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Working with a Landscape Pro- Your Questions Answered

When it’s time to consider a new landscaping project, you need to know the basics of how to work with a landscape professional. What is the consultation process? How long will it take? And how much is all of this going to cost? 

Our resident landscape expert Keegan Lare, shares his advice on what to expect when you work with our professional team here at Ted Lare.    

The First Step: The Phone Consultation  

After you call in to start a project, we organize a phone conversation with one of our designers. This typically happens within 24-48 hours of the initial call, depending on what part of the season we’re in. 

During this call, we answer any questions you may have, and we try to get a feel for the projects you’re looking for. If it seems like a solid fit for both sides, then we schedule an on-site consultation at your home or your business if it’s a commercial job. 

 

Next Steps: The On-Site Consultation

We usually meet for up to an hour to check out your residence and discuss our initial thoughts on your project. 

We charge $100 for consultations in the Des Moines Metro area, but this $100 gets credited back to you if we do the work. Depending on the complexity of the job, we may charge up to $200-500 to account for some of our design time. This will all be discussed on-site and agreed upon before we move forward. You will also receive that amount back in credit if you decide to carry out the project.

Most importantly, the on-site consultation is a time for you to ask questions, so don’t be shy!  

 

Common Questions during the Consultation 

Here are some of the questions you can expect us to discuss with you when we visit your property for the first time. 

 

What are your goals? 

In general, we like to ask homeowners what their top 3 goals are for their outdoor spaces. These goals help us focus on what is most important to you and allows us to develop a plan that meets your aspirations.

 
How do you live? 

We’ll also ask for general information about your lifestyle. For example, how big are the gatherings you expect to have on your new patio? What does a typical weekend look like for you? Do you love the sun, or prefer to hang out in the shade?

 

What are your tastes? 

Any images that show your taste in materials (patios, walls, etc.) always help us get an idea of what you like. Providing any previous plans for the property also helps us save time creating a base plan from scratch. 

 

What is your budget? 

Discussing a budget range is very helpful so that we know any limitations on the project. We’ll generally give options with different price points, as clients find it beneficial to have a few choices.  

 

Information Gathered for Design 

When at your site, we capture all the data we need to create an initial design. This includes several photos of the yard and home, critical measurements of the space, and information on accessibility, powerlines, and obstacles. 

This process can be quick or rather extensive, depending on the existing conditions of the location. New homes without a lot of previous installations are easy to measure and capture. Older homes with many existing hardscapes and plantings can take longer to document. 

Design Timeline 

We try to respond with design ideas and a preliminary budget within two weeks of the first meeting, but this time frame depends on the complexity of the project. If there are many construction elements to design and price out, it may take longer.  

 

Moving Forward 

After we provide you with an initial design, the decision is in your hands on how to move forward and set a schedule. Often there are different phases of work to choose from, such as tree removal, garden preparation, installation of hardscapes, etc. We are happy to do it all at one time or phase it in over a few years. Usually, it makes sense to do as much construction as possible in one trip to limit the cleanup expenses involved in multiple trips over several years. 

Once the project scope of work is agreed upon, we work to schedule the project in the near future.  If it is a simple planting, it may only be a few weeks before we can complete the work. If the project involves a lot of construction, it might be a few months before we can start a project. Once we start a job, we see it through to completion.  Our install crews are some of the best around and you will love working with them.


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The landscape consultation process is often that simple. For a small fee and in short order, you can have professional designers guide you towards your ideal renovation. If you have any further questions on the landscaping process, or would like to start a project, please don’t hesitate to contact Ted Lare Design & Build. We would love to hear from you!

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Creating Shade

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

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

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

source

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

Ted’s Pick: Swamp White Oak

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

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

Other large shade trees to try:

fiddle-leaf fig plant

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

Ted’s Pick: Hot Wings Tartarian Maple 

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

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

Other medium shade trees to try:

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fiddle-leaf fig plant

source

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

Ted’s Pick: Serviceberry

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

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

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

Other compact shade trees to try:

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

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Container Garden Inspiration

container garden inspiration

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Container Garden Inspiration

The Ted Lare Look

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Gardening is constantly evolving, which is a gift to us gardeners that want to change things up and keep up with the latest new idea. Every year the whole gardening process starts again, with planning, planting, nurturing, and finally the beauty of your efforts in full bloom. Every spring we get the choice of which classics we want to hang onto for another year, and what new styles we’re ready to embrace! Although flower beds are nice, containers are where true creativity has the chance to flow.

