Adding living plants to your holiday Christmas decor is easier than it might seem. Incorporating live plants into your holiday decor brings a sense of vibrancy and natural beauty that you just can’t get with artificial plants. We’ve put together a festive list of our favorite ways to decorate with live holiday ornaments in Iowa, and two tutorials for fun holiday decor with houseplants.
Houseplants on a Christmas Tree
We think adding houseplants to the Christmas tree gives it a unique and elegant look. Here are a few innovative ways to add some of your favorite houseplants to your tree decor. The very best part about all of these ideas is that you can keep them out well after Christmas.
Glass ornaments with openings can act like tiny terrariums. You can find open-sided glass ornaments in a variety of sizes and styles at our garden center. You can keep them super simple, popping a single air plant or a sprig of evergreen into each one, or get more creative by crafting a miniature ecosystem.
Get the kids involved and create tiny Christmas fairy garden terrariums. Using sphagnum moss as a base, you can create a tiny holiday scene in each one. Small pieces of an evergreen branch can stand in as a tiny Christmas tree. Hanging these on your Christmas tree, or placing them around the house, adds understated elegance and simplicity to your decor.
Simple metal or wire ornaments in classic holiday shapes, like stars or bells, are very trendy right now. Using wire, attach a grouping of air plants or succulents to one of these ornaments, and you’ve got a beautiful mid-century modern living ornament for your home.
Terra Cotta Pots & Macrame
Macrame has come back in a BIG way in the last year or two. Our favorite versions for the holidays are tiny macrame hangers for 1-2″ terra cotta pots. You can hang these on your Christmas tree for delightfully unique ornaments. If you’ve never done macrame before, don’t be intimidated. There are numerous videos online on how to make simple macrame plant hangers. Pop a tiny bit of soil and a mini succulent, “baby” spider plant, or other small plants into the terra cotta pot, and you’ve got some super cute living ornaments for your Christmas tree.
Our Favourite Live Christmas Decor
Evergreen boughs are a classic living Christmas decoration. There are so many different kinds of evergreens available, you can never go wrong with adding some branches to your holiday decor. Whether you add some to pots on the front porch, arrange them in vases on the table, draped over the mantle, or made into a wreath, evergreens always add a traditional Christmas feel to your home.
Amaryllisis a perennial favorite holiday plant. They’re elegant and simple with dramatic flower bracts, which makes them a classic central element for a Christmas centerpiece. Because their stems and leaves are tall and slender, amaryllis won’t block your view of the happy faces around the table!
Paperwhites are another classic Christmas bulb that compliments amaryllis well. They’re also tall and slim, but they feature beautiful bunches of white star-shaped flowers that complement the voluptuous, colorful blossoms of amaryllis.
We often associate floral arrangements with warmer days, but there are tons of beautiful flowers that work very well with Christmas decor. Classic red and white roses, or red and white carnations, have a decidedly Christmas-y feel when paired with greenery. Holiday floral arrangements combine nicely with sprigs of eucalyptus, ivy, or holly.
Tiny potted living evergreen trees are delightful both indoors and outdoors. You can get different varieties and place one in each room of the house, or use them to line your front walkway. It’s fun to decorate each tiny tree with a different theme. Strings of tiny fairy lights make them just as romantic as a full-sized tree.
Our absolute favorite live decor has to be our Table Top Grinch Trees. Combining living cedar greenery, a cute pot, and some adorable ornaments, these fun evergreen designs are always a bestseller. We also hold seasonal workshops in which we show you how to create your own unique Whoville tree. These stunning arrangements keep on living right into the new year if you keep them watered. Sign up for our upcoming class on December 4th to learn how to make your own. If you can’t make it to this class, we’ve got so many others coming up featuring ideas for live holiday decor, including:
You can sign up for any of our workshop classes online or in person at our garden center. By the way, if you’re really set on making a Grinch Tree but can’t make it the workshop on the 4th, let us know! You can always come to the Holiday Creation Station workshop on the 3rd instead, but if we get enough interest, we may consider adding in another Grinch Tree workshop for our friends in Des Moines!
Festive evergreen boughs are the foundation of so many gorgeous holiday arrangements. They show up everywhere in your seasonal decor—from bouquets to wreaths, planters to garlands. Not only are evergreen cuttings beautiful, but their scents are hallmarks of the season. The only downside is they tend to dry out extremely fast and start dropping needles all over your floor.
So, how can you keep your beautiful natural Iowa evergreens vibrant and crisp all season?
Here are a few quick tips:
Buy them fresh. The sooner you can purchase greenery after it has been cut, the better. The longer boughs sit in the open air without water, the faster they dry out.
Choose boughs from evergreens that grow easily in Iowa. Try Eastern White Pine, Red Cedar, Balsam Fir, Common Juniper, and Yew.
Keep them outside as long as possible. The cold weather will help maintain their dormancy and keep sap moving through them as slowly as possible, helping your greenery to stay greener!
