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How to Add Curb Appeal in the Fall

Landscape curbing ideas Ted Lare

Adding curb appeal to your yard in fall can be a challenge. It is a beautiful season for a little while. Unfortunately, once lots of leaves are down and the weather gets cold, things can start to look a bit worn out. 

Don’t leave your landscape looking bare and boring this season! Choose a couple of these ideas to add fall curb appeal, and keep your property looking fresh and well-cared for all through autumn.

Landscape curbing ideas Ted Lare

Tidy Up the Lawn

At this point in the year, lawns can start to look a bit overgrown, and maybe a little worse for the wear. Edging lawn to show those clean lines along pathways, driveways, and flowerbeds make the whole yard look neater. This is also an excellent time to give your lawn some fall TLC, so aerate, overseed, and fertilize to give your lawn a boost and prepare it for next spring. 

Keep the Leaves Cleaned Up

If you’ve got a deciduous tree in your front yard, or even if the neighbors do, you’ve probably got lots of leaves all over the lawn. Raking them up every few days doesn’t take long, and it makes the yard look much better. Leaves are an excellent soil conditioner, so add them to your compost or work them straight into garden and flower beds. If you have a lawnmower with a bagger, you can mow the leaves up. This will help them break down and improve your soil or compost even faster.

Landscape curbing ideas Ted Lare

Freshen Up Flower Beds & Pots

Any annual flowers that you planted earlier in the year are ready to come out. Dig them all out and add some fresh cool-season annuals or colorful fall perennials in their place. There are many great options for fall flowers, including chrysanthemums, ornamental kale, marigolds, pansies, asters, and sedum. 

Add Seasonal Porch Decor

With the leaves gone and fewer flowers, you have an opportunity to showcase some seasonal decor near your front door. Plant up some decorative fall planters with chrysanthemums or ornamental kale. Add pumpkins, sheaves of grain, a fall welcome sign, and embrace some burlap accents. 

If you’re a Halloween fan, you can start building your Halloween decor slowly. Start low-key with pumpkins, and add slightly more spooky items every week or so, capping it off the week of Halloween. 

If you have a porch swing or bench, accessorize it with some pillows or throw blankets in cozy fall colors. Add some warm and welcoming porch lighting to make it comfortable and enticing. 

Landscape curbing ideas Ted Lare

Add Outdoor Lighting

Integrating lighting into your landscaping can bump it up a notch, and it also has several benefits. Outdoor lighting increases curb appeal, makes it easier to navigate in the dark, creates a welcoming atmosphere, and highlights interesting landscape or architectural features. It can also improve neighborhood safety, as crime is less common in well-lit locations. All these bonuses can also have a positive impact on your property value.

Spotlights on feature trees or architectural features extend the beauty and interest of your landscape and home. Pathway lighting draws the eye through a landscape towards your home, and sconces on your house make it look warm and inviting.

Keep in mind color temperature when you are choosing a lighting scheme, though. Mixing cool or blue light and warm or yellow light doesn’t go well. Our landscaping designers can help you develop a lighting scheme that highlights your yard’s best features and provides the look and feel you desire. 

Freshen Up House Features

If you’ve got a mailbox, consider giving it a fresh coat of paint. Stain or paint the deck and railings. Consider updating or replacing your house number with new paint or more modern numbers. Siding may get dusty and start to look dingy by the end of the harvest season, so consider pressure washing the siding and getting the windows cleaned. 

Clean Your Rain Gutters

The last thing you need to worry about is clogged gutters as the weather starts to get colder and rainier. Gutters full of leaves, or that have seedlings growing in them, give an unkempt appearance. Ensure your gutters are cleaned out and flowing freely to prevent dealing with any mishaps when our Iowa weather turns nasty.


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Fall doesn’t mean your yard has to look drab and dingy. A little bit of cleanup and a few minor upgrades can keep your curb appeal fresh and attractive until the snow falls! 

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10 Perennials for Fall Color in Iowa

Ted Lare fall perennials color

With summer fading into the coziest season of the year, some of those colorful summer flowers are fading as well. But, your yard doesn’t have to be boring in the fall. Embrace the sweater weather with warm apple cider and colorful fall perennials. 

These pretty and hardy cool weather bloomers are ramping up just as summer winds down. Grab your favorite scarf, a warm drink, and have a look at some of these colorful fall flowers. Here are 10 of the best perennials for fall color in Iowa.


With their tiny-but-soft needle-like petals, asters add a touch of delicacy and softness to a season that otherwise features rough textures, hard edges, and loud crunching. Asters, available in shades of pink, purple, and blue, from dark to nearly white, which can help temper the dominance of reds, yellows, and oranges that are everywhere in fall. 