Containers for Any Home:
Containers can work for anyone from a tiny apartment space with mere square feet on the balcony to rural homesteads with acres of land. They’re the perfect place to experiment without the larger commitment of planting in beds. Best of all, they act like throw pillows for your landscape, accenting here and there to frame the rest of your garden design. As such pivotal pieces in your backyard repertoire, it’s worth taking some time to design what goes into them.

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Creating a Container Design:
Setting a great foundation is vital to the success of your container garden, so taking a little time to consider the details before you start is important. While these gardens aren’t as high-maintenance as your traditional garden beds, a bit of thought is what takes your container from “nice” to “stunning.” If you want your designs to be the envy of your neighborhood, start by considering the “3 P’s:”

Prepping – Choose the details wisely, starting with your planter. You’ll want something made with durable material, holes for drainage in the bottom, and the right size to give your plant’s roots the space they need to develop. Once you’ve selected the perfect container for your logistical needs (and aesthetic), use some high-quality sterile potting soil to get started.

Planning – Due to the size of your containers, your plants are going to be growing close together. It might seem odd, but this is part of the appeal! It gives them the unbeatable intensity that makes them look so fantastic as accents in your yard! Growing so close means that you’ll want to match plants with similar needs together so they can share the same sun exposure, fertilizer, and watering. Also, consider the shape of the plants and how they fit together. You might choose a tall, statement-making “thriller” as the centerpiece, something with a mounding habit to be the “filler,” and something trailing that adds even more height to your container as the “spiller.” Arrange them all from tallest to shortest from the middle outwards, so you can see and appreciate all the plants and they all receive the sun they deserve.

Planting – Once your container is prepped and planned, it’s time to re-pot your transplants or plant your seeds and give them enough water to get started. Establish a schedule of watering, fertilizing, and maintaining your gorgeous plants and enjoy your growing season of fabulous growth and your design simply glowing.

[/fusion_text][fusion_separator style_type=”none” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” sep_color=”” top_margin=”1px” bottom_margin=”20px” border_size=”” icon=”” icon_circle=”” icon_circle_color=”” width=”” alignment=”center” /][fusion_button link=”http://www.tedsgardens.com/newsletter/” title=”” target=”_self” link_attributes=”” alignment=”center” modal=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”cta-button” id=”” color=”custom” button_gradient_top_color=”#023b58″ button_gradient_bottom_color=”#023b58″ button_gradient_top_color_hover=”#89afac” button_gradient_bottom_color_hover=”#89afac” accent_color=”” accent_hover_color=”” type=”flat” bevel_color=”” border_width=”” size=”” stretch=”yes” shape=”” icon=”” icon_position=”right” icon_divider=”no” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=””]Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.[/fusion_button][fusion_separator style_type=”none” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” sep_color=”” top_margin=”10px” bottom_margin=”20px” border_size=”” icon=”” icon_circle=”” icon_circle_color=”” width=”” alignment=”center” /][fusion_text columns=”” column_min_width=”” column_spacing=”” rule_style=”default” rule_size=”” rule_color=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=””]

If you aren’t sure what to plant, there are tons of different looks you can recreate! A quick Google or Pinterest search is bound to turn up some dazzling looks that you can copy or use as inspiration to start. Or you can take a look at some of the expertly curated recipes we’ve put together on our site. We love building our containers as we shop, choosing one plant that we fall in love with and simply can’t go without, and structuring the rest of our container look around that.

The possibilities with container gardens are endless. Here are some ideas for what you can do with your container that ranges from functional to extravagant:

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Vegetable Container Gardens:
Can you imagine picking your entire salad from one tiny container? Vegetables like tomato, celery, onion, carrots, cucumber, lettuce, and peppers can all be grown together! Choose your salad staples and grow them within grazing distance of the kitchen for the freshest produce all summer, like your own private produce aisle in your backyard! Tuck some marigolds into the container for a pretty boost that does some heavy lifting, repelling pests.