Soak cuttings in water before you create your arrangement. If you’re going to create an arrangement with fresh boughs, give them a good soak first. Cut evergreen stems like you would fresh flowers, then let them sit in a bucket of water for 24 hours so they can soak up as much water as possible. Even wreaths should be soaked. If you can, lay your wreath flat in a few inches of water overnight.
Spray greenery with an anti-desiccant. Anti-desiccant spray, also known as anti-transpirant, helps to lock moisture into needles and branches. You can pick up an anti-desiccant at our garden center. Giving your greens a good spray before you start arranging will help them retain moisture as long as possible.
Keep arrangements in water. If you’re creating an arrangement in a container, make sure the stems of the evergreens are submerged in water. Keep them in a vase or a bucket of some sort inside your planter. Check the water level daily; evergreens are thirsty things.
Mist evergreen cuttings daily. Especially indoors, evergreens will dry out much faster than outside. Give them a good spray over every day so they can soak in a little extra moisture.
Keep your finished arrangements in the shade, away from heat and direct sun. Direct sunlight will cause them to dry out faster. Being too warm, or located too close to a heat source, will also accelerate dehydration.
If you’re using lights in your arrangement, use LEDs. LED lights don’t produce heat, whereas incandescent lights get very warm and dry out your evergreen needles.
Consider adding non-traditional greenery. Rosemary, boxwood, and potted ferns can add a touch of brilliant greenery to your winter decor, and they last quite a bit longer than traditional evergreens. You could also use potted evergreen trees and shrubs in your decor, which could then be potted out into your yard in the spring.
If you’re not quite sure how to get started making an evergreen holiday arrangement, join us for one of our upcoming classes! You’ll learn from the pros how to make a variety of different Christmas-themed arrangements. You won’t believe how easy it is to create a stunning holiday arrangement for your home!
Blueberries have recently gained a lot of attention for all of their health benefits, making these delicious treats from the garden even more desirable. Not only are these berries good, but they’re good for you, too! With so much buzz about these berries it’s understandable how they have become the new “it” edible that everyone wants to be able to grow in their own backyard. With our garden tips you’ll have all the know-how to grow delicious berries that are the envy of your friends and a sweet treat with any meal.
Blueberry 101 – Blueberry Basics The blueberry is actually a native North American, which explains why they are such successful growers in our gardens. These tasty treats were discovered thousands of years ago and have been a popular snack since. Their humble beginnings are a bit of a contrast from their science-focused superfood status now, but now we’re able to appreciate all of their delicious flavors while also knowing that they are full of vitamin C, can help to lower blood pressure, and could even slow the growth of cancer cells!
Blueberry plants boast gorgeous fall foliage, grow tasty and healthy berries, and attract very few insects. They are also easy to maintain and don’t have the prickly thorns that other garden berry bushes have. And while they are self pollinating and you can make do with a single bush, you’ll enjoy a much more bountiful summer if you have more than one plant.
The Best Soil for Blueberries Blueberries are acid lovers, and this is often the biggest stumbling block for gardeners looking for a delicious blueberry harvest. These plants like a soil pH of 4.5 to 5, which is considerably lower than normal soil, but easy to achieve.
The process is best started before you plant a new blueberry bush so that you can build your soil properly. Start with blending a generous serving of peat moss into your soil so that it is at a 1:1 ratio with dirt in your planting area. Peat is naturally acidic, so mixing in lots is a great way to quickly lower the pH while providing excellent drainage. While a healthy amount of peat is good, don’t plant in straight peat, as you’ll get so much drainage that you’ll be watering your bush more than the rest of your garden.
Testing your soil pH is super simple, and a great way to be exact about your soil amendments. Simply pick up a test kit from our gardening center to find out where your pH is. If you need to lower it even further, or are looking to lower the pH around an existing plant, consider using sulphur, coffee grounds, or pine and spruce needles on the surface to dip a bit further to the acidic side.
We all want to have delicious blueberries that are the talk of the neighbourhood, and a sweet treat as a snack or in deserts. We have some tips from the most successful blueberry growers so that you, too, can have a truly impressive crop:
As tempting as it is, you’ll want to restrict your blueberry harvest in your first year after planting. Pinch off all of the blooms so that your bush can focus its efforts in establishing healthy roots, so that all of your harvests are better for the rest of the plant’s life. It’s a sacrifice worth making for the long-term benefits.
Blueberries grow best in acidic soil that is well-drained but consistently moist. While the right peat mix is the first step to this, mulching under the drip line will keep their shallow roots from drying up in the summer heat and lock in more consistent moisture all season.
Stay away from the pruners for the first 2 years while your plants are still getting established. These bushes can live up to 100 years, so you’ll have plenty of time with delicious harvests to enjoy. After the initial 2 years, trim off 1-3 of the oldest shoots per year to keep your plant healthy and vibrant.
