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Small Shade Trees: Your Best Options for Small Spaces

small garden with shade trees ted lare

You love those colorfully blooming trees that you see everywhere in spring, but your yard is fully shaded and surrounded by large trees. So can you add a smaller colorful tree? You definitely can. Several kinds of trees will perform well in shady places with lots of other trees around. 

First, you need to determine the amount of shade your yard gets throughout the day. It varies from yard to yard and season to season, based on the sun’s angle and the placement of trees and buildings. 

Most yards have areas that get shade for part of the day, and sun at other parts of the day. If the site where you want a tree receives a half-day of sun or more, then full-sun trees will perform best. If the spot only gets sun for a small portion of the day, or doesn’t get any sun at all, it’s considered a full-shade site. 

Here are a few small trees that will work best in locations that are in the shade for most of the day and are hardy enough to survive our Iowa winters.    

 

japanese maple, serviceberry, and eastern redhead trees ted lare

Japanese Maples 

These trees are great for shaded sites, and many have lovely colored leaves that can bring new life to a shady spot, they range in sizes but most stay under 25-30′ tall and 15-20′ wide. There are even a few varieties such as Threadleaf Japanese Maples that stay 5′ tall 10′ wide. Pixie Japanese Maple is also a miniature version, only getting about 6′ tall and 6′ wide. Many of these trees have the added bonus of absolutely stunning fall color.     

Serviceberry 

These are great trees if you’re looking for pretty white blooms in shaded sites. This tree is native to woodland areas and is happy in part sun to part shade conditions, but will also grow in full sun. The berries this tree produce are edible and taste great. They make excellent jams and syrups! Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry is a beautiful variety that grows to about 20′ tall to 20′ wide, and have the added bonus of beautiful orange leaves in fall.     

Redbud 

This tree is native to Iowa and is usually found growing in the edges of woodland. They feel very at home in part sun and part shade. These trees have stunning deep pink flowers that fill the branches in spring before the leaves emerge. Redbuds can grow to about 25′ tall by 20′ wide. The large, heart-shaped leaves of this tree are attractive through the season, and they turn yellow in the fall. There are weeping varieties of this tree, like Lavender Twist Redbud, that stay within 10′ tall or less and have a unique weeping growth habit. 

    

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 Umbrella Magnolia 

These magnolias are not common around here, but they’re hardy enough to thrive as far north as Minnesota! One of the more impressive trees on this list, Umbrella Magnolia is one of the only Magnolias that can grow in full shade! One of the best features of this tree is its huge tropical-looking leaves; they can grow to be 3′ long and resemble an umbrella. The flowers beautifully showy, measuring up to 10″ across in a gorgeous shade of creamy white. The tree matures to 25-30′ tall and 15′ wide.     

umbrella magnolia and Sousa flowering dogwood ted lare

Kousa Flowering Dogwoods 

These are Chinese hybrids of the native Flowering Dogwood. These bloom much later than other Dogwoods, and the flowers are a bit smaller. Kousa is a hardier variety as well, which makes them suitable for Iowa. The flowers are usually white or pink, and the leaves turn a beautiful dark red in the fall. These trees reach about 18′ tall and 13′ wide.  

Ready to add a beautiful tree for small spaces to your yard? Give us a call to find out what we have in stock, or stop by the garden center to browse our tree lot. Our landscape designers can help you find trees to suit the level of shade in your yard.

 

 

 

 

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The Best Perennials for All-Summer Color

perennial salvia-ted lare

Our early spring blooming perennials are starting to wind down in Iowa, and we’re heading into summer. Flower gardens are looking fresh and full across the state, but as we head into the hottest months, some of those spring and early summer blooms are starting to fade a bit in the intensity of summer heat. 

There are actually quite a few different perennials that bloom beautifully for a long time and can withstand our hottest summer temperatures. Here are some of our favorite summer-blooming perennials to add long-lasting color to your garden.

 

garden phlox, daylily, shasta daisy ted lare

Garden Phlox 

Phlox usually starts blooming in mid-July, and it keeps producing clumps of pretty flowers on tall stalks, overlapping with many fall-blooming perennials. Phlox does self-seed, so keep up with deadheading. Garden Phlox is available in a wide variety of colors like pink, red, purple, orange, and white.

Reblooming Daylily

Most daylilies only bloom for a couple of weeks each summer, but reblooming cultivars bloom multiple times in a season. There are two types; early/late bloomers and successive bloomers. Early/late bloomers usually flower in the spring and then again in the late summer or fall. Successive blooming daylilies produce batches of blooms, one shortly after another for several months. Reblooming varieties are available in a wide range of colors.