Perennials fall color at Ted Lare aster goldenrod


The upright stature and striking yellow flowers of Goldenrod are an excellent addition to any fall perennial garden. Goldenrod provides beneficial nectar to pollinators during the later summer and early fall. Goldenrod is often falsely accused of being a culprit for seasonal allergies but ragweed is the actual culprit that blooms at the same time.


Gentian is another great choice to add lightness and softness with its color and texture to fall perennial gardens. The flowers are deep trumpet shapes with curled edges, in pale blues and whites. The foliage is a lighter green and features finely-textured fern-like leaves. Gentian works well in rock gardens and for edging beds.

Joe Pye Weed 

Joe Pye Weed brings bright jewel-toned pink flowers and fantastic height to a fall perennial garden. Joe Pye Weed can reach up 8 feet tall, and it’s super easy to grow. This resilient perennial is a striking combination with other fall perennials like asters, black-eyed Susans, and ornamental grasses.

Ted Lare perennials fall color

Blanket Flowers

Blanket flowers, aptly named because they create a full dense blanket of flowers in the fall, give a lot of bang for the buck. Their mounds of flowers are not just beautiful in the garden, but they make great cut flowers as well. Blanket flowers are usually in the yellow-orange-red spectrum, from dark to pale shades, and some varieties feature bi-color petals.

Garden or Hardy Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums are a classic fall flower, but those globes of jewel-tone mums sold everywhere in the fall are not hardy enough to survive an Iowa winter. Garden mums or hardy mums are just as beautiful, come in a wide variety of colors, and have a more relaxed growing habit. With dedicated pruning and fertilization in spring and summer, you can get them to form a fairly dense dome of flowers. Or, you can let them go, and they’ll still provide profuse blooms, but with a looser growing style with more visible foliage.


Anemones are a beautiful addition to any fall garden. The 2-3” blooms sway in the wind on their wiry stems, earning them the name windflowers. They range in color from white to pink and will flourish a part sun to shady location in the garden.

Stonecrop Sedum

Stonecrop sedums add a fleshy succulent texture to the fall perennial garden. Stonecrop sedums are available in so many different colors, and their leaves can be as beautiful as their colorful flowers. Flower colors run the gamut from pink to red to purple to yellow to green to orange. The colors of the foliage also vary widely, including some variegated versions. Sedums are great for ground covers and the edges of garden beds, varying in height from 6 inches to about 2 feet tall.

Ted Lare fall perennials stonecrop sedum black-eyed susan

Black-Eyed Susans

Black-eyed Susans are a classic fall flower native to North America. With various shades available from deep burgundy red to bright yellow, and every shade in between, they’re a great mid-level fall flowering perennial. Black-Eyed Susans are available in a wide range of heights that can fill in that mid-level height in your perennial garden (between the sedums and the Joe Pye Weed), anywhere from 1-5 feet tall. Black-Eyed Susans are also super resilient and low maintenance since they’re adapted to our climate.


In spite of its name, sneezeweed doesn’t usually cause any sneezing, allergies, or hay fever. Sneezeweed, also called Helenium, produces large flowers up to 2 inches in diameter, with a large center cone that’s popular with the butterflies and other pollinators. There are many varieties of sneezeweed available, all of which display daisy-like petals. Sneezeweed ranges in colors from pale yellow to deep red-orange.


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With these late-blooming beauties, you can extend your garden’s season of color by several months! Add these colorful perennials to your garden now, and enjoy a fall full of colorful flowers next year.

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Can’t-Miss Classes for Fall 2020

Fall classes at Ted Lare

Remember when we could all hang out at the garden center and get creative, create fun crafts, and enjoy each other’s company? We miss that too! We put our classes and workshops on hold for the spring and summer while everyone figured out how to navigate the “new normal,” but we’ve been eager to see you again for more fun workshops. Now we’ve figured out a plan to deliver our classes safely!

Our new system for class and workshop delivery is through a combination of in-person classes and online virtual classes with class kits. We are resuming in-person classes here at the garden center starting September 12th. Classes will be taught in our open air greenhouse and will be limited to a maximum of 10 people.  Masks will be required and each participant will be provided with a freshly sanitized workspace and tools. To maximize social distancing, there will be one participant per table.

We’ll also be offering the same classes virtually with complete class kits that you can purchase and pick up ahead of the class. The kits will contain everything you need to complete the project, from frames and containers to plants and soil, and even paint and paintbrushes. You can pick up your kit at our garden center at least one day before the class, and then join us live at the specified time for instructions and coaching. Best of all, since our classes are being conducted online, more people than ever can participate in each event!

