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Best Iowa Perennials for Spring Blooming

“I am more myself in a garden than anywhere else on earth.” 
– Doug Green

Perennials are the perfect reminders that spring has sprung. Popping up again year after year, perennials are perfect for celebrating the warmer weather. With our tough winters, however, picking perennials for our climate can be tricky, but just as important. The healthiest plants are the best way to achieve a stunning garden. Below are a few of our favorite spring blooming perennials to recommend that flourish in Iowa!

Irises

This outstanding flower is one of the most gorgeous plants to add to a garden. It’s a popular old-fashioned classic for good reason. These iconic blooms are statement makers that are sure to please, and they are quite easy to take care of. Irises prefer full sun and moist soil, but they tolerate a variety of conditions. You can use them in part shade and drier soils as well. After they are established, they do not need a lot of attention, making them a great option for low maintenance gardens. When planting them, add some organically enriched soil and you will have delicate, draping blooms all spring. While available in many colors and varieties, some of our favorites are the dark purple Caesar’s Brother and the cream and white Butter and Sugar Siberian.

Pictured below: Iris ‘Caesar’s Brother’

Creeping Phlox

Creeping Phlox has amazing, star-shaped flowers that are both drought-tolerant and pet-friendly. These flowers don’t compromise beauty for being very hardy and functional flowers. True to their name, these flowers have a creeping quality, making them perfect for ground cover in the garden. WhitePinkBlue, and Purple are amazing springtime colors to choose, but you can get them in almost any shade you desire. They prefer full sun (but not too hot) and regular watering, letting the soil dry in between. Plant in moist and well-draining soil that is loamy or slightly sandy for the best growth.  However, they do tolerate a variety of conditions.

Old-Fashioned Bleeding Hearts

A true classic that gardeners have adored for years and years, Bleeding Hearts are amazing, native perennials, meaning they’re designed by nature to grow here! Their long reputation with gardeners speaks for itself, and their dainty blooms are sure to inspire a certain nostalgia. While many new variations of this plant have come out in recent years, our favorite is still the classic dark pink and white. Make sure the dangling, heart-shaped flowers have full to partial shade and weekly waterings and you’ll have beautiful blooms without fail.

Columbines

The name “Columbine” is derived from the Latin “Columba,” meaning “dove,” as the flower is said to look like five doves huddled together when the flower is inverted. They prefer partial to full sun and regular waterings, letting the soil dry slightly in between. You can choose from a wide range of varieties, but we are loving the pale yellow Corbett Columbine and the red and yellow Little Lanterns variety. With regular deadheading, these show-stopping flowers seem to bloom forever. They may even attract some hummingbirds, too, providing extra details to your backyard masterpiece!

Pictured below: Old Fashioned Bleeding Hearts

Pictured below: Lenten Rose

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Lenten Roses

Charmingly captivating, Lenten Roses feature amazing blooms that come in many interesting colors. Lenten Roses are some of the early spring flowers, which will give your garden a pop of color almost as soon as the snow melts.

They come in almost any color imaginable, but our favorites this year are Apricot BlushBlue DiamondCherry Blossom, and Painted Double. Plant them in a rich, well-draining soil and give them full to partial shade with weekly waterings. Mulch to keep their roots cool and use an acidic fertilizer after blooming for the best show this season.  

For best results year after year, try to pick out a spot that is protected from our harsh winter conditions, perhaps on the East side of your home, as Lenten Roses can sometimes react poorly to harsh winters.

Other Perennial Favorites

With so many beautiful perennials to choose from, it’s hard to make the shortlist. Here are a few of our other top choices for perennials this spring. There are many lovely flowers available that will thrive in our climate, filling your outdoor space with delightful blooms.

  • Salvia: Gorgeous, dark stems with stunning flowers – we love violet blue Carodonnas and lavender Pretty in Pinks. Give them full sun and plant in enriched, well-draining soil and water weekly.
  • Bellflowers: Classic, cup-shaped blooms that come in hundreds of colors – we love the violet-hued Takion Blue. Give them partial to full sun and ensure their well-draining soil is consistently moist for best performance.
  • Penstemons: Garden greats with colorful foliage and flowers – we love Husker Red (burgundy foliage and white flowers) and Dark Towers (bronze-red foliage with pink flowers). They need humus-rich and well-draining soil, partial to full sun, and regular watering.
  • Catmint: Fragrant flower spikes that cats love almost as much as catnip – we love the periwinkle blue Walker’s Low. Ensure they have good air circulation, partial to full sun, and weekly waterings to keep them at the top of their game.

Choosing perennials that work with you, rather than against you, is the goal this spring. You’ll spend less time fighting the elements in your garden and more time sitting back and enjoying the spectacular display in your own yard. These perennials are proven performers in our Iowa climate and are gorgeous options for your garden this year. Check out our full perennial blooming calendar to see more spring blooming perennials and stop by the Garden Center today to get your garden going with these vivacious varieties and more!