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Herb Container Gardens:
Herbs are the original container crop, as they’re hardy enough to thrive just about anywhere. Think of your normal spice rotation when you pick your herbs so that you can plant what you use the most of. Your herbs will thrive the more you pull from them for seasoning! Some of our container favorites are cilantro, thyme, mint, basil, rosemary, and oregano. The texture of these leafy plants is delightful to look at and you’ll be treated to a heavy herb perfume every time you walk by.

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Flower Container Gardens:
This is the classic aesthetic-driven look for containers and we can see why. With thousands of varieties to choose from in millions of combinations, it’s yours to play with the color, texture, style, and look of a flower container. To keep the options simple, we find that the best containers work with about three species, in three different sizes, in three different but related colors. That way you have quite the array of visual effect without getting overly complicated. Try matching flowers to something you fall in love with at the store, or pick up something in one of the year’s trendiest colors or styles for something that is cutting-edge and trendy.

When your containers are established, the options that they hold for your garden are endless. Feel free to move and relocate to refresh your look, and enjoy a patch of intense blooming and life wherever it’s most convenient for you! Containers are the perfect blending of style, convenience, and personal touch. They’re a staple for any backyard, and their flexibility means that there’s something perfect out there for everyone!

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Maintenance-Free Decks & Patios

Maintenance Free Decks and Patios

When the weather is beautiful, we all love to gather on the deck or patio to soak up the sunshine and enjoy the fresh air. But when the fun is over and it’s time to go inside, our decks and patios stay behind – through rain, sleet, snow, and anything else our Iowa climate decides to throw at it. A deck made from weaker materials will need consistent maintenance to look its best. That’s why, when building a deck, we recommend using high-performance materials that will end up saving tons of time and money down the road.

How “Maintenance-Free” is a Maintenance-Free Deck?

A maintenance-free deck isn’t going to clean up the dishes and lawn toys for us, but it will serve us well by standing up to the elements. Unlike treated lumber or cedar lumber, which is susceptible to mold and insects, and requires frequent re-staining, “maintenance free” decking requires very little upkeep in comparison. Maintenance-free decking options should all stand up to inclement weather, need no staining, and should be easy to clean with a pressure washer or hose on those days when the dog or kids cross paths with a mud puddle.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Maintenance-Free Deck Materials:

There are lots of decking materials out there, and while many have lots of low-maintenance perks, there are a few drawbacks to consider when choosing the material for our outdoor spaces.

Composite Decking is a lower-maintenance material than treated wood, but it’s certainly not maintenance-free. Composite is a blend of wood fiber and plastic, which reinforces the wood to stand up to the elements for longer. However, because the material still contains natural fibers, it will eventually show its age and begin to crack, cup, and develop mold issues. We should always go with high-quality composite decking if we take this route, as we truly get what we pay for in terms of color, appearance, and durability.

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PVC Decking is another option that has gained enormous popularity recently as more and more folks have taken interest in vinyl plank flooring. Vinyl has a lot of benefits; it requires no staining or painting, it’s durable for high-traffic areas, and it’s very water-resistant. However, vinyl decking is a much better choice for covered decks than open patios, as it can be temperamental in extreme temperatures! Because vinyl is made from polyvinyl chloride, which is a plastic, it can warp and melt in extreme heat and can burn bare feet on hot days, so keeping it out of the sun is best.

IPE or Teak Wood is a high-end natural wood product. This material is ultra-dense and can last for 25 years, but looks just like regular treated wood. This option is perfect for those who like the look of natural wood decking and don’t mind investing in high-quality, durable materials.

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Maintenance-Free Patios:

If you have an outside space that does not need to be elevated with a deck, building a low-maintenance patio is a great way to use your outdoor space.  The new paver and natural stone options available today are virtually maintenance-free. Many of our material providers offer lifetime warranties on the pavers themselves, which allows you to invest in your outdoor space with peace of mind. From time to time, the joints between the stones will need to be re-sanded to look their best. Generally, the smaller the paver joint, the less the joint will need to be re-sanded. Joints can now last over 10 years when properly installed by our experienced landscaping teams.

Maintenance-Free Deck Design Tips:

Once your custom deck or patio is built and looking great, a truly maintenance-free deck will need some maintenance-free finishing touches to make it look its best.

Try outdoor furniture made from recycled plastics. These environmentally-friendly materials are easy-to-clean and are available in finishes that mimic the look of wood.

Add tall planters in coordinating colors to bring life to your deck design.

