade, sweet potato vine is happy anywhere as long as it gets regular water.  

Bidens are a spiller with pretty orange or yellow daisy-like flowers. They do mound a bit above the basket before spilling, so you could use them as a filler as well. They like a sunny location, and once established, they’re quite drought tolerant. 

Bacopa is a lovely spiller that does best in a partial shade location. It produces hundreds of tiny flowers in white, pink, or purple. It will bloom all summer long if kept moist. 


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Hanging Basket Care

Hanging baskets require a little extra attention than larger containers or plants in the ground. They usually have a lot of plants crammed into a very small space. The general rule of thumb is to combine 5-7 plants for 14″ basket. That means there won’t be much soil to conserve water or nutrients, so to keep your hanging baskets looking their best, make sure they get watered regularly. Fertilizing your hanging baskets once a week or once every two weeks will also help them keep producing gorgeous flowers all season long. Be sure to look for a fertilizer formulated for flowering plants!

If you want to try your hand at designing your own hanging baskets this year, you can either shop our online store or stop by our garden center and pick out your favorite plants and hanging baskets. Or, if you prefer, we’ve got combo hanging baskets already planted and ready to enjoy at home!



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Container Garden Inspiration for Your Patio

Container gardens have made gardening more accessible to many people. They’re perfect for people who only have a patio or porch, for those with mobility issues, beginner gardeners, and even kids. If you have a container garden with herbs and vegetables right outside your door, it’s nice and easy to pop out and grab a couple of things to add to your meals every day. It’s also a little easier to control issues like weeds in container gardens. Whatever your experience level, a container garden is a great way to get gardening. 

Among the best parts of container gardening is that you can get really creative with your arrangements. There are endless ways to arrange your containers on your patio and endless plant combinations you can grow together in containers. Your container garden can be completely different from one year to the next! You can combine veggies with flowers, you can do a color theme for each container, or you can go for an overall style and theme. Stumped for ideas? Here are a few Iowa container garden design ideas that you can recreate!

Container Vegetable Garden

If you’d like to grow mostly vegetables in your container garden, the most important thing is to decide what you’d like to grow, and then look for containers appropriate for the vegetables you want. Potato bags work quite well for growing potatoes on a patio, but you can also grow them in deep plant pots. For carrots, you’ll want a fairly deep planter as well. Strawberries, on the other hand, can be grown in quite shallow containers or hanging baskets. Peas and beans also don’t need too much soil depth, but they do need a trellis, canes, or wires to climb. If you’re short on space but want to grow lots of herbs, you can adapt a used shipping pallet into a vertical garden and turn the slats into shelf-style planters for a variety of herbs. 

You can also do some companion planting in a container garden. You can grow lettuce and spinach underneath tomatoes and peppers, radishes at the bottom of the peas, and green onions with kale or cabbage. 

 

Alpine Rock Garden Containers

If you love the look of rock gardens, you can recreate the alpine esthetic on a smaller scale with a container garden. Clay, concrete, and terracotta pots are great for recreating rock gardens. Alpine plants generally thrive in soil that is very rocky and have very few nutrients, so you don’t need standard potting soil for an alpine container garden. Cactus soil or orchid mix is a good base. Add in some attractive gravel, decorative stones in a few different sizes, and some of your favorite succulents.

You could also create a tiered look with terra cotta pots in three different sizes. It’s a good idea to use some bamboo stakes to stabilize your pots. Fill the largest pot with soil and place your decorative rocks. Then place your next size smaller pot on top of the soil in the first pot. Push your bamboo stake down through the hole into the soil of the first pot for stability. Make sure the bamboo is small enough not to block the drainage hole completely, and then fill that pot with soil. Then do the same with the next smaller pot on top of that. You could also use pots that may have broken to add an interesting look. Once you’ve got your pots arranged in tiers, start adding in your plants.

Some plants that are great for rock gardens include sedums, sempervivum, echeverias (also known as hens and chicks), creeping thyme, and dianthus (also called pinks or Sweet William). 

 

Container Cut Flower Garden

If you’d like to grow an assortment of flowers in containers for making your own bouquets, you’ll want to plan it out based on bloom times. Growing a variety of flowers that bloom all season, and at different times throughout the season means you’ll always have a variety of flowers to choose from. You can plant an assortment of different flowers together in a pot so that when you do cut some blooms, your containers still look colorful and abundant. 