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2018’s Top New Annuals

Ted Lare Top New Annuals for 2018

“Flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity.”
– John Ruskin

Spring has finally started to show its face with confidence, and many of us are excited and ready to get busy in our gardens. We’ve been impatient for warmer air and new growth and now that the season is here, we’re thrilled to see what 2018 has to offer.

The top new annuals this year are worth the wait. With brighter colors and lots of style and attitude, these are some of the best annuals we have seen to date. The leaders of 2018’s trends range from pink to yellow, but this year’s trends are all ready to steal your heart – and steal the show in your containers and garden.

“Sky Pink” Petunia

Looking up at the fresh skies of spring, most of us expect to see various shades of dazzling blue. Intense hues of pink, however, are typically reserved for sunsets and rainbows. Staying true to its name, the “Sky Pink” Petunia is a performer that is ready to amaze. In 2017, many of us saw the exciting beginning to the beautiful “Sky” series, and were captured by the stylish mysticism of the “Night Sky Blue”. The line continues this year with the unbelievable “Sky Pink”, the most striking way to keep your garden style up to date.

These petunias are both vibrant and versatile. “Sky Pink” is a fair size, standing at 1’ tall and with a 2’ spread. They’ll be the perfect fit for a container or hanging basket so they have all the space they need to spill over the sides in a cascade of color. Keep in mind as you select your container and location that you petunias will need shelter from winds. You’ll have the best-looking petunias when they are planted with southern exposure and some wind protection.

Each of these flower’s spots are as unique as a snowflake, so we recommend that this annual be planted on its own to really show it off. With its bright color and unique markings, a container featuring only the “Sky Pink” will have more impact than trying to showcase them in a crowd of other plants. If you choose to plant these petunias with something else, choose plants that that accentuate their personality. A tall magenta grass could give these prima donnas all the space they need to dazzle.

“Sky Pink” is an aggressive growing annual and is very hungry as a result. Add a slow-release mix when you plant if the pellets are not already in the soil. Follow up with weekly fertilization with an all-purpose with a high middle number for stunning blooms all season.

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“Can-Can Bumblebee” Calibrachoa:

Just as sensational as the famous dance, “Can-Can Bumblebees” are a thrilling showcase of color. They’re a mix of everything at once: they have a star, and eye, and tricolor. This aggressive, sunbathing beauty is the perfect choice as the centerpiece in a container or hanging basket. We suggest pairing this showstopper with complimenting colors or textures. Choose pinks and yellows or tall grasses to highlight the best of this flower.  Purples will create a contrast that is sure to make your “Can-Can Bumblebees” the center of attention.

“Can-Can’s” are an aggressive grower that will blend well with other sun-loving annuals. Avoid pairing it with older annual varieties, since they may not be able to compete and could be overpowered. This Calibrachoa forms a shapely bell and will spill blooms out of your container, so it will need partnering plants that can keep up with them.

Unlike petunias, these flowers still perform well under harsh weather conditions. They will be a great pick for a windy spot, so long as they regularly get enough iron. Feed your “Can-Can Bumblebee” with a high last number all-purpose fertilizer and it will be easy to keep these flowers in tip-top shape this season.

Including these fashionable blooms in your garden is a great way to command attention all summer.

“Mistral Yellow” Begonia:

Begonias might have an unfair reputation as boring plants for stuffy gardeners. The new varieties of Begonia boliviensis make a compelling case that these tropical plants are on-trend and ready to amaze.

The “Mistral” series aims to impress with a couple of heavy hitters that put them on everyone’s radar this season. The blooms of these flowers play the strategic long-game in your gardens. Tiny individual blooms number in the hundreds and spill over your container’s sides to create an enticing bubble bath of dainty flowers.

This newest variety is a beautiful yellow that is as bright as sunshine. In contrast to their dark and variegated leaves, these flowers are vibrant enough to be planted alone.

“Mistral Yellow” may be small in stature, only standing a few inches high, but don’t let that fool you. These plants are aggressive growers and, given a shaded and sheltered spot, will spill out of your container in generous heaps. A container or hanging basket would be the ideal choice to promote this gorgeous cascading effect and keep the begonia’s roots warm. Placing your “Mistral Yellow” in a location with east or north exposure will give the best results.

A bit of air circulation is the key to success with this variety. Allow the soil to dry slightly between watering, and feed weekly or bi-weekly with an all-purpose mix for a healthy plant that is ready to impress.

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Modern Container Gardens

“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece.” 
– Claude Monet

Gardening trends are their own little paradox. On the one hand, the essentials of how we take care of our gardens and the joy that comes from nurturing life out of soil remain the same each year. But our gardens themselves get a refreshing lift each season with new trends and fashion. The new “it” trends are as seasonal as our gardens themselves.