Complete the design with outdoor cushions and lighting. Bistro string lights offer beautiful, warm light to evening soirees and outdoor cushions make the space feel comfortable and inviting.

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If completing your design is fuelled more by stress than inspiration, never hesitate to ask your landscape designers. As experts in our fields, we pride ourselves on creating cohesive looks for your design, start to finish, and we’d be happy to help you select winning options to tie everything together.

Designing and building a patio or deck  is a big step, but the result is an outdoor space to enjoy for years to come. For those of us with busy lives and big families, a low-maintenance deck or patio  guarantees all the pleasures of outdoor living without the hassles. That means less stress, and more time to focus on making memories together.

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Custom Designed Pool Installations

Outdoor Pool Design

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

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Why a Custom Pool Might Be Right for You:

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

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

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

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

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Planning for Your Custom Pool Area:

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

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

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

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

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Building a Pool:

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

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

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

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

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

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Ornamental Trees

Ornamental Trees

What good would the outdoors be if it weren’t for trees? Trees make up an important piece of our world, providing shade and shelter for wildlife, vital oxygen for all living things, and natural dimension and visual appeal to our Iowa prairie landscape. The addition of trees to our yards adds character that will mature for generations to come.

What is an Ornamental Tree?

Ornamental trees are trees that are smaller in size when compared to shade trees, but add visual appeal to the landscape through shape, texture, and seasonal color. They are living decorations that transform a flat lawn into a natural habitat for birds, bees, and the occasional squirrel. They can also provide natural shade over open decks, and some trees even produce edible fruit. Just about any yard can be enhanced by planting an ornamental tree, provided it’s carefully chosen to suit the property.

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Ornamental Trees Ideal for the Front of the Home:

These are all smaller sized ornamental trees that are suitable for the corners of homes or accent trees along the front of a home.

Serviceberry Trees are truly a four-season ornamental tree. From their white flowers in spring, their edible berries in the summer, or their fiery foliage in the fall, these are a top pick for smaller spaces. We love the Autumn Brilliance variety.

Sargentina Crab Apple Trees, the dwarf version of the Sargent Crabapple Tree, Sargentinas are compact with voluminous white blossoms in the spring.

Redbud Trees’ flower display packs show-stopping color in the springtime. Their head-turning magenta blooms are simply unforgettable.

Bloodgood Japanese Maple shows off red foliage that gets brighter in the early season and deepens into fall. These ornamental maples do well in containers or planted directly into the soil.

Crimson Queen Japanese Maple’s foliage has an attractive feathery texture that looks great as a garden accent.

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Medium Sized Ornamental Trees for Front and Backyards:

While we may not spend as many hours out front as we do in our backyards, our front yards are important for the resale value of our properties. Ornamental trees are a simple and impactful landscaping change that can drastically improve a home’s curb appeal. The challenge is the smog and dust that inevitably comes with a street-facing property. For curb-facing outdoor spaces, it’s important to select ornamental trees that can stand up to the environmental pollutants.

Sunburst Honey Locusts are great trees for lining streets. They have bright, cheerful-looking green leaves and are considered highly tolerant of pollutants. Sunburst honey locust trees grow to an approximate height of 30 to 40 feet, great for adding an established look!

Chanticleer Pears are gorgeous trees that explode with flowers in spring and show off vibrant foliage in fall. They are not picky about soil and can do well in front yards. Chanticleer pear trees tend to reach a height of about 30 feet tall and 15 feet across.

Crabapple Trees make exceptionally popular ornamental trees due to their pretty spring blooms and bird-friendly fruit. Our favorite mid-sized varieties are Royal Raindrops, Donald Wyman, Prairiefire, Sargent, and Zumi.

Tulip Tree’s showy foliage looks great in any yard, but their namesake blooms, which look just like spring tulips, are the star of the show.

Japanese Katsura Trees have an interesting tendency to develop two-tone foliage in the fall. The tips of their leaves blush with a rosy shade while the rest of the leaf turns a radiant yellow, giving the whole tree a painted effect.

Hot Wings Maple look like they’re covered in flowers from afar, with their ruffled bright green leaves and delicate red samara “wings”. They make great trees for those who like a little bit of red color in their outdoor space.