Here are a few of our upcoming workshops. You can register for each class online. Please note that some classes offer choices for the types of plants included; please include your list of choices in the “Special Instructions, Notes, or Comments” box on the checkout page.

herb planter fall classes at Ted Lare

“Grow” Herb Planter Class

In this class, you’ll create a beautiful brushed metal herb planter for your kitchen windowsill or front porch. The planter has the word “Grow” cut out of the front in an elegant script font. We’ll line the planter with sheet moss, so the word “grow” really looks like its growing moss! You can choose four herbs for this project; your options are basil, rosemary, parsley, cilantro, dill, oregano, and thyme.

This class is perfect for that mid-century modern design maven, combining the beauty of plants with sleek minimalism of a steel planter.

succulent living wreath kit fall class at Ted Lare

Succulents Living Wreath Kit

If you’ve been wondering how people make those beautiful succulent wreaths that you see on Pinterest, here’s your chance to learn! This class will teach you how to make a unique 11-inch succulent wreath. The kit includes a living wreath form, preserved moss, six 2.5″ succulents, a chopstick, and floral pins.

There is an option to purchase a Deluxe Succulent Wreath kit for this class, which includes ten succulents instead of six. 

This class is perfect for someone who loves living wreaths but doesn’t have the time to make sure they get watered. Succulents are sturdy and will thrive if you forget about watering them for several weeks.

succulent kokedama fall class at Ted Lare

Succulent Kokedama Class

Kokedama is a Japanese art that uses living plants and creative techniques to create a beautiful hanging plant with a different, more natural look than a traditional hanging planter. This style of hanging your plant emphasizes the plant itself, instead of the container. To water a Kokedama, you simply take it down and set it in a bowl of water for a short soak. Once it’s soaked up enough water, you hang it somewhere to drip dry for a while and then return it to its usual home once it has stopped dripping.

You’ll use soil, preserved sheet moss, twine, and two succulents to create two Kokedama balls for your home.

This class is perfect for those who prefer to not plant in plastic, and who like to show off the natural, earthy beauty of their houseplants.

More Upcoming Workshops

For the full schedule of upcoming workshops, see our classes list. Here’s a glimpse at what you can expect:

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We’ve got lots of fun and exciting workshops planned for this fall. Check out our classes list to explore the rest of our schedule, and sign up for your favorite. We can’t wait to have some creative fun with all our Des Moines area buddies this fall!

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Fall Lawn Care for Central Iowa

Fall lawn care landscape tips for Central Iowa at Ted Lare

While we sometimes like to push the thought of heavy snow and cold temperatures out of our mind for as long as possible, it is true: they are on their way to Des Moines. But, before we think ahead too far, there’s still plenty of time to enjoy in our yards. To keep your landscape looking its very best, follow these fall lawn care tips.

Ted Lare Central Iowa fall lawn care landscape tips mowing grass

Give It One Last Cut

In the summer, it’s best practice to leave your grass a little longer, since this can retain moisture, encourage deeper rooting, and shade out weeds. But in the fall, on your last mow of the year, cut the grass so it’s about only two inches high. This will prevent matting and fungal growth during the winter.

Sharpen Your Mower’s Blades

This is the time of year to check the condition of all your tools, including lawnmowers. If you notice that on your last few cuts that the grass tips turn brown shortly after mowing, the grass looks torn instead of cleanly sliced, or your lawn is unevenly cut, then it’s time to resharpen the blades on your mower.

Ted Lare Central Iowa fall lawn care landscape tips remove leaves

Remove the Leaves

After the leaves have fallen from the shade trees in your landscape, rake them up or use a leaf blower to direct them to a certain area, then add the leaves to your garden as mulch. Besides fertilizing the soil, leaves in your garden also protect it and create shelter for overwintering insects.

If the leaves just keep falling and falling and you and your rake can’t keep up, you can go over them with your lawnmower to create a thin layer of organic mulch to leave on the lawn. The layer should be no more than an inch thick, though, because otherwise you could deprive the soil of oxygen.

Aerate and Overseed

Each year, our lawns get compacted by precipitation, foot traffic, and thatch, which is a layer of dead grass that sits just above the soil on your lawn. As the soil becomes compacted, less oxygen circulates through the ground, meaning nutrients and water have a harder time getting to the grass’s roots. You can improve your lawn’s aeration by using tools like plug and spike aerators, which essentially poke holes in the ground to work the soil and reduce compaction.

This is also a great time to target any patchy or damaged areas in your lawn by scattering seed there. Water the areas regularly as the seedlings root. Not only will overseeding fill in the space with lush growth, but it will also prevent weeds from taking over the vacant spots.

Ted Lare Central Iowa fall lawn care landscape tips apply fertilizer

Apply Fertilizer

It might seem obvious to fertilize your lawn in spring since you’re anticipating the greener days to come. But fertilizing in fall is important too. While we won’t see the grass as it’s under a blanket of snow, it still needs to stay alive, and it needs the energy to do so.