Container gardening is the best choice for exploring new trends with each summer. They’re creative, dynamic, but also very non-committal, so you are free to explore new ideas as much as you’d like. A few of this year’s top trends are the perfect fit for your own container garden this spring:

Gardening with Succulents

Succulents continue to have an impressive presence in garden trends and on garden center shelves. These adorable plants have a unique aesthetic and add a certain edge to any indoor or outdoor creation. Succulents are the perfect combination of ease of care and contemporary style.

Succulents are a great choice for a chic container. Choose a shallow container (terra-cotta is a great choice) and hunt for your new favorite succulents at our garden center. The most striking container should have a healthy mix of different shapes and colors. Even if one type of succulent catches your eye more than the others, the mixture will help them all to stand out even more once they are planted.

For the creative, it could be a great DIY project to make your own container. Head to the antique mall and take advantage of any improvised vessels you can find. Bird cages, toys, dishware, and even shoes have been inspirations for many succulent crafts.

Some tips for creating the best statement-making succulent container:

  • Choose a few of your favorite succulents you would like to bring indoors in the fall. By keeping them in their pots when you plant them, you can easily separate them from the container when the weather cools. Give them lots of winter light indoors until next spring and they will eventually become specimen pieces as the seasons go by.
  • If you have the space, you could bring your whole container indoors. Spray it a few times to make sure it is clear of opportunistic pests before taking it inside for the winter.
  • Try blending your succulents with less expensive bedding plants to create a planter full of unique interest. Costly designer annuals will overwhelm and devour your succulents, but sun lovers like marigolds, zinnias, portulaca, and other classics are great choices.
  • Choose soils and containers that have excellent drainage. Try blending a potting mix in a 1:1 ratio with cactus soil for an easy blend that your succulents will thrive in. Consider layering pebbles on the bottom of your container if spacing permits to improve drainage even more.
  • These trends offer a unique take on the normal garden favorites. Choosing any or all of these great seasonal trends offers your backyard and garden a fresh new take on the season that will be catching the eye for the entire summer.

Gardening with Water:

Backyard water features are chic and add a serene calm to your yard, but sometimes you don’t want the full commitment. You can actually take advantage of the backyard water trend without the landscaping hassle. Something as simple as a container can be transformed into a trendy statement for your yard this summer.

Creating a backyard pond only requires a non-permeable container, some water, and a few aquatic plants. Whether you choose to commit to a permanent feature or just retrofit a container, the principle is the same.

To make your own miniature water feature, find a large container without any drainage holes. Add some clay-based soil, some water, and specific water garden plants to complete the look. You may even choose to add fish for an extra aesthetic bonus. Simply provide your miniature garden with 6 or more hours of sunlight a day, and your water garden is ready to impress!

As you build, remember:

  • You can add soothing sound effects with a small pump. The sounds of water will fill your yard, and the ambient humidity will give any surrounding tropicals a healthy boost! As an added bonus, a pump will keep your water moving and help to discourage any mosquitoes from making themselves at home.
  • As beautiful as they are, avoid any repurposed alcohol barrels for your pond, as they could leach harmful chemicals into the water, potentially harming plants (and fish).
  • You’ll need to add water as it evaporates. Water plants and fish are sensitive to chlorine. Let your tap water sit out for a day or two to evaporate some chlorine away before you add it to your container.
  • Maintenance might require cleaning some algae from your container. Once or twice a year is usually enough to keep it at bay unless you have fish in your container.
  • Get creative with this project, and choose a statement container to really make your seasonal water feature pop in your yard.

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Gardening in Ultraviolet:

Pantone is the color authority for all things design. They have an exhaustive library of colors and they are trusted as the leading name in indoor and outdoor decor, as well as fashion and art. Every year they announce which of their colors will be setting the trend for design. After a few years of underwhelming selections, 2018’s choice of Ultra Violet (18-3838) is full of potential.

One of the most complex colors on the spectrum, the intensity of ultraviolet comes down to science. Human eyes can only see some of this color, the rest is filled in as your brain’s best guess. While other creatures like a bee can see the true color with their fuller spectrum of vision, we are treated to the optical illusion of a color that is half real and half imaginary.

Popular ultraviolet blooms take full advantage of this trick for an even more impressive range of beauty. The combination of real and imagined color can make the color of intense violet appear vibrant in full sunlight, but downright brooding in the evening. One set of blooms can transform your outdoor space with color that almost changes to fit the ambient mood of your yard.

Here’s how to make the most out of ultraviolet for the trendiest and most stunning containers this season:

  • Violet contrasts strongly with yellow. Adding a simple and vibrant sunny yellow next to your ultraviolet blooms will spice up your container. The contrast will bring out the best of your violet. You won’t be able to keep your eyes off of this color combination!
  • Violet is so intense that it can be lost in the shade or shadows. Pairing it with a bright companion (like a lighter foliage) will give it the stage that it needs.
  • Purple works extra hard in your containers to keep its appeal even into the fall. The lower angles of sunlight late in the season plays tricks with the light and will bring out yet more dimensions of your ultraviolet flowers.
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Easter Decorating Tips

Eggshell succulent easter design creative DIY projects

Easter is a season all about rebirth and, as the doorway to spring, it’s the time to start ushering in new life at home. Now is the best time to revive your home for visiting friends and family, and to sweep out all the lingering hints of the long winter behind us.These are some of our favorite easy DIY ways to welcome spring into your home this year.