Japanese Lilac Trees are beloved for the fragrance of their bloom which, for some of us, is the quintessential “smell of spring”! Lilacs are really a large shrub, but they still make fantastic ornamentals for smaller yards, maturing at heights of 15-20 feet tall. Japanese Lilac Trees bloom later than most ornamental trees, with a creamy white bloom. They also have a nice texture from their seed heads in the winter, which provides nice seasonal interest when it snows. These hardy trees slowly grow to 25 ft tall.

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Ornamental Trees for Small Yards & Compact Areas:

Small spaces, including patios and corners of our homes, can be tricky to landscape, but a scaled-down ornamental tree can add a great focal point to anchor the area or shape the overall feel of the space.

Pagoda Dogwood Trees show off elegant, white blooms in the spring. Dogwood trees reach heights of approximately 25 feet, if allowed, but can be kept small if pruned regularly.

Japanese Maple Trees are among the most famous ornamental trees. There are many varieties of Japanese Maples that range in height from 3 to over 30 feet tall, but they’re all celebrated for their beautiful foliage and fiery autumn colors. Two common varieties we carry are Bloodgood and Crimson Queen.

Seven Sons Trees are members of the honeysuckle family. Their late-summer to early-fall blooming flowers have a lovely fragrance and attract scads of butterflies.

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry, Sargent or Sargentina Crabapple, and Redbuds also do well in these settings.

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Ornamental Trees that Bear Edible Fruit:

While flowering trees deserve their day in the sun, those of us who love to grow our own food are drawn to fruit-bearing trees. Here are a few that are hardy enough for our Iowa winters.

Apple Trees are a favorite for all the right reasons. The trees look gorgeous and produce generous yields of delicious fruit for eating, baking, and sharing. There are countless varieties of apples to choose from that do well in our climate, but it’s best to select a variety that is equally delicious for raw eating and cooking. Try Cortland apples or Gala apples for deliciously versatile fruit.

Tart Cherry Trees are more reliably hardy in Iowa than their sweet counterparts. The fragrant blossoms look breathtaking in springtime, and by mid-summer, the fruit is ready for picking. Tart cherries make fantastic jams and jellies.

Persimmon Trees are an exotic and uncommon choice. Their bright orange fruit is both ornamental and edible, on and off the tree. They are best consumed when ripe to the point of over-ripeness, otherwise their flavor can be quite tannic. When ripe, the fruit is delicate and sweet, working well in anything from baked goods to salsas.

Serviceberry Trees produce berries that both birds and people find irresistible.  They taste similar to blueberries, making a fun treat for children to pick.

By giving an ornamental tree a home on your property, you can expect charm, character, and added property value that will grow and mature over time. To learn more about the benefits of adding an ornamental tree to your yard, talk with one of our landscape experts today!

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Natural Stone Fountains

Natural Stone Fountain

In this busy day and age, where we seem to always be running from one obligation to another, the one thing that we never get enough of is relaxation. Sometimes we’re so short of it, we even try to hurry along the relaxation process, meaning that we never truly  get that moment to ourselves to let go of our worries and just appreciate the moment.

The best place to embrace relaxation is in the safety of our own homes. We want to create beautiful landscapes that are ideal for entertaining and full of stunning greenery that we love. First and foremost, though, it’s important for us to get some time to actually enjoy our properties for ourselves.

One of the best ways to spend a few quiet moments enjoying all that our homes have to offer is with a backyard water feature. There’s something undeniably peaceful about the sound of water gently trickling over stone, and the aesthetic combination of the natural stone and flowing water is timeless. No matter the size or style of your yard, there are options to incorporate a natural stone fountain that is a fantastic fit for your outdoor lifestyle.

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Benefits of Natural Stone Fountains:

A natural stone fountain offers a net benefit in a variety of ways. Not only do they tie together your entire landscape with a stunning focal point that offers style and relaxation, but they also offer actual health benefits. With all the love and care that you put towards your outdoor space, it’s only fitting that your yard can give you some benefits in return, too.

The sound of moving water flowing over stone sounds just like a delicate and gentle creek, and can melt away the stress of the day. Stress not only makes us feel worn down, but has been linked to a wide array of health problems. Having a moment in our stressful lives to sit in the comfort of our own yards and enjoy our own private oasis is immensely valuable to your mental health, as well as all of the aesthetic benefits that they bring.