Be patient. These bushes are slow growing and long living, so understanding that the first year or two of harvest will be just a nibble is all part of the process. After a few years of getting established, though, you’ll have enough berries to be making pies and dropping off bushels of berries to all of your friends and neighbours.
Blueberries are nature’s treat and we can’t help but want to take part in our own backyards. With a couple of our best tips and tricks you’ll have a blueberry bush bursting with berries and ready to be nibbled on all season.
We’re not sure if there’s anything that tastes more like summer than a delicious, garden-fresh tomato. The supermarket can’t even touch the quality of these gems fresh from our gardens. When you bite into a sun-ripened tomato straight from the plant, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would bother buying them from a store.
Tomatoes are simple and easy to grow, but if you want that knock-out flavor without the frustration, our pros have some recommendations for how to make your plants thrive this summer. Garden success has never tasted this good.
Tip #1: Do Some Research: There are so many delicious tomato plants to choose from, so it can be daunting to make a decision on which one(s) to include in your garden. When it comes to annuals and pretty blooms, we advocate for falling in love with your favorites and letting some creativity flow. But when it comes to the more practical tomato plant, a bit of research ahead of time is important. Ask yourself what kind of tomato crop you want — small cherry tomatoes, big beefy tomatoes or something in between, and what kind of plant you want to be growing — determinate or indeterminate.
Think seriously about your garden and what you want from it: are you willing to put in more hours of work for the tastiest of heirloom tomatoes from more challenging plants? Or would you rather spend your summer relaxing and enjoying a beautiful garden with determinate plants that mostly take care of themselves? Thankfully it’s not an all-or-nothing game, you can plant as much of however many types as you want! A bit of research is all you need to start on the right foot and avoid any summer surprises as you grow.
Tip #2: Some of Our Favorites: Picking a tomato variety can be difficult because there are just so many good choices to pick from! To make it easier, these are some of our favorite tomatoes for all garden needs.
Roma is a great jack-of-all-trades tomato that doesn’t require much maintenance. For a simple and straightforward garden, you can’t go wrong with this one.
Beefmaster is an indeterminate variety that requires some work like pruning and staking to keep it in line, but the resulting harvest is worth the effort. Consider staking these plants, as their tomatoes are so heavy that they can bend or damage the stems!
Early Girl is another indeterminate, requiring a modest amount of maintenance. But with an early maturity, you’ll get to enjoy tomatoes sooner in the season and for longer with this plant.
Sweet Million has it all in the name, an indeterminate with millions (ok, hundreds) of tasty little tomatoes — perfect for snacking!
Green Zebra and Black Krim are heirloom tomatoes for those that are both adventurous and traditional. Heirlooms are varieties that have been passed down for decades, and these tomatoes offer unique looks for their heritage. You’ll also be impressed by their delicious taste.
Tip #3: Start Off Right: Whether you’re growing from seeds or buying starter plants, at some point you’ll be taking small little seedlings and planting them outside into your garden or containers. Only stocky plants, ones that aren’t lanky and floppy, should make the final cut and be planted in your garden. These are going to be the most successful at growing with the least amount of work from you.
Tip #4: Sun and Heat: Tomatoes thrive with some warm weather and soil, so choosing a spot with maximum heat and sun exposure is the best way to get the tastiest tomatoes. We promise that with a good location, you’ll be able to taste the difference that sunshine makes.
If you have the option, the best places for many tomatoes are in big containers or raised beds, where their soil and roots are easily warmed by the sun. Pass on the traditional bed with one of these methods, and you’ll have your friends and neighbors begging for your secret when they have a taste of your tomatoes.
If you plant in a traditional bed make sure to plant your tomatoes in a different spot than the previous year. This will help prevent disease and insect problems that can lay dormant in the soil until the following year.
Tip #5: Drainage: Tomatoes don’t like to have wet feet, so make sure your soil drains well. If it naturally retains water, you don’t have to give up, though. Simply add some peat moss into the mix before you plant, giving them the structure, nutrients, and drainage that they crave.
These plants are heavy feeders, too, so make sure you establish a fertilizing schedule to give them the nutritional boost they need to produce delicious crops. Use an all-purpose fertilizer for the best results.
Tip #6: Planting: Tomatoes will sprout roots wherever the soil touches the stem. Start by submerging a third of the stem when you plant — you’ll get a head start on developing a healthy root system! Just make sure you take off any leaves that will be buried so you don’t invite rot.
If your tomato plants got a little lanky while you were waiting to plant, simply plant them a little deeper than normally would. This technique transforms that lanky and floppy stem into a healthy root system, saving the plant and encouraging successful crops.
When you plant consider adding an organic fertilizer to your planting hole to give your plants an extra burst of nutrients. You can also consider adding a handful of egg shells, which contain calcium and will help deter blossom end rot.