When applying fertilizer in fall, don’t apply it too early, like when the grass is still growing. If you do, then the nutrients will be put toward growth rather than storage.

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There’s a lot of beauty in fall, from trees with changing foliage to stunning flowers. Completing fall lawn maintenance will ensure that all eyes stay on the cozy autumn colors in your landscape, plus you’ll be better prepared when spring comes around.

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Top-Notch Shade Trees

Shade trees at Ted Lare

Shade trees are essential not only for the shade they provide but also for the value they bring to both our property and the nature that surrounds it. Have you ever been to a new neighborhood that lacks trees, and something just seems a bit off? Trees make a community feel more organic, creating harmony between natural and human-made spaces. 

Trees also bring the value of your home up and the price of your energy bills down—strategically placing shade trees can change the temperature around your house, lowering energy demands. Plus, trees provide plenty of shelter and food for birds and other wildlife.

How to Choose Shade Trees For Your Yard

Now that you know the benefits of trees in your landscape, it’s time to choose which ones are the best fit for your yard! Here at our Garden Center, our team can help you make the correct choice.

Some people don’t have much space to work within their yards, especially in new housing developments. While this does limit your choices to a degree, there are still plenty of trees to choose from. But just because you have a smaller space doesn’t mean you should look for only shorter trees. Many people don’t consider that trees that are too short can look strange in proportion to the home and yard.

To understand why, picture a crab apple tree in front of a one-story home. When the tree is fully grown, you will mainly see a large low-branched tree blocking the entire view of the house—probably not the look you’re going for. Instead, consider choosing a tree that grows at least twice as tall as the house. This way, the branches can be pruned to create a beautiful canopy of branches over your home.

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Best Shade Trees to Plant Near Your House

It’s also important to consider tree diversity when choosing which ones to plant. If everyone planted the same tree species, there’s a risk that a single disease could spread and devastate every tree in the area, similar to what has happened with American elm trees that have been overtaken by Dutch Elm Disease. Plus, including plant diversity in your yard will provide food and shelter for various birds, animals, and insects.

So, look around to see what your neighbors have and try going with something different! Below you will find five top-notch shade trees to consider planting in your Central Iowa landscape.

Sweet Gum Tulip Fall Fiesta Sugar Maple shade trees at Ted Lare

Worplesdon Sweet Gum is a large tree that reaches about 40 feet tall and 25 feet wide. It has star-shaped green foliage that turns yellow and orange then red in fall. While it resembles a maple tree, this is an entirely different species. 

Tulip Tree has an upright shape, growing up to 100 feet tall and 80 feet wide. The leaves have an unusual shape, resembling the webbed foot of a duck. The tree’s foliage turns a lovely shade of golden yellow in fall. The Tulip Tree is named after its May and June-blooming flowers, which resemble tulips.

Fall Fiesta Sugar Maple reaches 45 feet tall and 30 feet wide. When young, it has an upright habit and later becomes quite rounded. This tree has large leaves that provide excellent cooling shade. As its name suggests, this tree has striking fiery orange foliage in fall.

White Pine is an excellent choice for someone wanting an evergreen tree. This fast-growing pine, which can reach over 100 feet tall and about 50 feet wide, has a pyramidal form and attractive blue-green needles. This tree looks beautiful in all seasons, especially winter when its branches catch the snow. 

White spruce and heritage oak shade trees at Ted Lare

Heritage Oak has smaller leaves than traditional oaks. A vigorous grower, this tree can reach 50 feet tall and 40 feet wide. It is resistant to mildew and has a broad pyramidal form. In fall, this tree’s foliage turns yellow.

With the milder temperatures, fall is a great time to plant new trees in your yard. Stop by the garden center to get started on creating shade in your landscape!

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5 Tips for Planting Your New Trees & Shrubs

Newly planted shrubs and trees at Ted Lare

The severe storm that struck central Iowa August 10th has greatly affected our area’s urban tree canopy with many significant tree losses in some areas. We are here to help you select a new tree for your yard, and you don’t need to wait until spring. Fall is an excellent time to plant new trees and shrubs. It gives them a bit of extra time to develop some good roots during fairly mild weather conditions, and then they have all of next spring to establish themselves before facing the hot and dry weather of next summer. 

Here are 5 tips for planting new trees and shrubs in your Des Moines yard.