Not only are they good for you and your family, but a natural fountain is also great for the health of your backyard ecosystem. Depending on the design of your fountain, it could even introduce a boost of humidity to your garden as well as an oasis for local birds and wildlife to enjoy with you.

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Customizing Your Natural Stone Fountain:

There are nearly endless styles, shapes, sizes, and options to choose from for the design of your ideal natural stone fountain. Many of the most striking natural stone features can offer beautiful aesthetic payoff, while also expertly complimenting the style of your garden and home. Whether you’re choosing a rugged, natural rock style reminiscent of a cliffside, or a smoothed boulder mimicking the gentle curves of a brook, there is a hardscaping option for your style of backyard.

While the options are endless, the deciding factor tends to be the size of your location. When working with our landscapers to design the best natural stone fountain for you, the first question is how big you want your feature to be. Consider the overall footprint of your yard, as well as the scale of the rest of your features in your yard, so that you can create a fountain that not only looks good, but compliments to the rest of your landscape.

Even once the fountain has been built, you can continue incorporating it into the rest of the yard by surrounding it with additional outcropping stones, perennial flowers, shrubs, and planters to highlight it as a feature in your home. Landscapes are always evolving, which gives you endless opportunities for the future.

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Maintaining Natural Stone Fountains:

The natural stone of your fountain is made with some of the planet’s toughest materials, so they aren’t likely to need much maintenance over their lifetime. The water pump, however, will need a little bit of maintenance to keep it running smoothly. Consider using an algaecide to keep the growth of algae to a minimum, and change the water in the reservoir regularly if you want to keep it clean and clear.

Your pump will also need regular maintenance by removing and cleaning it. If you stay on top of maintaining the pump and water quality, your fountain will keep looking and running beautifully for its entire lifespan.  

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Fish or No Fish?

Fish or no fish is a big decision, as it can determine how you maintain your water feature. If you have fish, then you want to use all-natural algaecides and clarifiers. If you choose not to have fish, then you can be much more aggressive with treatment of the water.  We often use chlorine, similar to swimming pools, to keep our clients’ water features looking good through the summer heat and algae season.

Your natural stone fountain will be the highlight for your landscape that loves you back with stress-relieving qualities and striking features. A great compliment to the rest of your home and yard, installing a fountain with natural stone is a great way to invest in an outdoor statement piece that offers a serene oasis for years to come.

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Landscape Design Trends: Covered Patio Areas & Pergolas

Covered Patio Areas & Pergolas

“Sometimes you need to step outside, get some air, and remind yourself of who you are and who you want to be.” 
– Gossip Girl

Some people may have a fondness for rainy days, but wet weather can get in the way of enjoying your backyard. A rainy picnic is a classic frustration that has pushed covered areas to be an outdoor patio essential and make them one of the top of current landscaping trends.

This is all about lifestyle. If you find yourself wanting to spend more time enjoying your own backyard, this is how to make it happen. Imagine being able to get outside earlier in the spring, stay later into the fall, and even grill in the rain.

Why a Covered Patio?

A covered patio can be built as an extension of your home, or as a separate structure out in your yard.  As counterintuitive as it may sound, we cover our backyard space because we love to be outdoors. A covered patio opens up so many new opportunities to enjoy your time at home outside more often:

Extend the Year: Iowa isn’t quite a tropical oasis, and our harsher weather leaves us treasuring our fleeting summers. With a covered patio, your year is extended. Early spring and late fall become part of your outdoor living and entertaining season, and your summer can include protection from unpleasant weather and hot afternoon sunshine. 

Amenities: Covered patios spaces are perfect spots for outdoor kitchens, hot tubs, fire places, and outdoor TV setups. 

Protection: We are used to needing to protect ourselves and our outdoor space from rain, snow, and UV rays. With a covered patio, however, you won’t need to run outside to cover the patio furniture at the first sign of rain and you can feel free to leave your books outside without worry. 

Resale: It doesn’t take much to cover a patio, but by essentially adding another room to your house, your resale value will improve dramatically.

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Pergolas

A covered patio is an extension of your indoor space, usually sharing at least one wall with your house. A pergola is a structure that shades the seating area below it, but does not provide shelter from rain. The most common type of pergola is constructed from cedar wood. Alternative and more modern materials may include steel or aluminum.  