Wheatgrass:

This is the easiest and freshest trend to bring some vibrant greens indoors. It’s so easy, even the kids can help with bringing a bit of spring into your indoor decor! Growing wheatgrass at home offers a beacon of health and new growth.

All you’ll need is a container, potting soil, and some wheatgrass seed. If you don’t plan on eating your wheatgrass in a tasty smoothie, catgrass is a great alternative that might be easier to source – giving the same visual effect. Here’s how to make it happen at home:

  1. Soak your seeds in water for 12-24 hours to soften them up. Softer seeds will give you faster-growing grass.
  2. Add soil to your container. You’ll only need a few inches. If your container is significantly deeper, feel free to fill the bottom with gravel or other fillers.
  3. Moisten your soil before planting and layer your seeds so thick that you don’t see any soil. Too thin and your decorative grass could end up looking sparse or patchy.
  4. Place your container in a window and wait a few days to enjoy the green vibrant growth of fresh grass. With this display at home, you’ll want to take a deep breath of fresh air every time you see it.

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Eggshell Succulents:

This DIY craft combines the season’s trendiest houseplants with the classic design of easter eggs! Not only does the eggshell make a chic and adorable statement piece, but it even adds nutrients that help your succulents thrive.

You’ll need some eggs (we recommend six or a dozen so you can use the whole carton) and succulents. You’ll be looking for young, small succulents, around 2” in size. Choose whatever variety you fall in love with, as any type works well.

  1. Use a dull knife to carefully notch and then cut the top off of the pointy side of the egg. Make a hole just large enough to pour out the egg – we recommend pouring it out on to a sizzling frying pan to add more enjoyment to your craft. Wash the inside of the shell and let it dry for a day or so.
  2. Carefully remove the succulents from their pots and very gently plant them into the shell. Chopsticks are great improvised tools to help push the soil into all of the air pockets and work the delicate succulent roots into their new soil. We recommend using a cactus or succulent blend of soil, or mixing some soil half-and-half with sand.
  3. Water your succulents sparingly, only until the top is moistened. You now have an assortment of easter egg succulents, with happy plants munching away at calcium. Enjoy this low-maintenance, trendy glimpse of spring all year!

Indoor Fresh Air:

Spring is the time that we get to break out of the house or open the windows to enjoy the fresh air. This Easter, you have the chance to bring the freshest of outdoors air inside with you to clean out the staleness of winter.

Houseplants have recently been celebrated for their ability to clean the air around them and have even enjoyed a boost in popularity, thanks to these hidden purifying abilities.  If you make a garden of these popular and attractive plants, they will bring some spring air indoors for you, stripping the air of toxins and boosting humidity and oxygen levels around them.

Many of these plants are very low-maintenance and easy to find. Some of the best varieties include:

  • Spider plant
  • Peace Lily
  • Gerbera Daisy
  • Ferns (Bostons are best)
  • Palms (look for a Parlour palm)
  • English Ivy
  • Mum

Plant these air-cleaning machines together, with some optional fresh spring ornaments, for a boost that lasts all year. Don’t we all want that fresh spring feeling for ourselves no matter what season it is?

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Succulent Birdcage

Succulent birdcage antique design decor home style living lifestyle creative diy project

The latest in gardening trends can sometimes come from the most unexpected places, and succulents have certainly held the spotlight for gardening trends for a while. Repurposing antique bird cages for a unique display, however, is a fresh idea that makes a new and striking twist on a current favorite. The latest in gardening trends can sometimes come from the most unexpected places, and succulents have certainly held the spotlight for gardening trends for a while. Repurposing antique bird cages for a unique display, however, is a fresh idea that makes a new and striking twist on a current favorite.

Succulents and vintage bird cages are a perfect fit for each other. While the antique bird cage captures a certain nostalgia, the dynamic and whimsical form of succulents adds character. This new take on planters is the start of a hot new trend, and is sure to turn heads.

“You know you’re a gardener when everything you see becomes a planter.” – Unknown

If you want to capture this trend before it grows, you might need to do some DIY. Many garden centers are only just starting to introduce pre-planted options to their shelves. Making your own succulent birdcage gives you the option for a totally personalized and custom look that will add a unique edge to your home or backyard.