Tips for new trees and shrubs at Ted Lare

1. Prepare the hole for your new tree or shrub.

The hole for your new tree only needs to be as wide as needed to fit the roots in easily, any wider is not necessary. Important! The depth needed for the new tree is the most crucial thing to consider. To determine how deep it needs to be planted you must locate the largest sized root growing from the tree trunk. Normally it is at least a pencil size in diameter on a typical container tree, ignore roots that are smaller than this. This is called the root flare. Once the root flare is located, level off the top of the root ball so the soil line is the same level and the tree should be planted at that depth. Often times, as much as 3” to 6” of soil needs to be removed from the top of the rootball before planting.

You can check that the height is ok by setting your tree in the hole and laying a shovel across the hole. If the root ball is lower than the shovel handle, add a little more soil under the tree to raise it up a bit. It’s better for the top of the root ball to be a little bit higher that the surrounding soil, than for it to be lower. Soil that’s been dug up for planting will settle in a few weeks, so the tree will end up level with the rest of the ground.

2. Inspect and loosen the roots. 

Another very important area to consider is that when buying trees grown in a container there’s a good chance it’s a bit rootbound and these should be loosened before planting. When you remove it from the pot, you’ll want to have a good look at the roots all the way around. Check for any soft or mushy rotting spots, and cut those out. After you’ve removed any rotting root material, it’s a good idea to loosen the roots around the sides of the root ball and tease some of them out. This will encourage new root growth to go out and down from the root ball, so the tree will develop a stronger root system as quickly as possible.

3. Fill the hole and water well.

Once your tree or shrub is in the hole, start backfilling around the roots while someone holds it straight. Continue to backfill until soil is completely filled making sure the root flare is still showing once complete. Once planted water your new tree in very well so air pocks can be filled, we like to water after mulch is placed so the soil doesn’t wash away as easily.

Mulch around shrubs and trees at Ted Lare

4. Add mulch and stakes.

Now that your tree or shrub is securely in its new home, you’ll want to add a good layer of mulch. A 2-3 inch deep layer of mulch is really beneficial for your new tree or shrub, it helps to retain soil moisture, it regulates soil temperature, and it insulates the root ball. Extreme temperature fluctuations are stressful for newly planted trees. Especially in the spring, when there are periods of freeze and thaw, it can cause quite a bit of damage to the roots of a tree. Mulch is a blanket of insulation to help protect the tree from damage. 

Do not make a volcano of mulch around the base of your tree trunk or shrub because again, the root flare should be showing when planting and mulching is complete. Instead make a donut pattern where the mulch tapers down in thickness until it reaches none around the trunk. Mulch piled up around the trunk will cause the trunk to start rotting as it traps moisture against the bark.

For some trees, especially very tall ones, you’ll need to make sure you stake them to keep them stable and straight. The size of your tree will determine how many stakes you need and how far away they should be. Our landscaping experts can tell you how best to stake your trees when you buy them. Stakes should be left on long enough to allow the tree to root in then taken off since the natural movement of the trunk is helps it become strong, leaving stakes on for too long such as many years interferes with this process.

Water new shrubs and trees at Ted Lare

5. Water and inspect your new tree regularly.

Soaker hoses and timers are your best bet for watering your trees. A soaker hose laid out in a coil around the rootball area of your tree will make sure it gets a deep and even watering. 

It’s important to know what your soil type is. If it’s heavy clay, you’ll have to be careful to make sure your trees don’t get too much water. If it’s sandy and free draining, you may need to water more frequently than you expect. 

A general rule of thumb for watering new trees is:

  • Days 1-14: water daily or every other day if the weather is very hot or windy.
  • Days 15-30: water twice per week
  • Day 30+ start to ease back to watering once per week, and then back to bi-weekly. Water bi-weekly until the ground freezes. 
  • Maintain this bi-weekly watering schedule for the first full yearl your tree or shrub is well established. 

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When you are ready to plant a tree stop by our huge outdoor shopping and see all the different options available for trees and shrubs that are great for our climate. Our tree experts can help you select choices that will suit your landscaping style and the needs of your yard, offer tips and advice, or planting services if you’d rather have it done for you. 

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5 Tips for Getting Your Planters Ready for Fall

fall annual containers

It’s time to give your flower planters a bit of sprucing up for the glorious fall season. With a few touches, you can embrace the rich jewel tones and cozy feelings of fall and harvest season, and get several more weeks of beauty from your porch pots or planters.

Here are 5 tips to get your planter pots looking beautiful just in time for fall in Des Moines.

Coleus for fall landscape at Ted Lare

1. Out with the Old, In with the New

Many flowers in planters are starting to look rough and have reached their limits now. Dig them all out, toss them on the compost pile, and replace them with something bold. Think rich colors, like the bright purple or red leaves on coral bells, purple oxalis, purple sweet potato vine, coleus, or ornamental kale. Don’t forget a little greenery, though, with plants like creeping jenny or sedums.

Change up the texture, spiky plants with wide leaves like dracaena are tough and beautiful, while short blue fescue adds a hint of cool blue and a softer texture.

