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The Best Landscape Border Materials for the Long Haul

stone mulched garden ted lare design & build

When you plan your landscaping, you are planning for the long term. You want everything, especially border edging, to last as long as possible—no matter what Mother Nature throws at it. Since landscaping is often one of the most significant investments you’ll make in your property, it can feel like you’ve wasted money if products break down, decay, or start to look dingy after just a few years. 

There’s a wide variety of products you can use for border edging. Here are the pros and cons of a few of the most common edging options available, and what we recommend for the longest-lasting hardscapes in Iowa

Plastic Edging

Plastic edging is a very affordable option, and it comes in a variety of colors and styles. However, plastic edging is a true case of “you get what you pay for.” Plastic edging degrades very quickly when exposed to the elements. Sun fades its color and weakens the material while snow and freezing temperatures make it even more brittle. Then it starts to crack, break, and look bad in just a few seasons. The plastic edging looks cheap, and it only gets worse with time. While plastic edging may seem like a great deal, you’ll be replacing it pretty frequently, and cleaning up all the bits and pieces from your yard can be difficult. We don’t recommend plastic edging to anyone. 

Spade Edging

A clean-cut line of spade edging looks fantastic. It’s minimalist, it’s definitely the most affordable option, and it allows strong landscaping to stand on its own without distraction. However, it is a high-maintenance approach. To keep it looking nice, it needs to be cleaned up at least once per year, and perhaps a second time depending on how crisp you want to keep the edge.  

Metal Edging

Metal edging products are very utilitarian and leave very clean lines. With that said, they’re not particularly attractive or creative, and they don’t bend well. These products are most useful in straight lines for commercial applications and utility areas of your home.

Natural Stone Border

One of the best and longest-lasting options is a natural stone border. Natural stone has a classic, timeless look, and fits into any landscape beautifully. As edging, natural stone is extremely durable, and weather and sunshine won’t drastically affect the look or texture. If you’re going with stone, avoid soft stone, like Iowa Buff, as it will discolor and degrade very quickly. Choose a dense stone that will stand up well to wear and tear over time. 

Stones that are at least 6″ wide and 2-3″ thick are the best for durability. If you have areas that see regular traffic from lawn equipment, like around pathways and patios, choose larger stones. Natural stone can be cut to custom sizes and installed end-to-end for a tighter or looser fit, depending on the look you’re going for.

Paver Stones

Paver stones are also a top option for landscape borders. These days, there are so many varieties, styles, sizes, and colors available to choose from! They’re also very durable and will last for a very long time. Similar to stone, we recommend larger and thicker pavers—at least 6 inches wide—for high-traffic areas.


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If you need help choosing and installing a landscape border, one of our landscaping pros would be happy to give you their opinion and some pricing for your home.  

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Working with a Landscape Pro- Your Questions Answered

stone walkway Ted lare design and build

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 $300 for consultations in the Des Moines Metro area, but this $300 gets credited back to you if we do the work. Depending on the complexity of the job, we may charge additional design fees 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 within the first year.

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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Designing for Curbside Appeal

Designing Curbside Appeal

First impressions can say a lot about a person and the same rule applies to a home. The view from the curb tells us all we need to know about the people inside and as homeowners, we want that initial impression to be a good one. Whether we have the time to spend grooming and maintaining our properties or not, having a presentable house is a source of pride and an essential component in maintaining a beautiful home.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Rejuvenating Your Home:
When starting the journey to revitalize your home’s curbside appeal, there can be a lot to consider. In our experience, though, there are a few key components to every home where a simple change can make a significant impact.

A fresh coat of paint on your home can make the difference between “old and dated” and “modern and lively.” Paint that is faded or chipping will draw the attention of guests and passers-by, but not in a good way. Freshen it up with a new layer or consider changing it up with an exciting hue and watch your home transform into something entirely new.

Bring attention to your address. While your address isn’t the only defining feature of your home, it is certainly one of the most important. Without it, guests would never make it to your front door. Make sure your address is clearly displayed in a bold, modern font and is visible from the curb to prevent any confusion. We can also mount your address to a natural stone to make it more visible from the street.  