Materials

  • Birdcage with a minimum 1” lip at the bottom (these can usually be found easily at an antique mall).
  • Succulents
  • Optional moss and lichens for decoration
  • Sheet moss or coco liner
  • Cactus soil
  • Small pebbles
  • Activated carbon

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Succulent Options:

You’ll want about 1 succulent plant for every 2” of birdcage diameter. For example, a 6” wide cage can fit 3 plants. For larger cages that are a foot across or more, you can start playing with container design. The “thriller, filler, spiller” rule of thumb is still a great tool here, helping to plan for a centrepiece, some low profile fillers, and something to trail out of the cage.

Some of the better options include:

  • Thriller: Varieties like Aloe Vera, Jade, or tall Aeonium have the striking architecture you might want for the center of your birdcage.
  • Filler: Rosette Succulents (echeverias) are the staple of a birdcage garden. Their natural range in colors make for a beautiful design as they spread in gorgeous clusters. Other little succulents work well too. Consider using Sedums or Crassulas as well.
  • Spiller: Succulents are a little limited in trailing options. Of course, String of Pearls or String of Bananas is a good choice for a small footprint in the cage with far-trailing habits. Burrow’s Tail could also be considered, but is a less popular choice because it grows so slowly. Eventually, your fillers will send runners that trail, adding a natural trailing element.

Putting it Together:

You’re essentially building an open terrarium, so many of the principles for the more mainstream succulent containers apply. Your birdcage will determine some of your construction approach: A mesh or open bottom is preferred, where coco liner or sheet moss can be laid down for drainage. A solid bottom cage will either require drilling drainage holes, or very careful vigilance with watering habits.

Here’s how to put together your succulent birdcage:

  1. Lay sheet moss or coco liner at the bottom of the cage and up a few inches on the sides.
  2. Place a layer of pebbles at the bottom for drainage.
  3. Layer activated charcoal on top of the rocks. This is an important step as it helps keep your plants safe from accumulating toxins.
  4. Add cactus soil to your desired soil height.
  5. Plant your succulents, arranging from the center outward.
  6. Add moss, lichens, and other touches to fill in any gaps and to give a polished final look.

It is also important to note that older cages may have paint that contains lead. Working with this kind of cage is not just a safety concern for you, but also for the health of your plants. When in doubt, use plastic sheeting to protect your plants against the paint chemicals from your antique birdcage.

Take on a gardening DIY project this season! Browse our upcoming classes & workshops

Beyond Succulents:

Planting in a birdcage is a new and creative way to garden – any old cage can be a striking alternative to any hanging basket. Succulents may be on their way to popularizing this trend, but a little creativity can bring forward unique and totally original displays in your home that are guaranteed to start conversations! Simply switch out cactus soil for peat-based potting soil and you can plant any annuals you want.

Imagine your backyard, complete with lavish and lush bunches of Supertunias or Bacopa, streaming from a birdcage, or alternatively, a rustic cage filled with edible and fragrant herbs.

This trend is all about looking at garden containers in a new way and finding an attractive way to put twists on container classics. Experimenting and getting creative is the perfect way to have a backyard statement piece that is unique and head-turning.

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Vegetable Seeding 101

seeding basics how to sow seeds vegetable garden

Planting your own seeds is a win for everyone. Not only does it save you money, while being good for your health, it is much easier than some myths would have you believe. Planting even a few seeds each year is important. It’s a significant reminder that despite how frantic our plugged-in lives can get, some of our most meaningful joys come from the simplest places.

Why Plant Seeds?

It might be simpler to ask, why not? Our gardening experience has changed in the last few years from the roots up. Slowly, popularity is swinging back to what gardening used to be about: a little bit of dirt on your hands at the end of the day, and getting a taste of our own home-grown food. This movement is more than just a trend, so many people worldwide are turning to home-gardening for countless reasons. All these new people have started to innovate and adapt in their own ways, creating a gardening experience that is both new and old, and totally unique. Seeing your own food at home is a smart move in so many different ways. Below are just a few benefits from growing your own vegetables.Seeding your own food at home is a smart move in so many different ways. Below are just a few benefits from growing your own vegetables. 

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For Your Health:

The health benefits are obvious. Your vegetables are at their best straight from the garden, where they have the most nutrients and vitamins packed in them. The longer you wait after your food is picked, the more your nutrition-per-bite suffers. Growing your own gets all of the nutrients where they belong: on your plate. You’ll also have the assurance that you know exactly where your food was grown and what went into it. Growing your own food from seed ensures the healthiest food that you can have full confidence in.

For the Flavor:

Homegrown food tastes better. If you place something straight from your garden next to produce from the store, we promise that you can tell the difference your backyard makes. After you try a home grown tomato, you will not want to go back.

For Your Wallet:

Growing your own food is basically growing money. You will actually pay much less every month, while reaping the rewards of better tasting, healthier food. You might still buy some exotic favorites from the store, but plants like peppers, beans, or tomatoes are essentially high-interest investments.