2. Add Some Height

Add some tall ornamental grasses to your planters for height and structure. Consider colorful options like New Zealand flax and purple flame maiden grass, purple millet, or ones with interesting seedheads like Ravenna grass or pampas grass.

Pansies in fall container at Ted Lare

3. Replace Old Annuals with Cool-Season Ones

You don’t have to ditch flowers yet completely. There are a few options that prefer the cooler temperatures of fall and will last beautiful for many weeks yet. Pansies are easy to care for and are available in a rainbow of gorgeous colors, and they like cooler temperatures. Chrysanthemums are another fall container classic, usually available in all the best shades of color. Miniature sunflowers are also a wonderful seasonal addition to planters. Million bells, or calibrachoa, will also last well through the fall if planted now.

4. Incorporate Dried Flowers and Colorful Twigs

Dried elements, like strawflowers, bunches of lavender, dried hydrangea seedheads, allium seedheads, and groups of colorful twigs, like red dogwood, add texture, and a visual reminder of the harvest season. Dried Chinese lantern flowers are perfect for a fall theme; they look like a bunch of tiny little pumpkins in a planter.

Pumpkin and fall container at Ted Lare

5. Pop a Pumpkin In and Add a Flourish

What’s a more perfect symbol of fall than pretty pumpkins and gourds everywhere? Add some gourds to your planters for a pop of color and a different texture from the plants. You can’t beat a classic orange pumpkin, but some of the more interesting gourds with unique textures look just as amazing.

Finish off your fall planters with some seasonal flourishes like burlap bows, and maybe a string of warm white twinkle lights to keep your planters look cozy and welcoming even after the sun goes down. 


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Swing by the garden center for some gorgeous fall container inspiration, and pick a few new plants, planters, or decor items for your fall planters.


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How to Choose Ornamental Grasses

There are many different and beautiful ornamental grasses available. They run the gamut of colors, from red to green to blue to purple. They also come in a variety of sizes, heights, and shapes. Choosing which the best options for your yard can be challenging, here are a few tips to guide your choices and make it a little easier. 

Do You Want Ornamental Grass to be a Focal Point?

If you’d like your ornamental grass to be the center of attention, you’ll want to choose something with a big personality and presence. Ornamental grasses that form clumps are great as focal points because they tend to stay put, forming a nice thick column or mound of grass, without taking over the whole garden. Choose a grass with a color or texture that complements, but stands out from the rest of your landscaping. 

Clumping grasses include Karl Forester Grass, Fountain grass, maiden grass, and switchgrass. 

Feather Reed Grass in landscape Ted Lare
Do You Want Ornamental Grass to Look Good In the Winter?

Ornamental grasses can add beautiful color, texture, and height to your yard during a long Des Moines winter. If you’re choosing grass for winter interest, you’ll probably want to think about color and height. Taller grasses with gorgeous fall colors like dark red, purple, or vibrant yellow are great choices for winter interest. Grasses with seedheads also look beautiful against a backdrop of snow. 

Ornamental grasses that can stand up to the wind and snow yet still look great include switchgrass, maiden grass, feather reed grass, Indian Grass and big bluestem.

privacy in yard with Fountain Grass Ted Lare
Do You Want to Create a Privacy Screen or Backdrop for Other Plants?

If you’d like to add depth to your yard, a hint of privacy, or perhaps a soft textured background to set off other feature plants in your garden, ornamental grasses are a great choice. You may consider grasses that spread via runners as they’ll spread to create a seamless wall of grass. Keep in mind, though, that the challenge with grasses that spread via rhizome is they can take over a garden bed fairly quickly. If you choose to spread grasses, you’ll want to make sure you keep them under control, so they don’t overpower your feature plants. 

Great grasses for screening or backdrops include zebra grass, Ravenna grass, big bluestem, fountain grass, and switchgrass.

small ornamental grass as ground cover Ted Lare
Do You Want Ornamental Grasses to Fill in as Ground Cover Around Perennials?

There are lots of tall ornamental grasses out there, but there are also some gorgeous short varieties that work as beautiful and low maintenance ground covers in perennial beds. This is where grasses that spread by rhizomes are an excellent option. 

Grasses like Indiangrass, sedges, blue grama, small fescues, Japanese forest grasses, and lovegrass are excellent options for shorter ornamental grasses that add beautiful texture and color to your yard.


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Ornamental grasses are a beautiful addition to any landscape. They add visual interest as well as texture and color variation. Most ornamental grasses are also very low maintenance and drought tolerant. So they’re easy to care for and look good for more than one season. Ask our landscape design experts at the garden center if you’d like some more help choosing the right ornamental grasses for your yard.