Adding color with container plantings is another surefire way to bring life and intrigue to draw people into your space. You can do this with porch pot containers, window boxes, or hanging baskets that will add a softer element to your home. This is probably the easiest way to make an improvement instantly.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Landscaping for Curbside Appeal:
With the house in order, the next priority on your list for creating curbside appeal should be your landscape. Your landscape is what brings unity between the natural and manmade elements in your front yard. To ensure a top-quality appearance, we will assess the following and make improvements as needed:

Trees: These stately additions come with many benefits for any property, but they can also be a hindrance if they aren’t cared for. Take a look at the trees (or lack thereof) in your space and ask the following questions: Are they encroaching on the house and blocking its appeal from the curb? Are there spaces that could use shade or dimension?

Shrubbery: These foundation plants are excellent for creating dimension and texture in a space, but if they aren’t maintained properly, they can often end up looking more shaggy than snazzy. Maintain them with regular trimming for shape and size or consider replacing them with slower growths for a more low-maintenance look.

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Planting Beds: Shrubs and trees make for beautiful touches of foliage, but they don’t offer quite the colorful array of a garden. These seasonal flowers will keep your space looking pretty and picturesque with a season of spring and summer color.

Garden Bedding: Over time soil, mulch, and rock used as garden bedding will need to be replenished to keep the clean and polished aesthetic we like to see in our space. A simple layer to revitalize each year will keep it looking updated and new.

Pathways: These walkways guide both the eyes and the feet through the yard, adding a welcoming touch that brings guests right to the front door. To keep it looking crisp and clean, make sure to keep your pathway clear of any overgrowing plants and spilling dirt or debris that will take away from the crisp lines. If your current sidewalk is out of date, we can bring it up to speed with a new paver or stone pathway.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Other Elements to Add Curbside Appeal:
Lighting: Your home shouldn’t just look its best during the day. Keep it looking top-quality even at night with some carefully planned touches of lighting. Whether you’re just looking to light the way to the door or highlight a mature tree or key feature of the house, new LED light fixtures can make a dramatic difference. You will not believe how much you love coming home to your newly lit home – our lighting installations look just as amazing for homeowners as they do for guests!

Porches: While most of our outdoor entertaining happens on the back patio, a front porch or patio can allude to the inviting warmth that can be found within the home. Reflect the comfort of your home on the porch with a swing or bench laden with outdoor pillows that will beckon neighbors and friends to stop by for a coffee and a chat.

Creating the right first impression with your home may seem like a quite the feat, but with some carefully planned elements to focus on, it can be as easy to create as it is to look at – especially with the help of our landscape design team. To reimagine the curbside appeal of your home today, consult with one of our designers today to begin the transformation.

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Pathways

Garden Pathway

Pathways are a beautiful and practical addition to your yard. Creating a pathway can impact everything from the overall look of your yard – think rustic cobblestone versus manicured concrete pavers – to the way the eyes (and the feet) move through the space. They provide a base to build an entire landscape around, leading guests past your prized flower beds and into an inviting seating area. We have installed hundreds, if not thousands of stone and paver pathways in Central Iowa. Below are some material options to consider.

Pathway Materials:
A new pathway can be beautiful and functional for your front or back yard. We have installed a large variety of pathway materials, starting in 1982 when Ted started the business. All the material choices below should last for decades with little maintenance needed along the way.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Natural Stone – Natural stone has a beautiful, appealing quality that attracts a lot of attention. This timeless material is still our number one seller with pathway installations.  Our teams have worked with natural stone for decades, so we can install it relatively quickly in a variety of colors and sizes to fit the surroundings. Natural stone lasts a long time, so you will not have to worry about changing it for years.  

Man-Made Pavers – Concrete can be poured in place, or added with concrete pavers to keep the same style without compromising durability. Solid and strong, concrete pavers are nice and easy to shovel on snowy days, making it a low-maintenance and convenient option for our Iowa landscapes. There are many paver choices to choose from when installing new pavers. Our design team can help you choose the right fit for your home.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Gravel – Gravel is a budget-friendly option that is available in a range of colors and shades to match your vision. It may need to be maintained and topped up from time to time, especially after the winter melt, but a gravel path is a great place to start for landscapes on a budget. It installs quickly, making for a less costly option in the backyard.