Tip #7: Mulching: Mulch is a fantastic tool in the garden, as it suppresses weeds and insulates the roots of your plant keeping heat and water in. Your tomatoes will benefit from keeping more heat and moisture at their roots, which is exactly where they want it! Perhaps the best part about mulching is how much it cuts down on garden work by stifling weeds, which also leads to less competition for nutrients for your plants. Spread a natural mulch in a generous layer around your plants and reap the benefits!
There are lots of options for natural mulch that work fantastic in the garden. For your edibles, we suggest something that isn’t chemically treated. You can choose from all kinds of naturally-occurring woods and barks to find something that satisfies both your practical and design needs.
Tip #8: Proper Staking and Tying Up: This tip is for indeterminate tomatoes primarily, because the determinate types have a bushy habit and generally take care of themselves.
When you’re tying up your more wild-growing indeterminate tomatoes, try to use something soft and flexible so that their stems aren’t broken by the ties. You can purchase ready-made ties for your garden that are designed for the task, or even use something like strips of old pantyhose to keep things tidy. Tie it loosely but secure with a knot to keep your plant in order and off of the ground. Sturdy tomato cages can also be used to stake your tomatoes.
Tip #9: Pruning is for Suckers: Tomato plants, especially indeterminates, send out “suckers” during the growing season. These growths don’t help you and your tomato crop very much and actually pull nutrients away from the fruit that you are trying to grow. Prune away these growths, keeping all of the nutrients and hard work that your plant is doing focused on important things, like growing fruit!
Near the end of the season, pruning can also be useful for other parts of the plant that are wasting energy. As you near the first frost of the season, start thinking about cutting your losses and discarding some tomatoes that simply won’t make it to maturity so that your plant can focus its efforts on the last few crops of the year.
Tip #10: When to and Not to Refrigerate: The ideal temperature for ripening tomatoes is at room temperature. Place fresh produce that you plan to consume right away on the counter to get the most out of their superior, from-the-garden taste. Trying to ripen tomatoes in the fridge is likely to leave you with tomatoes that lose their fantastic flavor and could end up mealy and lacking in texture.
While you might want to refrigerate some tomatoes if they are already ripe and you won’t be eating them quite yet, you can still end up losing flavor and quality this way. Instead, think about all of the fantastic dishes that you can cook them into now that you can save for later. Things like pasta sauces or salsas will help you make the most of your garden produce.
Growing tomatoes is popular and easy, but there’s more to know than just putting your plants in the ground and watching them grow. With a couple of simple tips, you’ll have all the tools you need to have phenomenal crops all summer long, to be enjoyed by you, your friends, and your family. If only we had tips for what to do with all of your bountiful harvests!
Getting in our daily serving of vegetables can be a challenge, and when your produce from the supermarket tastes less than stellar, it can be even harder. Having delicious, fresh edibles straight from the garden makes getting your daily servings a whole lot easier. With a patio garden, you’ll have all of the best garden flavors as close as possible to your kitchen— you’ll barely even need to leave the house to pick tomatoes straight from the vine! Get your fresh produce from plant to table in record time by growing your favorite flavors on the patio.
Container Gardening with Vegetables: Gardening trends are always evolving and vegetable gardens are not immune to the growing understanding of the “best” way to go about growing your freshest flavors. These days, our homegrown produce isn’t limited to rows upon rows in a garden bed in the backyard. You can grow food just as delicious in containers, mixing up your gardening routine to something a little more convenient.
Container gardening has lots of advantages that make the most of their space. This growing style offers simpler upkeep, is easy to place wherever is most convenient, reduces the amount of work needed, and often even boosts the flavor of your edibles!
Best Patio Vegetables: Patio gardening has traditionally been confined to little plants, like herbs. While herb gardens are still a valuable part of your patio garden repertoire, there’s so much more that you can do just outside your door! Container gardens are surprisingly flexible and there are lots of ways to bring beautiful and functional edible gardens to your home:
Herbs For edible garden beginners, home chefs, and those that like to keep things simple, herb containers are the perfect place to get started. They are low-maintenance, filled with delicious herbs that will elevate your cooking to the next level, and are adaptable to fill your balcony, patio, or windowsill with lush and fragrant foliage ready for the picking.
Each plant has its own unique set of needs, but many of the most popular herbs are happy growing in a smaller container and don’t grow to an unmanageable size. Simply ensure proper drainage, use good quality potting soil, and find a watering schedule that is right for your plants. Then, get ready to enjoy their delicious flavors in your cooking!
There are lots of herbs that pair well together in dishes and in containers for growing, as they have similar needs. We love the fragrant and lush look of rosemary, oregano, and thyme together for a Mediterranean blend, or a combination of basil, parsley, and mint for a container for more temperate homes.
Tomatoes These are one of the garden staples that simply can’t be forgotten when putting together your patio containers. We’re lucky that this delicious vegetable staple absolutely flourishes in containers, making it easy to care for and perfect for the patio. You’ll instantly be able to taste the difference between your homegrown tomatoes and those you pick up from the supermarket—and these lush plants dripping ruby jewels of produce for you makes for a pleasant addition to your backyard.