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5 Tips for a Low Maintenance Landscape

liatris and coneflowers Ted Lare

Yard work takes time; there’s no sugar-coating it. Some people love yard work, living for the weekends when they can leave perfectly straight mower lines on the lawn, plant a new shrub, or build a pergola. But, many of us don’t feel that level of passion for yard work, while others just don’t have time for it.  

Regardless of our relationships with our lawnmowers, we all want to have an attractive yard, so low-maintenance landscaping is essential. There is no such thing as a maintenance-free yard (unless you hire someone else to do all of it), so fair warning: designing and installing a low-maintenance yard can be a fair bit of work up-front. But, once your landscape is complete, your to-do list will be shorter than ever. Here are a few landscape tips for cutting down your outdoor chore list:


purple salvia Ted Lare

1. Plant drought-tolerant perennials.

If you like flowering plants, but you don’t have time to clean them up and water them, choose drought-tolerant perennials. There are many beautiful options that are hardy enough to thrive through an Iowa drought summer and survive the depths of winter. These plants all offer great color and require very little care once established:

  • Silvermound Artemisia
  • Sea Holly
  • Cushion Spurge
  • Blue Fescue
  • Bearded Irises
  • Lavender
  • Catmint
  • Russian Sage
  • Black-Eyed Susan
  • Yarrow
  • Coneflowers
  • Salvia
  • Veronica
  • Liatris

Ornamental grasses are another excellent option. Prairie Dropseed, Switchgrass, Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, Karl Foerster Feather Reed, Ravenna Grass, and Purple Flame Maiden grasses all grow very well in Iowa. 

You may also want to look into xeriscaping. Many people think rocks and cacti when you mention xeriscaping, but that’s not all it is. Xeriscaping is about using mostly native plants that are best suited to survive your climate with no extra watering involved. For some places, that means cacti and rocks. Luckily we have plenty more options than just cacti in Iowa.


Black-eyed Susans Ted Lare

2. Plant deer-resistant plants.

Deer can do a number on landscaping, munching through flower beds, vegetable gardens, and even eating all the leaves off of trees and shrubs sometimes. If you have deer visiting your yard regularly, make sure to choose plants that they’re less interested in eating. These perennials are usually deer-proof:

  • Allium
  • Boxwood
  • Ligularia
  • Black-Eyed Susan
  • Salvia
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Coreopsis
  • Coneflowers
  • Ferns
  • Irises
  • Lavender
  • Mint
  • Bee Balm
  • Russian Sage 

dutch clover Ted Lare

3. Choose a low-maintenance lawn alternative.

Lawns are high maintenance. It might seem like keeping a large plain square of grass should involve less maintenance than an array of flower beds, shrubs, and trees, but it’s quite the contrary. Traditional lawns need to be mowed once a week. The more lawn you have, the longer it takes to mow. Then there’s also the lawnmower maintenance to factor in, not to mention inputs and watering. 

A lawn alternative, like white or Dutch clover, can drastically cut down on lawn maintenance time. Clover stays pretty short, doesn’t require mowing, and can handle heavy traffic, including rowdy dogs. Other lawn alternatives options include moss, thyme, and chamomile.


4. Install automatic irrigation.

If you want to stick with a traditional lawn, an automatic irrigation system will quickly become your “secret weapon.” It’s the best way to make sure your grass gets enough water through the summer without all the work of watering the lawn yourself.


mulching a garden Ted Lare

5. Embrace Mulch.

Mulch is a must for low-maintenance landscapes. A good thick layer of mulch keeps down weeds, regulates soil temperature, and helps soil retain moisture. It protects your trees, shrubs, and perennials in winter, it looks tidy and clean, and best of all, you don’t need to mow it!

You’ll want to top-up your mulch with a fresh layer every year or two, but otherwise, it just looks good all the time. It also improves the soil health and quality over the long term as the older layers break down into soil rich with organic material.


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If you want a low-maintenance yard, but you’re not sure where to start, or you don’t want to do it yourself, have a chat with our landscape design team. With 37 years as a leading design & build company in the Des Moines area, we can help you bring your landscape in line with your lifestyle.


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Using Iowa Natives in the Landscape

butterfly on Purple Prairie Clover Ted Lare

Native Plants are a vital part of the ecosystem; they provide food, shelter, and the perfect habitat for pollinators. And that’s only one of the many reasons to use native plants in your landscaping. 

Native plants are adapted to our climate, and so they still look beautiful during the hottest parts of the summer, when more delicate flowers are struggling to bloom. This also means they don’t require extra care and can survive on our normal rainfall levels, so they’ll help you save water. These plants are a perfect choice if you want an easy way to support a natural ecosystem. 