For Your Family:

Many people like to seed their own garden for their families. The delicious and healthy foods benefit your entire family, and growing your own saves money. But teaching your children how to grow their own vegetables is a valuable experience that doesn’t actually cost anything. Some lifelong rewards are just too important to be bought.

Getting Started:

The most difficult obstacle for people interested in seeding their own garden, is figuring out when to start. Some of your plants might be sown directly into the soil in the spring, while others may need to be started earlier, indoors. Thankfully, it’s not a very exact science so if your guesswork is a little off on either end, your plants and crops will still be great. For information on how to time your planting for the Iowa growing region, view our Seeding Calendar article.

Seeding Inside:

Some plants are a little more hearty and can tolerate being started outside as soon as the weather is mild. Crops like peas, beans, carrots, and salad greens all grow quickly and don’t mind a slight chill. Other heat-lovers, like peppers or tomatoes, will perform best if they get an indoor head-start on the season. Starting inside is a good way to get the most out of your summer, while offering a fresh green reminder on your windowsill of spring-to-come. Here’s how to get started:

  1. Wash your containers well, with soap and water. Young seedlings can be more susceptible to bacteria and fungi than your matured plants, so you’ll want to start them off right.
  2. Don’t start with soil from the garden. Use a packaged blend specially designed for seedlings to ensure that everything is sterile.
  3. Pick a location. Most seeds won’t need specialty lighting – a bright window will do. The seedlings will want as much light as they can get once they germinate.
  4. Maximize your humidity. Our favorite trick is to use a clear, plastic dome to keep moisture in while the seeds germinate. Once the leaves break the surface, they won’t need the dome anymore.
  5. The initial leaves on a plant are seedling leaves. These are nourished from the stores in the seed itself. Once the roots develop enough for the plant to draw nutrients from the soil, your plant will develop true leaves. Once true leaves start to develop, it’s time to transplant your seedling.
  6. Watering your freshly sown seeds could rinse them away. Instead, opt for the finest mist possible for the first few waterings. Optimally, you should use something that produces an effect like light rain.

Once your seedlings have successfully started, they are ready to move to the garden. Having started from scratch gives you extra satisfaction that will make your homegrown food taste even better, all summer long. Visit Ted Lare Garden Center to select your favorite vegetable seed varieties from Iowa’s Seed Savers Exchange.

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Kokedama

how to make a kokedama houseplant bonsai

Kokedama is one of the newest trends in houseplants, but its roots can be traced to sophisticated philosophy. This Japanese tradition is just as unique as the other modern gardening techniques of the same heritage. The striking aesthetic of Kokedama tells its own story and is a great choice to enrich your indoor spaces.

“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
– Leonard Cohen

Wabi-Sabi

Wabi-Sabi is the Japanese term to describe the beauty of imperfection and transience. This aesthetic principle is guided by a focus on forms of nature that our western culture sometimes forgets: the irregular and modest. This is an intimate look at the beauty of the imperfect.

Kokedama was traditionally an expression of Wabi-Sabi with bonsai trees. Typically, the trees would be taken out of their pots and instead displayed on top of pottery, or intertwined in driftwood. The bare display and exposed roots celebrated the beauty of simplicity and the rougher parts of nature.

The practice has since evolved to an even more striking aesthetic: roots are wrapped in string and moss balls to create a natural pot for a plant. It creates a living sculpture, with strong Wabi-Sabi aesthetic that is guaranteed to catch the eye and start a conversation.

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The Basics:

Kokedama works for almost any plant you can imagine growing inside. Some of our favourites are ferns, orchids, small tropical plants and vines, succulents or even air plants.

This trend is just on the rise. Buying a ready-made piece may be difficult, but finding the supplies isn’t hard and the process is easy to do yourself. Making your own Kokedama plant promises a totally unique and personalized plant to display that exactly fits the mood and look you want for your home.

You’ll Need:

  • Potting soil and black dirt (in a 2:1 mix of potting soil to black dirt. You want the soil to hold its form – add a little more black dirt if it isn’t holding together.)
  • Sheet moss or Coco Liner
  • Cheese cloth
  • Fishing line
  • Twine/cotton thread
  • Your plant(s)

How-To:

While the statement plant of your container is typically the focal point, don’t forget that the container itself is an important part of the overall look. Different containers can help compliment your style or even be the statement piece, while also providing the plants support like moisture or heat control that they need for their best growth.

Healthy plants naturally look the best, so remember to select plants that have similar care requirements. Super aggressive growers have a tendency to swallow up less aggressive growers, if they share a container. Additionally, pairing plants with similar moisture and sunlight needs will help to avoid making compromises.

If you have your heart set on some combinations that don’t work well, don’t worry! Some conflicts can be cheated. Plants with different needs can be planted in their own individual pot that is hidden in the container itself. It might look like the plants are all together, but it’s a smart way for you reap the benefits of better control.

Make your own kokedama! See if we have a kokedama workshop coming up.