Determinate tomatoes are the best choice for containers because of their more compact growing habit that doesn’t require as much maintenance to keep upright. These plants ripen quickly and need only a little support from a trellis or cage. Choose from a variety of sizes for all of your snacking, salad, and sandwich needs.
The key to impressive tomato flavor is consistent watering. Keeping the soil evenly moist, but not waterlogged, will give you produce that is the envy of your whole neighborhood. Try using self-watering containers for a stress-free way to keep your plants hydrated, or develop a schedule that has you checking your plants regularly in the mornings.
Peppers Given the right love and care, some peppers actually grow better in containers than they do in the garden, thanks to their need for warmer soil temperatures. Bushy plants with small, delicate—and brightly colored, ornamental-looking—fruits are perfect for container growing.
Keep your peppers in a sunny spot where they can soak up all the heat that they can. Especially important for hot peppers, a little heat is important while they are growing to bring out the spice in them! Keep your peppers well hydrated to help them make the most of the constant heat and exposure.
Don’t be shy to repot your peppers as they grow and flourish into gorgeous mature plants. With a pot that’s a little bigger than normal, you’ll have a much easier time keeping their roots well hydrated even in the hottest days of the summer. For the best, tastiest, and prettiest pepper results, fertilize with a water-soluble fertilizer every 1-2 weeks.
Leafy Greens There’s nothing quite as satisfying or healthy as a fresh, crisp serving of greens from the garden. Favorite leafy greens, like lettuce, spinach, and kale, are extremely popular options that really fill out a container garden. Not only will you enjoy the easy access to get them into your kitchen, but you’ll also love that their proximity to your home in containers discourages backyard critters from nibbling away at them before you have the opportunity to!
Most leafy greens are vegetables that prefer growing in the cool season, thriving in the spring and fall, but diminishing in the heat of the summer. These vegetables are perfect for grazing on and pulling a little bit to eat at a time rather than harvesting it all at once.
These greens grow with roots that are shallow and spread out, so planting them in a fitting, wide, and shallow container is ideal. This is a great way to add visual interest to your container garden, too, with a bit of a new size and dimension to enjoy. Plant lettuce, spinach, and kale with lots of sunlight so their broad leaves can soak up the rays. Plant with good quality soil and in a container with drainage, and keep them consistently moist for the lushest and tastiest results.
Bulbs Bulbs do most of their growing work underground, so bulb edibles aren’t naturally the first option people think of with their container gardening. However, they’re actually a perfect fit for containers, which actually keep them very low maintenance and just as delicious. Onions and garlic are great container garden options as they are key ingredients in so many of our favorite dishes.
Plant garlic in the fall, with a bit of time to get established before the first fall frosts arrive. If you missed the fall planting, you can still plant in the spring, but you won’t get to experience end results that are nearly as big. Make sure that you use new, bagged soil and not recycled soil from the garden with your garlic so that you will have fewer problems with pests and disease. Place the container in a sunny part of your patio and watch it flourish with very little work from you!
While you can plant onion from scratch it’ll be much more worth your time and patience to start from sets. Plant them in a large and wide container so that you can get more harvest, and keep consistently moist.
Vegetable gardening doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task and you don’t have to commit large parts of your landscape to gardening to be able to enjoy the most delicious produce. You can have a source of tasty, fresh edibles that are good for you and your family and bring unparalleled flavor to your kitchen. With plants that grow lush, green, and often adorned with beautiful produce, you won’t even need to sacrifice aesthetic to have it all this summer.
With a camera in everyone’s pocket, social media within our fingertip’s reach, and a world of people a click away, it can feel a lot more difficult to live a private life. We’re so plugged into our lives around us and surrounded by technology and media that the only place we can actually relax is in our homes. While a little peace and quiet is wonderful to enjoy in our fast-paced lives, nobody wants to live their life indoors. Having a private escape on your property can be the perfect way to enjoy what your yard has to offer, without worrying about prying eyes. Below are some ideas on how to create your own private sanctuary in your backyard.
Hedges and Privacy Screens: Planting hedges and privacy screens are a beautiful and all-natural way to add a little bit of functional privacy to your home. Their dense growth creates a lush curtain of green that shields your yard while allowing you to enjoy the outdoors. You’ll get all the function of a fence or barrier, but with a much more aesthetically pleasing shade of green.
Hedges don’t just screen your home from the outside giving privacy, but they can also act as a stylish, multi-purpose feature by providing a sound barrier from the hustle and bustle of the outside world, allowing you to create an atmosphere of peace and quiet right outside your door. Not to mention, they also work great as a buffer from winds and snow, which can not only be a benefit for those of us who like to spend more time outside, but it can also help to lower heating costs when the weather cools.