Typically, a pergola will have a sturdy post and beam wood frame that is covered with additional wood rafters for shade. Recently, more material options have been introduced, such as fabric shade sails or adjustable aluminum louvers. The end result is a shaded and protected area that still remains open to the rest of your yard. It’s the perfect spot for picnics, reading, or entertaining. Imagine your own personalized version with flowering vines, or maybe with a hot tub for entertaining. If you’re a romantic, imagine a freestanding pergola for a secluded corner of the yard, perfect for quiet time at home. If you are an entertainer, imagine a modern gazebo, complete with an outdoor kitchen and big screen TV for weekend parties. A pergola or covered patio is all about taking the outdoor lifestyle of your dreams and making it your reality.

You can do almost anything with a covered outdoor patio or pergola. We can customize any space to suit your family and lifestyle. When we are done with your backyard, you will not believe you lived without it for so long. 

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Landscape Design Trends: Fire Pits & Outdoor Fireplaces

Fire Pits and Fire Places Outdoor Landscaping Design Ideas Trends

“Screw your nightclub. I want to be with outdoorsy people who drink by the fire pits.” 
– Unknown

Why an Outdoor Fire Pit?

It’s human nature to look for the centerpiece of a space, a hub to organize ourselves around. It’s no coincidence, then, that this makes centerpieces so important in design. Outdoors, the most compelling centerpiece is a fire. 

While outdoor fireplaces come in a myriad of forms and designs, they all have the same function. They bring people together, whether for an afternoon roast or a late-night chat across the coals. 

The first step toward creating that experience is to take a look at how you already use the space in your yard. A fire pit will become the center of gravity in your backyard, and will affect the space around it, so place it somewhere that you want people to go, sit, and relax. 

Natural Gas, Propane, or Wood?

This is one of your first design questions. Do you want a campfire, the country vibe of a wood fireplace, or the clean convenience of gas? What could be a drawback for one person, could easily be a benefit for another. It’s largely a decision about what kind of fireplace experience and lifestyle you’re after. There are pros and cons to both:

Cleanliness: Wood may be a renewable resource, but gas burns cleaner. The smoke carries far less odor, and it produces less floating embers. Gas fires tend to give the fire experience without too many of the uncomfortable side effects. Particularly for those with family members with asthma or scent sensitivity, gas is the preferred choice. 

Ease: Gas is so popular because it’s convenient. It’s a lot faster to flip a switch than to start a fire from scratch, and it’s a relief  to know your fuel is always at hand, rather than chopping logs when you’re running low. 

Safety: Gas fireplaces should be installed by professionals. Wood has its own safety concerns, including chopping wood, and installation location.  Wood-burning fire pits and fireplaces should be located farther away from the home.

Cost: Wood-burning is cheaper in both installation and fuel, if you have it readily available. The cost of installing gas varies, depending on whether you have a propane or natural gas source  nearby.  If you have to run a new line from a long distance, it will cost a little more. The level of automation you choose will also influence the cost of a gas fire pit.  If you are OK lighting a match to start the gas fire, it will cost you a lot less than the convenience of flipping a switch.

Luckily, the decision doesn’t have to be final. You can convert a wood fireplace or fire pit into a gas burner by installing an insert. It is always cheaper to do this upfront with the initial project, but these changes can always be implemented. The cost of an insert can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on the size and automation level you desire.

Fire Pit or Fire Place?

Outdoor fire comes in 2 basic styles: fire pit or fireplace. 

A fire pit is cheaper, and allows people to sit all around it. Fire pits are made for roasting marshmallows, drinking some beer, and relaxing into the late hours of the night over crackling embers. They are more difficult to incorporate into a covered outdoor room and are more vulnerable to wind, but tend to invite a more outdoorsy feeling. The height of the actual fire pit can be customized for your specific needs.  It can be sunken in the ground 12” for a more primal feel, or raised 12” with a finished stone cap for a more contemporary feel.See our portfolio of our backyard fire pit designs

A fireplace is where the fire burns above ground, typically with a chimney above. They are more expensive but can provide a larger focal point, creating an outdoor living room wherever it goes. Fireplaces are perfect for sipping wine and putting your feet up under a blanket in a cozy patio chairSee our portfolio of our backyard fire place designs

Material Options:

Fire pits and fireplaces can be created out of a variety of materials.  We use a lot of natural stone for fire pits, although there are some nice manufactured stone options available as well.  Both last a long time and costs are similar, so the main factor driving the decision is purely visual. You can see some of our installed fire pits and places on our Landscaping Materials page.