Assembly:

  1. Expose the roots of your plant. You don’t need to scrub them, but should gently remove as much soil as you can.
  2. Blend your potting soil and black soil. You’re aiming for a texture like a homemade meatball – something that doesn’t fall apart, but still has some give.
  3. Check that your soil ball is big enough to hold the roots of your plant. On average, the ball should be the size of an orange, but should ultimately reflect the size of your plant.
  4. Carefully split the soil ball in half, or make a hole in it. Gently fit the roots into it, being careful not to break them.
  5. Press the ball back together gently.
  6. (Optional) Wrap cheesecloth around the ball.
  7. Wrap the ball in sheet moss or coco-liner. Anchor the covering by pressing parts of it into the soil. The ball should be totally covered.
  8. Wrap fishing line around the ball to hold the covering in place. A second wrapping in twine will give a more wabi-sabi aesthetic, while cotton thread will eventually dissolve.

Basic Care:

Water your Kokedama plant by soaking it entirely in lukewarm water. You should water immediately after planting, and then as needed – succulents will need watering much less frequently than tropical plants.

You can display your Kokedama plant any way that you want. Some prefer to place it in a dish, but the most eye-catching option is most certainly hanging. A suspended Kokedama plant is a great statement piece that adds an element of intrigue to any room and promotes a healthier-looking plant, as well.

This growing trend is a great opportunity for a unique and personalized green and leafy element to your home that is sure to stop people and start a conversation. Take advantage of this gorgeous style to add a new element of striking Japanese tradition and aesthetic to your home.

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Houseplants in the Winter

winter houseplant care home interior design

Are you feeling a little of those winter blues? When the winter temperatures drop and the outside world gets frosty, our houseplants are the green aesthetic boost that we need. However, the darker and drier winter conditions can be hard on your beautiful houseplants. Understanding the needs of your plants can help you keep them gorgeous and lush all winter.

Winter Hibernation

With how short our winter days are, everyone is getting less natural Vitamin D from the sun than usual. We may even be feeling the difference, getting a little sluggish and tired on darker days. The indoor plants in your house also rely upon the sun to boost their metabolism, so many of them may even be hibernating these days.

You might notice your plant taking a short break: leaves might fall, and growth slows down. Don’t worry too much, as your plants will perk up with the return of more sunlight in the spring. 

In the meantime, watering less will help your houseplant’s dormant roots to avoid being overwhelmed. If you poke your finger into the soil and it is dry up to the first knuckle, it’s time to water your houseplant.

Dry Air

On the other side of giving your plant the water it needs, the drier winter air can be very stressful for your houseplants. With the exception of succulents and cacti, most houseplants are from tropical forests, where they enjoy nearly 100% humidity. If the air gets dry enough in the winter, it can even pull moisture out of the leaves of your plants, leaving them parched.

If possible, keep your tropical houseplants close to together to let them benefit from each other’s moisture (with the added bonus of creating an attractive tropical oasis in your home). Boosting the humidity of the air can also help, either through the use of a humidifier or by letting your plants enjoy evaporating air nearby. For a quick pick-me-up, your houseplants will love a brief misting to keep them healthy and lush.

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Cold Drafts

Another thing your favorite tropicals struggle with is temperature changes. Back in their rainforest homes, the temperatures barely change a few degrees over an entire year, while our homes can change several degrees in a single day.

If your houseplants are close to cold windows or in the way of icy drafts from doors, they’ll appreciate moving away from sudden, cold temperatures. Keeping attractive and healthy plants sometimes calls for being flexible about where they are displayed to keep them rich and green, especially this time of year.

Houseplants are one of our favorite ways to add winter interest to our indoor living spaces. We get to bring something green and colorful inside to enjoy every day of the year. Keeping your houseplants healthy in winter conditions will ensure that they are lush all season and better than ever when they come out of hibernation in the spring!

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Des Moines Seeding Calendar

Seeding schedule calendar planting seeds

The freshest flavors of the summer undeniably come from your own garden. Who doesn’t want to enjoy and share a summer dinner with the fruits of their labors? One of this year’s healthiest trends focuses on homegrown food. Summer is the best time to enjoy the cleanest, most organic, and most local food possible from your own garden. We are lucky to enjoy flavors from everywhere around the world,  but our garden is a little limited by our American climate. Some vegetables have different needs for their best growth. The scheduling aspect of planning your vegetable garden to suit these needs can be a bit intimidating at first. With some easy advice, you can have a flourishing garden filled with all of your favorite foods, all in sync with the seasonYour garden can be as simple or complex as you wish, and filled with everything you want to get more of each summer.

Early (and Late) Season

There are a lot of vegetable favorites that produce amazing food both early and late in the season. These plants excel in moderate temperatures but struggle to perform under full summer heat and exposure. These are all quick-growing vegetables, so you have many opportunities to enjoy them in the bookends of the season. The beginning of April is a great time to start seeding some of these vegetables:

  • Radishes
  • Lettuce and other greens
  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Chard
  • Turnips

These are all great choices for early in the season. They can also be brought back for additional plantings in early August, once the most intense of the summer heat and sun has passed. Summer salads, anyone?

Vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower are good choices to plant early in April too. These plants are a little more resilient to heat and will last into late June. They are slower growing so they won’t be very well suited for another planting late in the season. Hardy vegetables like onions and potatoes are also great choices for early seeding and can be grown all season for the best harvests.

“Heat Lovers”

Many other garden favorites need a little more heat to be their best-tasting. These heat-loving plants soak up the sun and prefer to have warmer soil, so they typically shouldn’t be planted until about mid-May. Some of the classic plants for later seeding are:

  • Beans
  • Sweet corn
  • Tomato
  • Pepper
  • Eggplants
  • Squash
  • Cucumber
  • Melon,
  • Pumpkins
  • Watermelon

Late summer is also a great time to start harvesting: 

  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Cherries
  • Raspberries
  • Blueberries

Cheating the Weather

Of course, many times you don’t need to be a slave to the weather. A well-lit windowsill is all you need to get many of your plants started early. The favorite trend of indoor seeding is herbs, which can flourish at any point in the season with enough sun. Other vegetables like peppers, cucumber and tomatoes can be started inside too, for a head start on the season. You’ll be cheating the spring weather, but the real benefit is a little splash of green in the kitchen when most living things outside are still dormant. Another challenge – once you have figured out when in the season to plant – is making guesses about seasonal temperatures. Some summers come later than others or can be hotter or colder than predicted. Don’t worry too much – this is just your planting guide. Don’t be afraid to make a call to plant sooner or later if the weather looks right. Part of the joy of keeping a garden is making it yours, as well as enjoying it’s product later.

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How To Design a Statement-Making Container Garden

The Ted Lare Look container garden recipe tips and ideas

Container design of the past was traditionally a painstaking endeavor to create perfect, identically manicured lawns and flower displays. The well-maintained lawns and gardens of mid-century suburbia were undeniably gorgeous – but so restricted that they lacked personality or flair.

Contemporary designs have favored container gardening that is much more versatile. This way you can have a trendy and personalized garden, but also the time to enjoy it. The garden has now become a space of creative self-expression, and container designs are the perfect opportunity to add a unique and personalized touch to your garden and home.

A couple of guidelines and tricks makes all the difference in creating beautiful, statement-making container gardens. Basic guidelines will help you to use design principles to ensure spectacular containers of any style with as much (or as little!) experimentation as you want.

Principles of Design, and Container Art

There are some basic principles typically used in visual art to create strong compositions. Interestingly, these same principles are useful in creating container designs. Think of your container as a living sculpture. When selecting your plants to place in a container, try considering things like color, texture, and shape. There are few definitive rules about how these principles should be used; they are better thought of as tools and can be used to create different effects.

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Simple Rules (Thrillers, Spillers, and Fillers)

A favorite staple many garden designers swear by is the “thriller, filler spiller” method to pair different elements within containers. This rule keeps everything about color, texture, and shape open to your tastes, combining one of each varying style of plant will craft a container with a guaranteed aesthetic. In choosing your plants, select one plant for vertical architecture (thriller), one plant to fill the space (filler), and one to overspill out of the container (spiller).

Styling your Container

While the statement plant of your container is typically the focal point, don’t forget that the container itself is an important part of the overall look. Different containers can help compliment your style or even be the statement piece, while also providing the plants support like moisture or heat control that they need for their best growth.

Healthy plants naturally look the best, so remember to select plants that have similar care requirements. Super aggressive growers have a tendency to swallow up less aggressive growers, if they share a container. Additionally, pairing plants with similar moisture and sunlight needs will help to avoid making compromises.

If you have your heart set on some combinations that don’t work well, don’t worry! Some conflicts can be cheated. Plants with different needs can be planted in their own individual pot that is hidden in the container itself. It might look like the plants are all together, but it’s a smart way for you reap the benefits of better control.

Want more inspiration? Try out some of our container garden recipes

But What Do You Want To Do With It?

Containers don’t have to be static, cookie-cutter displays. When you’re planning your container, take a moment to decide what you actually want from it: Do you want a striking modern statement piece? How about attracting more pollinators? Intoxicating fragrance? Maybe a corner of the backyard to relax at the end of the day? Or a trendy conversation starter?

Colors and textures have a massive effect. While contrasting colors and unexpected textures and shapes vibrantly draw attention for a modern look, a restricted color palette and soothing textures can help to calm the senses. Similarly, the type of plants you choose can be important, from inviting bees to your home, to experimenting with new trends like succulents or the newest varieties of your favorite flowers.

The best part of containers is the flexibility that they offer. No matter your wants, a few simple guidelines is enough to give you the freedom to have successful, healthy, and spectacular containers every year.