Shasta Daisy

Shasta daisy is an underrated summer blooming perennial. They’re usually white, making them versatile for pairing with other plants, and they’re a long-blooming, pollinator-friendly perennial. Daisies add a touch of classic simplicity to flower gardens. They bloom from July through the fall, with flower stems up to 3-4 feet tall.

 

perennial salvia, russian sage, yarrow ted lare

Perennial Salvia

The Salvia family of plants includes both perennials and annuals. Salvia nemorosa, Salvia × sylvestris, and Salvia farinacea are perennial varieties. Salvia blooms for most of the summer, and if you keep up with deadheading you can extend their season even longer. 

Russian Sage

Russian Sage has a bit of a different look, with its many tiny purple flowers on thin spikes. While its foliage and flowers might be delicate and wispy, the plant manages to take up quite a bit of space. It can get as tall as 5′, and sprawl nearly as wide. 

Yarrow

Yarrow is a classic summer blooming perennial. It’s soft fern-like foliage sets off clusters of brightly colored flowers, from 1-3 feet tall. Yarrow is available in pinks, reds, yellows, and oranges. Yarrow does tend to naturalize and spread itself quite efficiently, making it ideal for pollinator gardens, xeriscaping, and re-wilding larger properties. 

 

coneflower, coreopis, allium ted lare

Coneflower

Coneflowers are another reliable all-summer bloomer, starting in June and going right through August, and beyond if the weather stays good. They do get quite tall, sometimes reaching heights of up 5 feet. Coneflowers are available in a wide variety of colors, including pink, purple, white, orange, yellow, red, and even green.

Coreopsis

Coreopsis produces small daisy-like flowers above fine, fern-like foliage. Heights vary a lot from one type to the next. Coreopsis bloom most of the summer, and when the flowers start to go off in late summer, you can encourage a second blooming by shearing back up to ⅓ of the whole plant. 

Allium

Alliums are truly a multi-season plant. While they don’t necessarily bloom all season long, their unique globe-like flowers turn into striking seedheads that provide beautiful visual interest all summer and stay standing in the winter. Most alliums come in shades of purple, but they’re also available in a wide variety of other colors. Different varieties feature varying shades of red, pink, white, and yellow. There are also early- and late-blooming varieties available. 


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Summer-blooming perennials can help carry our gardens through the hottest days of the year, when other plants might struggle with the heat. They’ll also keep the garden looking great when you don’t want to spend a ton of time deadheading, pruning, or weeding under the hot sun! Check out the
perennial selection at our garden center to add a few of these summer-bloomers to your Des Moines garden. 

 

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How to Grow Citrus in Iowa

While an imported orange from Florida or California might hit the spot, imagine the satisfaction of biting into an orange from your own personal grove! Some citrus trees do very well as houseplants, so you can grow them yourself right here in Iowa! All you need to grow citrus is a little patience and care. You’re not limited to just oranges either—lemons, limes, and even kumquats are all on the list of citrus fruits you can grow in containers!    

How to Choose A Citrus Tree

The most important thing to know is that you’ll have to keep your tree indoors for the winter, so choose a dwarf variety. The added bonus of dwarf citrus trees is that many of them also produce fruit at a younger age. 

Meyer Lemons are among the best options. They grow up to about 4′ in height, and they will even produce fruit on young plants that are barely 2′ tall!

Dwarf Key Lime is another fantastic choice. It grows 4-6′ tall and will bear delicious fruit in 1-3 years. Be patient, don’t give up on it, and it will eventually come through with a bounty of limes for your pies, mojitos, tacos, and more!

Nagami Kumquats do well here, too. They can get up to 8′ tall. If you’ve never tried a kumquat, it’s like a small tangerine that has a lovely sweet flavor. Even better, the flowers are amazingly fragrant!

Citrus Tree Growing Conditions  

Citrus trees like acidic soil (no surprises there!), so your citrus tree will do best in a specific citrus soil mix. It’s also important to fertilize with citrus fertilizer once a month from April to September. 

Citrus trees need 8-12 hours of bright sunshine every day. They’ll do best near a large sunny south-facing window. In the winter, you’ll need to supplement with strong grow lights. They like consistent temperatures of about 65ºF, and they don’t appreciate drafts.