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Design Ideas:

Your ambition can go as far as your imagination and budget allow! You’ll need a stone or non-flammable base to build on, but after that, the world of design choices are entirely up to you. The easiest solutions include buying a portable metal or stone firepit to give some fire and warmth. It may not be a signature centerpiece, but it’s an easy way to get started.

On the other side of the spectrum, makeover your entire backyard living space to include a patio area with a firepit in the center to anchor your backyard. Transforming a patch of grass into a stone oasis will change the atmosphere of your yard as a whole and create the perfect space for comfort and socializing.

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Landscape Design Trends: Low Maintenance Planting

Low Maintenance Planting Prairie Gardening Iowa Native Planting Native Plants

2018’s landscaping trends are all about lifestyle and enjoying more time outside with friends and family. When we finally do get some extra time to spend outside, most of us don’t want to spend it maintaining picky plants, laboring away at watering and weeding. The Low-Maintenance Planting trend is all about freeing up more time to actually enjoy our backyard lifestyle.

“Native plants give us a sense of where we are in that great land of ours. I want to look at Texas like Texas and Vermont like Vermont.” 
– Lady Bird Johnson

Let Go of the Lawn:

Where does most of your yard maintenance time go? Chances are you’ve spent too many hours mowing, watering, and fertilizing to keep a beautiful lawn. At some points in our lives, we might need a lawn. Young kids can certainly demand a very different use of your backyard space. Once you can, though, exchange maintenance work for time to relax in your yard.  Ditch the lawn and opt for a low maintenance landscape filled with beds of native plants.

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Using Native Plants:

Native plants are a gardener’s dream. They’ve evolved perfectly for standard rainfalls, so in an average season, you might not need to water your plants at all. They have also had the chance to develop natural resistance against local pests and diseases, as well as being the most attractive to local pollinators. Native plants require less pesticides, less fertilizer, and less watering than tropicals or hybrid perennials. They drastically decrease the labor needed to maintain your backyard, stay healthy, and bring an assortment of helpful and beautiful pollinators to boost the health and appeal of the rest of your yard. 

Natural Wood Mulch:

Wood mulch is also an important part of a low maintenance garden. It is easy to install, aesthetically pleasing, cost effective, and brings all of these benefits with it:

Watering Help: Mulch will help to prevent soil evaporation, keeping water at the roots of your plants. Not only does this dramatically cut the excess time put into watering your plants, it also keeps them healthier between waterings.

Weed Cotrol: Mulch will smother weeds, only allowing the plants you want to grow to flourish. With less work, your plants will look better and cleaner than ever.

Biodiversity: Usually overlooked, healthy yards have a host of resident predators that keep pests under control. Mulch will give ladybugs, ground beetles, and other tiny mercenaries, ideal spots to hide so they can keep your plants healthy for you.

We recommend using a natural, double shredded, undyed mulch, such as Cedar or Hardwood. Dyed mulch is usually very “chippy” and does not stay in place well or provide much water buffering. You can find both hardwood and cedar mulch at Ted Lare Garden Center for your projects at home.

Design Ideas:

The most popular application of native planting here in Iowa are prairie installations.  As you drive down the interstate or highway, you will find many prairie restorations that limit the amount of maintenance for the Iowa DOT. This same prairie restoration is perfect for larger home properties, as it only needs mowing a few times annually and provides color and texture throughout the year.

On a smaller scale, native prairie flowers and grasses can still be used for an awesome display of color, all while keeping maintenance low.  By planting these native grasses and perennial flowers in groups of 3-7 plants, you can create high-contrast plantings with dramatic effects. The texture of native grass also provides a cool effect in the winter landscape, providing texture and form for tufts of snow to land.

Both wild and elegant, they’re designed to take care of themselves. Using some native and low-maintenance plants, grow your own little natural ecosystem and actually enjoy sitting back and relaxing outdoors in the rugged, natural beauty of your own home. For a list of native prairie plants that grow in your Iowa County, check out this inclusive list of prairie plants from the University of Iowa. We also offer a nice selection of prairie grasses and prairie flowers at Ted Lare Garden Center. Come visit us for ideas and inspiration for your garden.