Clay-Fired Brick – This classic masonry look is timeless, warm, and charming, but while this option still exists, we seldom use it anymore. We can now achieve the same look with updated man-made concrete pavers!

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Pathway Design:
While a narrow path makes a lovely accent for a garden, we encourage our clients to consider functionality first. We recommend a width of about 48” and no narrower than 36” for front entry paths. Wide landings are needed where the pathway meets a doorway, fence, or seating area. A nice, wide path will allow couples to walk abreast, or a wheelchair to pass through with ease, and a nicely-sized landing provides an attractive foundation for porch pots or other decor.

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If the path is expected to be a high-traffic area, a straight line is the most efficient option. However, for residential design, we typically let the overall design of the space dictate the shape and flow of the pathways. Modern designs are more likely to be linear and classical designs are more likely to be curved.Either way, we put a lot of thought into the function and visual appeal of pathways. The correct design should accommodate foot traffic, while also allowing enough space inside the pathway for planting and other design features, such as fountains or stone accents.

Informal paths in the backyard or other low traffic areas only need to be 24” wide, unless they are accommodating lawn mowers or other maintenance uses.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Decorative Accents:
Once the shape and layout of the path has been designed, it’s time to customize the look.  No matter what aesthetic you’re going for, it can be enhanced with the addition of landscape lighting, arbors, trellises, retaining walls, and just about anything else you can imagine. When we design a pathway, we think about everything else that surround it, to make sure your front or backyard looks amazing.

Gardens are exceptional companions to pathways, as well, and offer a fantastic contrast of hard and soft elements in your landscape. When considering placement and design for your pathway, we think about your garden and how best to make it fit into your aesthetic for a complimentary piece that works together in the space.

If you’re brand new to the world of landscaping, a pathway project is a fantastic first step for transforming your yard. Once the pathway is installed, you’ll begin to view your entire outdoor space in a new light. Then, with a little added structure underfoot, the landscaping potential of your property can begin to take shape.

fiddle-leaf fig plant
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Planting Annuals

Planting Annuals

It’s because of, not in spite of, their short-lived nature that we love annuals as much as we do. Not only do we plant these transient blooms knowing that they will only be with our gardens for a short season or two, but their limited lifespan is part of what enables them to put on the spectacular displays of color we crave. Caring for your annuals properly is the best way to ensure that these plants can shine throughout their short lifetimes, improving the appearance of your garden and giving you that fresh summer vibrancy you’re looking for.

Plan Before You Plant:
All the basics you need to know about your annuals are actually printed right on the label. Look to the plant’s packaging when it comes to information on sun exposure, soil type, and water requirements. Use this information to plant your annuals in a place where they will have all the necessary resources to shine. Most annuals prefer 6 hours or more of sun and generous watering schedules, but there are still plenty of exceptions. When you pair the right location, care, and plants together, you’ll have the right recipe for gorgeous blooms that won’t demand as much time for maintenance.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Planting Your Annuals:
Start your annuals off right with soil that will support all their growing needs through the season. The right foundation makes all the difference, and with the right nutrients and structure, your annuals can bloom with more enthusiasm and less intervention all season. Better soil is the key to better color and longer-lived flowers all summer.

The easiest fix for your garden is to make sure that you have plenty of organic matter and structure. Rust-colored soils are likely in need of an organic matter boost, while darker soils already have tons of rich nutrients. If you need to boost the organic content of your garden, just mix in compost or worm castings. Heavy clay soils will also benefit from added sand, compost or worm castings to provide better aeration of the soil. If you are planting annuals in containers, use a high quality potting soil, do not use soil from your garden beds.  For those that want to get technical with their gardens, test kits are readily available to check the soil pH to match your garden to your plant’s needs.