Growing Your Own Hedges: While there are many different styles and types of hedges that you can grow, planning the best fit for you is important. The first step toward starting your own hedge at home actually begins with planning, so that you can choose the look and function that works for your backyard oasis. Working with one of our expert designers, we’ll find the most tailored look for your style, home, and interests. Here’s what to consider when planning:
What space do you have? Start off by planning where you want your hedge to go. You might want to have a hedge capture your whole yard, but some yard layouts might call for a partial hedge instead. Measure the total length and consider how wide you’d like your hedge to be to have the numbers you need to get started.
What do these measurements mean? How many plants you use and how close you plant them depends on both the plant’s growth habits and the density of a hedge that you want. For some plants you could need up to 3 layers, planted only 1’-2’ apart to create a dense look. Other plants may only need to be planted in one layer and require spacing 6 ft apart. Often a combination of plants is best, for a unique look and more color and texture through the year. Our designers are familiar with all of the most popular varieties and which species is the best choice for the look that you want.
Which plant to choose? The first decision is between deciduous and evergreen shrubs. While there are tons of exciting types of deciduous plants to choose from that offer a stunning array of seasonal colors, they do lose their leaves – and therefore some of their density – in the winter. Evergreens offer an identical look no matter the season, and won’t sacrifice density at any time of year.
Hedge How-To: For a professional and polished final look, our landscaping experts are a fantastic resource to make sure that your project looks as good as you imagined. If you’re a bit handier, though, it can be easy to plant your own hedge. For homeowners looking for a stress-free experience, hiring the pros is a great solution, and for those that like to be hands-on throughout their projects, we’re happy to help you make your hedge happen. Here’s how to plant them yourself:
1. For a manicured look, mark your hedge line. Use a stake at each end of the line and tie a string between them to mark a straight line. To keep each plant placed precisely, measure and mark your string with the distances that you want to place plants at.
2.Dig your holes as deep as the plant’s root balls.Take the plants out of the containers or casing you purchased them in the holes for planting. If they look root-bound, gently work the roots to loosen them. Fill in the holes and water your new hedge plants to help them to settle in and start growing.
3. Adding mulch around your plants will help them to thrive. Mulch is temperature regulating and helps to keep moisture levels more consistent for a healthier plant, but also helps to make your hedge look more polished.
4. You can “train” your hedge into the right shape with some careful pruning once they are growing well. Simply trim down the tops and sides a few times annually to keep your plants healthy and in line.
Favorite Hedge Plants: There really is a wealth of different options to choose from when picking your hedge plant. Shrubs exist in nearly every shape and size, so there’s a plant for nearly every style. These are some of our favorite hedge plants that you’re bound to see thriving in Iowa neighborhoods:
Boxwoods These evergreens are known for being dense-growing and very low maintenance. You can find them in many sizes ranging from 3’ to 9’ tall, and you can trim them into different shapes to suit your style. These shrubs boast bright green foliage that darkens slightly in the winter months. While they are known to attract useful bees to your yard, they also keep out other wildlife like deer, keeping your whole garden protected from other kinds of prying eyes.
Arborvitae Known for their elegant looks, these hedges are a perfect option for hedges that highlight each individual plant with more generous spacing. These tall and narrow cone-shaped trees come in a wide assortment of varieties, some of which can grow up to 30’ tall. The local favorites are the Emerald Green Arborvitae and the Holmstrup Arborvitae – both favored for their beautiful foliage that is both hardy and disease resistant. The name “Arborvitae” actually translates from Latin to mean “tree of life,” and these plants prove it with a long life of up to 50 years, even in our sometimes harsh conditions. Pictured Above Right: North Pole Arborvitae Via Plant Finder
Korean Lilac & Common Lilac Lilacs are a great choice for adding a floral touch to your hedging needs, covered in clusters of small flowers, usually in shades of white or purple, or variegations of both. Not only beautiful, they’re also wonderfully fragrant and add a delightful, relaxing note to the atmosphere of the backyard. Plus, those same gorgeous and fragrant blooms are favorites of hummingbirds and butterflies alike! Pictured Above Left: Korean Lilac Via Plant Finder
Dwarf Burning Bush For truly captivating color, look no further than a dwarf burning bush for your hedge. The gorgeous, green summer foliage transforms to radiant red for the fall, truly setting the season in your landscape. They also look particularly fantastic when paired with evergreens for a cool contrast with the appeal of year-round coverage. Pictured Above Right: Dwarf Burning Bush Via Monrovia
Privacy Planting Screens: Although a hedge is a nice place to start when adding privacy to your backyard, a more beautiful and complex solution is a privacy planting screen that has several varieties of plants. The combination of plants will create a more diverse mix that provides more color, height variations, and seasonal interest.
Most planting screens would incorporate multiple trees, shrubs, and perhaps ornamental grasses and perennial flowers. Below are some images of planting arrangements we have done in the past. One of our friendly designers can help design and install a more complex project for you, such as this.