One way to give your citrus tree a boost is to let it enjoy a summer vacation outdoors! It’s critical to transition your citrus tree outdoors slowly, once overnight temperatures are consistently above 55ºF. The process is similar to hardening off your plants, but it should be a 2-3 week process. Start transitioning back inside when overnight temperatures are dropping below 65ºF; it should take another 2-3 weeks. Keep your eyes peeled for pests when you bring them inside in the fall. If you spot any, make sure to keep your tree isolated from other plants in the home until the pest problem is resolved.

Citrus Leaf Drop

Don’t be too alarmed if you see leaves falling off your citrus tree in the winter. They can go into a semi-dormant state and may defoliate. Any unripe fruit will continue to ripen slowly, even if the plant loses many leaves. Cut back on watering if you notice leaves falling.  

Watering Citrus Trees

All citrus trees like high humidity and evenly moist soil. Water your tree when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch and cut back on watering a bit during the winter months. Humidity is critical, and your citrus tree will need a humidifier to sustain it through the winter.  


Citrus Tree Pollination  

Pollination might be the most important, and most frequently overlooked, part of owning a citrus tree. Indoor trees are self-pollinated, so you don’t need two trees. But, you do need to do the pollination yourself. Run a Q-tip or small paintbrush all over the inside of a flower, especially around the greenish center. Then, repeat the process on each of the other flowers to spread the pollen that will allow them to produce fruit. This is the job that bees do in the wild, so go ahead and treat yourself to some honey once you’ve finished!

If your citrus tree is going to spend the summer outside, the real bees will take care of this process for you. Luckily, they’re always grateful for the work!


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Following these care steps and you will be enjoying Iowa grown citrus no time. Stop by our garden center to pick up a citrus tree of your own today!

 

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The Best Flowering Shrubs for Des Moines

weigelias-ted lare

Flowering shrubs are an excellent addition to any yard. They add structure and depth to your landscaping, they can be used for hedging or as accents, and when in flower, they add gorgeous color and even fragrance to your yard!

Here are a few of our favorite flowering shrubs that thrive in Central Iowa. 

Summersweet

Aptly named, Summersweet features clusters of sweetly fragrant white flowers that open in the middle of summer. It’s perfect for full to part sun conditions and grows up to 4′ high and wide. 

 

Rhododendrons

Evergreen shrubs feature purple or pink flowers that open in mid- to late spring, depending on the variety. These shrubs do well in part shade to mostly shade. They range anywhere from 5′ tall and 5′ wide to 2′ tall and 3′ wide.        

Forsythia

Thousands of bright yellow flowers cover forsythia shrubs every spring; it’s a real showstopper! Be sure to choose an Iowa flower bud hardy variety. These do well in full sun to part sun and grow to be about 4-5′ tall and wide.        

 

Hydrangeas

These are an excellent choice for large beautiful blooms in the summer season. Some Hydrangeas like the full sun while others are better suited to the shade. Colors range from pink to white and even blue, depending on the variety and the soil pH. They range in size from 3′ tall and wide to 5′ tall and wide.

Weigelias

An awesome late spring bloomer, tiny trumpet-shaped flowers cover these shrubs around May each year. Hummingbirds enjoy these blooms. Some Weigelias are up to 6-7′ while others are short and compact, staying closer to 4′ tall and wide. Flower colors range from pinks to reds to white.

 

Lilacs

Known for their marvelous fragrance, these shrubs can perfume an entire yard with a sweet scent that seems to float on a light spring breeze. Some get rather tall—up to 12′!—and would work great as a privacy screen. Dwarf varieties stay closer to 4-5′ tall and wide. Most lilacs like full sun, but can tolerate up to half the day in the shade.            

Viburnums

While some are grown for their fall leaves, many Viburnums have beautiful flowers. Some varieties are fragrant, others are not, and some have unique flower clusters that look almost like snowballs. Viburnum’s clusters of flowers coat the shrub during spring to early summer. Spring bloomers are quite fragrant, similar to Lilacs. Viburnums range from 3-4′ tall up to 12′ tall, depending on the variety. They are quite adaptable and will enjoy full sun or mostly shady conditions.  

 

Hardy Hibiscus

If you are looking for a shrub with extra-large dinner-plate-sized flowers, this is it. Hardy Hibiscus shrubs have blooms that look like they belong in the tropics. These shrubs need a little extra patience in the spring as they can be late to come up. The colors are usually two-toned, with one color on the outside and another in the inner part of the flowers. Color options range from white to pink to red. These beauties really love a hot, full sun location! They get to about 4-5′ tall and bloom in the middle to end of summer. 


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If you’d like to add any of these beautiful flowering shrubs to your yard this summer, give us a call, or stop by the garden center to pick out the ones you love the most.      