Flowers that are excellent for cutting, and grow well in pots in sunny locations include zinnias, cosmos, and snapdragons. Basil or oregano can do double duty as a culinary herb or greenery in bouquets. Container gardens with partial shade could host hellebores, columbines, and astilbes. Lambs ear is a lovely greenery plant for part shade containers. For locations with all-day shade, consider bleeding hearts, coleus, foxgloves, and hostas.


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If you’d like to put together a container garden, give us a call for concierge shopping or order online. From containers to soil, decorative stone to plants and seeds, we can help you set up a beautiful container garden of your own! We can prepare your order for curbside pickup or delivery within the Des Moines metro area.

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Top 10 Tomatoes for Your Iowa Garden

Tomatoes are a gardening favorite across the US and around the world. They’re tasty, they produce a lot of fruit for the size of the plant, and they’re pretty easy to grow. But there are literally thousands of different types of tomatoes to choose from, so how do you choose which ones to try for yourself?

Here’s a list of 10 tried-and-true favorites that have fantastic flavor and grow well here in Iowa. You’ll be sure to get excellent tasting tomatoes growing any of these varieties!

  1. Sun Gold is a beautiful golden orange cherry tomato. This popular variety is a very vigorous producer, and its branches will be loaded with super-sweet tomatoes all season! They bloom quite early and are easy to care for. Sun Gold tomatoes win our Tomato Festival taste-testing contest every single year!

 

  1. Black Krim is a unique heirloom tomato that is popular with gourmet chefs. It has a complex flavor combo of sweet, smoky, and a little bit salty. Black Krims are quite large, weighing anywhere from 8-12 ounces, and they’re particularly delicious with basil, fresh mozzarella, and a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Black Krim is a top favorite among our staff members.
  2. Gold Medal tomatoes are a large and delicious yellowish-orange heirloom variety. They practically melt in your mouth and have a sweet, rich flavor. These are perfect for tomato sandwiches!

 

  1. Green Zebra is another heirloom variety, and they’re as beautiful to look at as they are tasty. These have striking bright green stripes that will catch your eye right away. Green Zebras are very rich, with just the right amount of tomato tang. They are also very popular with gourmet chefs. Green Zebras mature a little late, but they produce very prolifically.
  2. Amish Paste is a Roma tomato, and they might be the perfect option for canning or eating fresh. They have a wonderfully rich flavor that is perfect for sauces and soups. They do get quite tall and produce prolifically right into the fall, so they will need to be trained on strong stakes to support their heavy crop. 

 

  1. Martino Roma is a prolific producer with lots of flesh and very few seeds. These dense little tomatoes are excellent for canning, making salsa, or in fresh bruschetta. They produce prolifically but may fall off the vine when they get ripe, so keep an eye on the ground to prevent fallen fruit from bruising!
  2. Italian Heirloom produces huge tomatoes, weighing in from 12-20 ounces. They are a perfect balance of sweet and acidic, with meaty flesh and very few seeds. This is your ideal sandwich tomato; you should only need one slice to cover an entire piece of bread. They make great sauces as well and are resistant to many tomato diseases.

 

  1. Early Girl, as their name implies, is one of the earliest ripening varieties of tomato available, maturing in just 57 days! These are a little bit smaller than other varieties at 4-6 ounces each, but they still pack a delicious flavor and are excellent for salads and sandwiches. They produce abundantly through mid-summer, though they do taper off in early fall. 
  2. Sweet 100 is a cherry tomato with a vivid, bright red color. These are the perfect size for picking and snacking on while they’re still warm from the sun, and they have a delicious sweet flavor. Sweet 100 produces long clusters of tomatoes right into the fall. They’re perfect for salads or Caprese salad skewer appetizers.

 

  1. Celebrity Tomatoes are a hearty producer, giving you lots of flavorful fruit that can be used in any recipe that calls for tomatoes. The plants’ average 7-ounce fruits that are resistant to cracking. 


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If you’d like to add some tomato plants to your garden this year, give us a call! We’ve got curbside pickup available or delivery within the Des Moines metro area. We can set you up with the variety that will be perfect for your yard. Don’t forget to check out our
tips for growing amazing tomatoes when you pick up your selections for the year!