Berming: Another way to create privacy is to change the elevation of the land. Given enough space on your property, you can add black dirt and re-shape the land to increase the height of your yard, allowing for more privacy. Typically we would then plant a privacy screen on top of the rolling berms to create an immediate planting screen. If you have an expansive area, these berms also have a lot of visual interest by themselves, giving you the feel of a rolling manicured golf course.
Getting a moment to ourselves shouldn’t be that difficult, so it’s wonderful to have a little spot of quiet solitude right in our own yards. Whether you want to plant your own or need help from our landscape and design experts to create some much-needed privacy, come in today to ask how you can turn your backyard into a private getaway.
“I like being able to tell people that the lunch I’m serving started out as a seed in my yard.”
– Curtis Stone
One of the best parts of summer is growing your own fresh fruits and veggies right in the backyard. Meals never taste more delicious than after a fresh harvest. Save the trip to the grocery store and bring your own produce section home, only an arm’s length away! Here are some of our top choices for new edibles in Iowa this year.
Gigantic Verde Tomatillo
These small, husked cousins to the tomato are packed full with flavor and are staples in Mexican cooking. The Gigantic Verde Tomatillo variety brings more delicious flavor and excitement to the table than its predecessors and tomato cousins. The larger yields, fruit, and juicier sweetness of this tomatillo makes it the perfect flavor for a salsa verde to bring freshness to your favorite summertime snacks.
Plant your Gigantic Verde Tomatillo in full sun against a trellis or stake to keep fruit off the ground. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy, throughout the season for the best-tasting fruit. Harvest your tomatillos when they feel firm to the touch and the husks have broken open slightly. You know when they are ripe as their green flesh transforms to yellow. Eat them right away by removing the husk, or leave it on and your tomatillos will stay fresher longer!
Brandy Boy Tomato
An awesome beefsteak variety, the new Brandy Boy Tomato is a tasty way to change it up this year. This tomato is a cross of the heirloom tomato Brandywine and Better Boy. The result is a tomato that has a delectable sweet and tangy heirloom flavor, but with better disease resistance and a tidier growth habit. Try them in a homemade pasta sauce or even diced into a delicious bruschetta!
Tomatoes need plenty of sun and moisture to grow. Plant them in rich, moist soil and keep them well-watered throughout the season. Mulching plays an important role in growing tomatoes for both moisture retention and protection. Tomatoes’ delicate roots can be prone to many problems, including rot if damaged, so protecting them is key. Grow them against a stake or tomato cage for big, juicy fruit and harvest when they are heavy and firm to the touch.
These perfect patio grapes are a cousin of grapes we often find in our houses in a tall, stemmed glass. Their mouthwatering, crisp, sweet flavor will probably taste similar to many wines! Homegrown grapes are a decadent treat all summer. These grapes got their start in vineyards and have been perfectly designed to fit in a patio container for delicious flavor at your fingertips all season.
Prep your pot with moist, well-draining potting mix with an organic, slow-release fertilizer for an added boost. Plant your Pixie Grapes in full sun with a small trellis to support your grapevines as they grow. You’ll know they are perfectly ready with a quick taste-test – sweet means just right!
We’re all familiar with our big, bushy broccoli varieties with short stems and thick stalks. Breaking tradition comes the new Artwork Broccoli. These little bite-sized broccoli heads harvest piece by piece, rather than as one, large head, so the flavor is always fresh day-of. Their long, flavorful shoots are just as earthy and sweet as the tops, making the whole thing amazing for every broccoli recipe, especially stir-fries.
Artwork Broccoli needs full sun and consistently moist soil to grow. Plant in a rich, well-draining soil and mulch to keep moisture even all season. Harvest the central crown of the broccoli first – the top of the stalk – when it reaches 1” in diameter. Do this first and enjoy the sprouting of tasty shoots all along the length of the stalk throughout the summer.
Dragon Roll Pepper
These popping peppers offer a slightly spicy, yet sweet flavor with a bit of smokiness and have become a culinary delight at farmers markets and restaurants across the nation. Starting off fairly mild, Dragon Roll Peppers will mature with a bit of kick, but only about 1/10th of a jalapeno. Just a bit of spice makes these the perfect snacking peppers on their own. They add awesome flavor when diced raw onto fresh tacos or for roasting. They are certainly a talking point of any dinner party.
Plant them in a hot, sunny spot in your garden. Warm and moist soil gives these peppers their edge, so mulching will keep them at top performance. Water regularly and feed them with an all-purpose vegetable mix to give them a boost if they need it. Harvest your peppers when they are still green by cutting off part of the stem.
Pink Icing Blueberry
Named for the blue and green foliage that is dusted with pink edges, Pink Icing Blueberries are the must-have berry for your garden this year. They’ve got adorable foliage that makes them a great accent plant for your garden or patio, and they are rich in delicious berries to enjoy all summer. The big, juicy berries are so flavorful and sweet that you’ll have a hard time holding yourself from eating them all right off the plant. If you can, though, try them fresh with some Greek Yogurt or baked into mouthwatering muffins.