The perennials listed below are an excellent choice for beginners or advanced gardeners who want to add some low-maintenance beauty to their landscape in Iowa!    


Grey Headed Coneflower, Showy Goldenrod, and New England Aster Ted lare

Grey Headed Coneflower
While Coneflower is in the name, this is actually a different plant entirely! These have smaller, yellow star-like flowers. They bloom in abundance in mid-summer and grow to about 4-5′ tall and 3′ wide. They need a minimum of 6 hours of sun, the more the better. Bees love these and, and they’re a host plant for Checkerspot butterflies!


Showy Goldenrod
Beautiful cones of tiny yellow flowers bloom on tall stalks in the later months of summer. These are extremely drought-tolerant, and an important food source for butterflies heading south in late summer. Some Goldenrod spread, but not these, they are clump-forming and well behaved. The plant grows to about 4′ tall and 2′ wide. Plant in full sun for best performance.


New England Aster
These asters have wonderful purple-pink flowers in early to mid-fall. These are a beautiful shock of color in the garden when other flowers are starting to fade. They are also an important food source for migrating monarchs and other butterflies. The flowers resemble small daisies. The Purple Dome variety grows to about 3′ by 3′, but wild varieties grow to around 4′ tall and wide. Asters need a minimum half-day of sun, but a full day is what they enjoy the most. 

Virginia Blue Bells, Baptisia, and Penstemon Ted Lare

Virginia Bluebells
These little blue flowers grow in clusters and look like bells. These shade lovers will do best in a full shade location, and they’re a favorite with bees. They grow to around 1′ tall and 6″ wide, though sometimes bigger. These bloom in the spring and early summer, then go dormant during the heat of the later summer months. 


Resembling lupines with their tall flower spikes, these plants get quite large. They can get up to 4′ tall and 5′ wide. Baptisia is exceptionally hardy. These bee-favorites are available in several colors, including blue, yellow, white, and purple. They do best in full or part sun. 


Penstemons are like a smaller version of foxgloves, though they’re not available in as many colors. The flowers are white, and plants are available with green or purple leaves, and they’re popular with bees and hummingbirds. They grow to about 4′ tall, and 2′ wide, and are a great tall statement for the middle of the garden. Penstemon does best in full sun.

Ironweed, Beebalm, Purple Prairie Clover Ted Lare

Ironweed flowers are a rich purple on top of strong, dark green stems. It’s a showstopper when it blooms from mid-summer to late-fall. This stately plant, up to 4′ tall, is a favorite for bees and butterflies. Ironweed does self-seed, so you may want to deadhead spent blooms to keep it contained. 


Bee Balm
Bee Balm is a pollinator favorite that comes in a wide range of colors from lavender to red to rich dark purple. This perennial can spread, but there are new varieties available that are more compact and stay in a well-behaved clump. They range in height from 2′ to 4′ tall. Bee Balm like full sun, but will tolerate some shade. The lavender blooms seem to be the most popular with bees, while red is best for hummingbirds. Native bees often overwinter in the hollow stems of Bee Balm.


Purple Prairie Clover 
Clusters of bright, purple flowers adorn this mounding plant in mid-summer, and the bees love it. They get to around 3′ tall by 2′ wide. The foliage is a unique addition to the garden because it is soft and fern-like, adding some finer texture to balance out coarser plants. Full sun is best for Prairie Clover.


Mountain Mint, Little Bluestem, and Big Bluestem Ted Lare

Mountain Mint
The refreshing scent of mint floats in the air when you brush by this plant, but it isn’t aggressive like other mints. This mint is tough and can survive in wet or dry locations. It will grow to about 3′ tall and 2′ wide, and is happy in full to part sun. The tiny flowers are popular with some of our largest native pollinators in Iowa. These big insects can be a little scary, but they’re really just gentle giants, with no desire to hurt us.


Little Bluestem 
Grasses don’t offer showy flowers, but they’re still very important to pollinators. Grasses provide shelter during high winds and even homes for some, like Skipper butterflies. Little Bluestem is a short native grass that grows to about 3′ tall 2′ wide. In the fall, the foliage turns orangey-yellow, and the fluffy seedheads appear all up and down the stems. Little Bluestem performs best in full sun locations.


Big Bluestem 
It’s got a similar name, but Big Bluestem is actually quite different. It’s a bit bigger, growing to 5′ tall and 3′ wide. It does have a similar bluish color and turns orangey-yellow in the fall. The seedheads form at the top of the stalks of Big Bluestem. It does best in full sun.


Pennsylvania Sedge  
This is a gorgeous, slowly spreading groundcover with a grass-like appearance. It’s semi-evergreen, and the foliage stays lush, even through a drought. It grows to about 8″ tall and prefers full shade locations, but it can also tolerate some sun. 


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