Planting annuals is very straightforward. Plan out your planting area so that your plants are spaced evenly and have room for their explosive growth pattern. If you are planting bedding plants in your garden, typical spacing is 6” to 12” depending on the growth pattern of plants and varieties.  Planning out your garden or container will also give you the chance to change your design once you see the elements together, rather than after you’ve planted. Once you know where your annuals are going, gently remove them from their containers, loosen their roots with your hands, and plant them in place.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Watering and Fertilizing Annuals:
If you’ve given your annuals a great start with the right soil nutrients, they won’t need nearly as much fertilizer for the rest of the year. They’ll benefit from being consistently fed a variety of nutrients rather than relying on a quick supply of their key growing ingredients in chemical fertilizers. During the initial planting we also recommend adding Osmocote or another slow release fertilizer to your soil. A slow release fertilizer will help to keep your annuals looking their best all season long. If you’ve planted in a container with less soil to support your plants, or notice your annuals lagging during their growing season, a quick dose of water-soluble fertilizer, such as Miracle Gro, is usually all the help they need to keep looking fabulous.

Since your annuals are tropical plants designed for a single short growing season, they keep their roots close to the surface of the soil. Since they’re so close to the hot sun, they’ll need to be watered every 1-2 days to keep them hydrated enough to fuel top-level performance. The best watering system is something low-profile that focuses on getting the water to the soil where it is needed, instead of sprinkling over the flowers, which can sometimes ruin their petals.

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Maintaining Your Annuals:
Your annuals grow fast and keeping up with them is the best thing that you can do to keep them looking great every day. The most important maintenance that you can do is keeping up with your deadheading. As soon as you see a bloom starting to wither and die, pinch it right off the plant. Not only does this remove ugly spent blooms for a cleaner aesthetic, but it prevents your annual from spending energy on spent flowers by going into seed. Preventing your plants from seeding will have them blooming for longer – so consistent deadheading will help to extend your annuals’ beauty.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Overwintering Annuals:
Despite what’s implied by their name, you might be able to keep some of your annuals for two or three years. While these tender plants don’t stand a chance against our Iowa winters, many annuals can make it to next spring in the comfort of your heated home.

Annuals that can be overwintered well include flowers like geraniums and begonias.  Tropical flowering plants like mandevillas and hibiscus also make good candidates. Not every annual is created equal when it comes to overwintering – some are known to take to it very well while others don’t have much energy left in them after an exhausting season. Before committing the time, effort, and space to overwintering your plant, ask one of our garden experts if it’s a good fit to keep for another season.

Annuals are sensitive and need to be eased into indoor life, or the shock might put an end to your plan to keep your plant around. First, dig them up and re-pot them into large containers full of fresh (from the bag, so it’s guaranteed sterile) and nutrient-rich soil. Keep your repotted plant in a sunny spot and gradually introduce them to being inside over a few weeks as they acclimate. Try bringing them in for a few hours or overnight first before you try keeping them indoors for longer stretches, eventually moving them inside for the season.

By the time the spring temperatures melt away the winter, you can slowly reintroduce your annual to the outdoors before planting them again.

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Succulent Pumpkins DIY

“Only the knife knows what goes on in the heart of a pumpkin.”
– Simone Schwarz-Bart

Pumpkins are one of our favorite, iconic fall decorations, but it can be hard to imagine them in our home decor as anything other than a jack-o-lantern. It’s such a simple craft to carve a face into a big, orange pumpkin and then light a candle inside, that we even let our kids do it – with a little supervision. While carving up pumpkins can be just as artistic as you want it to be and will be a fall-time favorite that many of us partake in every year, the pumpkin has a new trend that is catching our attention, too. Move over, pumpkin spice, turning your pumpkins into adorable decorations fit for the entire year is the style this autumn.

two succulent stuffed pumpkins

Pumpkin Planters:

Pumpkins don’t just have to be the hosts for scary faces for a few short-lived weeks on our porches anymore! These gorgeous gourds have found a new niche as the carrier for some of our favorite, adorable houseplants. Plain pumpkins can easily transform into unique and captivating containers that are stuffed with spectacular succulents to add a creative and sophisticated twist to your fall decor, and making your own is simple:

Method 1: Cut and Paste

We’ve all been disappointed to see our super cute and creative pumpkin crafts wilt away only days after Halloween and it’s no mystery that pumpkins don’t last very long once we cut them open. Luckily, this method is cut-free so you can be confident that it’ll be looking its best for more than just a few weeks. Here’s how to make this cute planter happen at home:

You’ll Need:

  • pumpkin for each planter – any variety will work, but we love using flat-topped pumpkins, like Cinderellas, for easiest application
  • A hot glue gun or floral glue
  • Sphagnum moss, spanish moss or sheet moss
  • Succulent clippings

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How-To:

  1. Clean your pumpkin. You’ll want your container to look fresh and polished, and will need to make sure that there’s no dust or dirt getting in the way of your glue.
  2. Glue on your moss. Use the hot glue gun or the floral glue to attach a layer of moss that’s ½ to 1” thick on top of your pumpkin. Make sure that you don’t leave any bare spots.
  3. Pick your succulents. You can purchase new, small succulents or, if you’re lucky enough to already have some thriving at home, you can take clippings from them, too. Make sure you let the stem dry and scab before you glue it on to prevent it from rotting.
  4. Glue on your succulents. It may sound crazy, but a little bit of glue on the stem of a succulent clipping won’t harm it. If you’re still worried, though, keep your glue gun on its lowest heat setting. You’ll want to go big in the middle and smaller on the sides  to create a balanced and pretty planter. You want your pumpkin to look like it’s bursting with life, not sinking in the center.
  5. Fill in the blank spots. Use the smallest of your succulents and clippings to fill in every crack and corner for the most polished look.

Your pumpkin is ready to shine all season, you can proudly displaying your new succulent garden. Once your planter inevitably starts to show its age, you can keep your succulents thriving by slicing off the top of your planter or gently prying the layer of moss and succulents off and planting it directly into a pot to enjoy for years more.

succulent stuffed pumpkin DIY

Method 2: Stuffing

Using glue to attach your succulents isn’t going to hurt them, but it could be committing to a look you aren’t finished playing with yet. For something that is a little more impermanent that lets you play with your plants in so many more ways, try this method:

You’ll Need:

  • A pumpkin (again, we recommend flat tops for this method, too)
  • A knife
  • A planter pot (something simple and plastic is just fine)
  • Succulents

How-To:

  1. Get your pumpkin ready. Cut a hole in the top of your pumpkin that is the same size as your pot. Don’t worry about cleaning out the inside of your pumpkin too much unless the seeds are in the way.
  2. Get your pot ready. Plant your favorite succulents in the pot as densely as you can, packing them until they look like they are overflowing. You’ll want your planter to look like it has a lush bouquet of succulents in it for the prettiest and most impressive look.
  3. Plant the pot in the pumpkin. Carefully place your container right inside of your pumpkin, hiding it inside. If it sinks in, you can use an overturned bowl to lift it.
  4. Decorate and fill it in. Finish up your container will some moss or trailing succulents to fill in all the gaps and make it look like a natural pumpkin-topper.

Having cut into your pumpkin, you know it isn’t a fabulous look that is going to last forever. The clean-up is simple, though. Lift your pot out of the pumpkin and you’re ready to move onto a fresh, new one or into any other creative container for your succulent garden.

succulent stuffed pumpkins DIY

Ted Lare Tips for Stellar Succulents :

No matter which way you choose to display your beautiful gardens, it’s all just the frills on top of your healthy and gorgeous plants. You’ll want to keep your succulents in great condition for them to be looking their best in any way that you choose to show them off. Remember to water your plants every few days – only a little mist or trickle to quench their thirst without drowning their roots. Keep their delicate leaves away from direct sunlight and protect them from temperature extremes, and they’ll be happy and thriving for years.

Pumpkins are a staple of the autumn season, but they don’t have to always have the same sad fate of being left on the stoop for a week’s enjoyment before they get thrown away. Pumpkins are the ultimate fall theme and we’re so excited to enjoy their gorgeous colors and style in fun, new ways this season. Your pumpkin will be happy to have a glamorous upgrade and shot at something prettier than scaring the neighborhood kids.

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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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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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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.