Pink Icing Blueberries will perform best with at least six hours or more of sun. They are self-pollinating, so they do not need another plant to produce fruit, but they will have better yields if you plant more than one. They will need a rich, acidic soil to grow, so having compost or peat moss on-hand for amendment may be helpful. Water them regularly and deeply to provide plenty of moisture to your growing fruit. You’ll know they’re perfect for eating when the little berries are full of color and no longer green.
Enjoy a fresher taste in your kitchen this summer with some irresistible new fruits and vegetables. Add a twist to your cooking, baking, or even just snacking with a flavor for every palette. No matter who’s coming over, you’ll have something fresh for everyone with these top new edibles of 2018!
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
The best gardens are more than just beautiful. Some of our favorite outdoor designs are where function meets beauty. Outdoor spaces that have been transformed into someplace unique to the homeowner and their tastes, while offering an oasis for them to enjoy their time at home. While the visual appeal is an important element, what you leave up to the other senses is what completes the experience.
From fragrant flowers to delightful textured plants, your personal outdoor space can be full of everything you want to experience. And what better place to relax and enjoy time with family, friends, and loved ones than a calming garden getaway that provides a platform for entertaining? The easiest way to add sound and tranquility to your yard is with a water feature. Not only are they incredibly personalized and customizable, they are simpler to install than most people think – especially with the assistance of our team of landscape and design experts to guide the way.
Why We Love Water Features: The benefits of adding the sound of trickling water to your garden are clear as soon as you step into a garden that has a water feature. They also pack a ton of other benefits by boosting ambient humidity for your garden to enjoy, and providing shelter and water for your favorite wildlife and beneficial insects.
In terms of design, there are many reasons why people fall in love with the idea of having a water feature in their backyard. While they are certainly more than achievable for nearly anyone’s garden today, we can’t help but associate fountains and ponds with luxury. In ancient Babylon, Kings used water (along with feats of engineering and lots of manpower) to create lush tropical oases in the middle of the desert. More recently, in France, the royal family created impressive fountains and gardens for their opulent palace in Versailles.
These days there are so many customizable options that anyone can have all the luxury of the royal water features of the past in their own backyard. You’ll appreciate the benefits of having a place to go home and relax, even if you don’t rule a kingdom.
The Benefits of Water Features: Our gardens are our own sanctuary, so it makes sense that we optimize the space for sharing with loved ones and for relaxing. With the sound of water dripping and flowing, your whole yard is filled with ambient noise that promotes relaxation. The constantly moving water will also help to boost your garden’s health by increasing humidity, which your tropical plants will enjoy, and by attracting the right type of natural visitors to your backyard space.
Water features themselves offer a host of benefits to the overall experience in your yard, but they are visually stunning as well. There are so many options for types and styles of water installations, your options are endless for designing a beautiful water feature that perfectly compliments your existing outdoor aesthetic.
Water Feature Options: There are a few basic types of water features to choose from. Depending on your ambition, you can opt for a pre-made feature, or something completely one-of-a-kind.
The simpler method of starting a water feature is with a fountain. These are easy to source and come in all shapes, sizes, materials, and prices. Fountains add a certain elegance to your garden – we can’t help but associate them with formal French gardens. This elegant solution comes with relatively simple upkeep and maintenance. They’re easy to install, are affordable, and often offer a simple enclosed system of circulating water that is easy to manage. While you can always scale your project to be bigger and more elaborate, the simplest of fountains are easy to add to an existing landscape design without much extra work.
Ponds are popular options for people that are willing to put in a bit more work and regular maintenance for a stunning centerpiece that really ties the whole landscape together. Instead of a feature in your design, ponds tend to be a commanding central point that focuses the entire look of your yard. These features add a naturalistic beauty to your yard that’s perfect for relaxing conversation spaces.
Waterfalls and water walls can either be incorporated into a pond or built to be free-standing. Waterfalls and water walls can be sculpted with concrete, granite or natural stone to create a dramatically beautiful focal point. Our experts are a great starting point for an ambitious project like installing a waterfall. With help from the Ted Lare design team, you can create a water feature that works well with your home and lifestyle, with the confidence that it will be done right.
However you decide to incorporate your water feature, you’ll be rewarded with an outdoor experience that rewards all your senses. Installing a new feature is an investment in your property as well as an investment in your time spent outside – for you and everyone you welcome into your home each year.
Ted Lare Design Build specializes in Des Moines Landscaping Design and Installation.
We cover a wide range of Central Iowa. We have installed landscapes for many years in all areas of the Des Moines metro, including West Des Moines, Des Moines, Waukee, Clive, Urbandale, Johnston, Ankeny, Altoona, Indianola, and Norwalk.