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Plants = Happiness: The Benefits of Plants

While some are blinded by their perceived burden, experienced gardeners know that plants are a blessing in disguise. If you’re looking for that little extra push to take up gardening (or if you’re simply looking for an excuse to add to your collection), read on for countless reasons why you should go for it!

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Benefits of Outdoor Plants:

Of course plants are magnificent on their own, but when you consider your garden as a whole, they can really work together to serve a greater purpose. Here’s why having plants on your property is so rewarding:

Plants are aesthetically appealing. Simply put – plants are pretty! And the more you have, the more you get to admire. Plants come in endless colors, shapes and sizes. They allow you to play with different elements of design to create the perfect ambience in your garden. Whether that’s bold and bright, or simple and relaxing – it’s all up to you!

They add value to your property. First impressions aren’t made when your guests walk through the door – it’s when they first pull into your driveway. The effort you put into your garden doesn’t go unnoticed. Visitors will admire your well-maintained lawn, lined with flourishing foliage and bountiful blooms. Not only does this attract potential home-buyers, but actually ups your property value, too!

They’re great for privacy. Part of what makes our gardens so great is knowing that we can enjoy them all to ourselves. Whether you have great relationship with your neighbors, or you don’t even know their last names, privacy is warranted either way. Gardens should be a place of peace and relaxation, not a place where we can be disturbed or gawked at. Luckily, plants with dense branching, like boxwood and arborvitae, are perfect for creating your intimate sanctuary.

Plants provide protection. What better time to enjoy our garden than on a beautiful summer day? As we know, sitting directly in the hot Iowa sun can be uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous. Thankfully, dense shrubs and tall trees provide us with the shade we need to sit back, relax, and enjoy our garden in comfort. On that note, trees also help protect our property from damage during harsh weather conditions.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Benefits of Gardening Edible Plants:

Gardening provides so much more than just the crops they produce. While that’s certainly a benefit, the actual act of growing your own food also has a positive impact on our life:

Plant-based is good for you! This one might seem obvious, but it’s one of the main benefits! Plant-based foods are incredibly nutrient-dense. They’re rich in vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients that help reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases. Plus, gardening is a great way to encourage yourself and your family to eat more veggies. Children especially are much more likely to eat what they helped create!

Fresher = tastier. When we pick up produce from the supermarket, it’s likely travelled for quite some time before arriving to the store. Often, it’s been sprayed with chemicals to help it grow faster and last longer. When you grow your own food, you know what goes into it. You can harvest it the same day it ends up on your plate, and there’s no debate: fresher = tastier.

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Gardening is cost-effective. While we try our best to be healthy, we all know that buying produce at the store be costly. On top of that, it goes bad pretty quickly, meaning we end up throwing some of it away. While gardening requires some initial input for soil, seeds, and other necessities, it definitely helps you save in the long run.

Gardening keeps you active. Your plants aren’t going to grow themselves – you need to get off the couch and help! The digging, planting, watering, and general puttering around you do outside is a great way to keep yourself active, without too much strain. It’s also been proven to increase hand-eye coordination and dexterity.

It can improve your mental health. For most, gardening is a positive and joyful  activity. It helps us relax our minds while our hands and bodies just simply do the work. The responsibility of nurturing another living thing makes us feel needed, and boosts our self-esteem when we see the rewards of our effort. Gardening is therapeutic, and helps many people manage their mental state.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Benefits of Houseplants:

For those who aren’t ready for the commitment of gardening yet, houseplants are a great way to test the waters. They also come with a host of other benefits!

They’re works of art. Plants are incredibly versatile, and one of the most unique design tools out there. They literally add life to the room. They add an elements of freshness and beauty that just can’t be attained by any other decoration or accent. Small plants like succulents and aloe can be easily worked into any design scheme, while larger plants can make more of a statement.

Plants purify the air. According to NASA, plants have the ability to absorb harmful pollutants, such as benzene and formaldehyde. They also absorb carbon monoxide and release oxygen, cleansing the air in the process. Having plants in your home or workspace is especially useful if there’s already little airflow.

They make you feel better. If you love the outdoors, you may already be aware of the therapeutic effect of nature. Surrounding ourselves with plants mimics that simple and calming atmosphere, right in our homes. Plants have been proven to help reduce stress and even improve concentration – another reason they’re great work buddies!

Plants are more than just bundles of roots and foliage. They contribute to the ambience of our homes and gardens, improve our health, and even help us to sustain life on earth. They serve a functional purpose, while also providing us with breathtaking beauty. Plants = happiness.