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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!

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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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Creating Sanctuary with Water Features

Creating Sanctuary with Water Features

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.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

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.

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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.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

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.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

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.

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Planting in Shade

Planting in Shade

Some of most difficult spots to fill in your garden are those that are shaded – but they don’t have to be. Many of the most popular classics that we love to fill up our yard with are sun-loving blooms, but there are just as many beautiful plants that thrive with a little more protection from the sun’s rays. Whether you’re looking for some fabulous foliage to fill up a sheltered spot beside the house or you’re trying to find a splash of color to plant in a darker area in your yard, there are lots of options to make every part of your yard and garden lush and beautiful.

Although there are just as many options, shade loving plants enjoy different conditions and as a result, play by some different rules than their relatives that love to soak up the rays. Here’s some advice from our plant and landscaping experts on filling your garden’s shaded areas with color.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Ted Lare Tips for Growing in Shade:
Shade-loving plants will have a few different things to keep in mind when growing than plants that prefer to bask in the sun. No matter what type of shade growing plant you choose, keep these things in mind to make your shady spot the best fit for your plants as possible:

Identify Your Shade Type – Each shady location is just as unique as the rest of your yard and home. To pick the best plants, you’ll want to know the conditions of your chosen spot. Types of shade range from deep, to partial, to dappled shade. While the deep shade areas get no direct sunlight at all, less shaded locations could have sun for part of the day or filtered through leaves. There are plenty of options of plants that will thrive in each type, but pairing them up well with the right conditions is the best way to have low-maintenance and beautiful plants.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Soil Type and Quality – Taking note of your soil type before you plant gives you the opportunity to amend the soil quality. Soil ideally has nutrients and structure to support your plants as they develop and grow, giving them the foundation that they need to thrive and grow beautifully. Here are some amendments to consider to modify your soil:

Add organic fertilizer – Adding compost is the perfect way to add nutrients to support the long-term growth of your plant. While you can always use chemical fertilizers after the plant is established to give them a boost, starting with some organic nutrients will give your plant the long-term fuel it needs to continue to thrive. Typically, just adding a inch or two of compost goes a long way, then till the new compost into the soil before planting.

Making Room for Roots – Aerate the soil with a pitchfork before planting to help make the air pockets that your plant will need to grow root systems. A good foundation is important for shade-loving plants especially to find nutrients and water.

Mulch Well – After you plant, use mulch to help lock moisture into the soil. Shade from the sun often means shade from other elements like rain, meaning that keeping water near the roots is vital for shaded plants. Mulching to a thickness of about 3 inches is usually sufficient to protect the roots of your plants.

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Popular Perennial Flowers for the Shade:
There are hundreds of popular perennials to choose for that shady spot in your yard. These are some of our favorite popular choices for the shade that will keep returning to thrive each year:

Hostas – An elegant classic that has graced protected corners of backyards for decades, and for good reason. These plants come in many varieties that boast different shades and shapes, but they all provide gorgeous ground cover in shaded and partially shaded locations. Hosta are still the tried and true plant for dense shady areas.

Christmas Fern – Ferns have a delicate style that catches the eye and captures the imagination. Not only good ground cover, these plants offer some drama and a little bit of texture and height to a shady spot in your garden. Christmas Fern is a quick grower that will easily take up whatever shaded spot you have in mind for it, but isn’t invasive and is easy to control with just a little trimming.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Bleeding Hearts – A beautiful and traditional shade decoration, bleeding hearts have delicate pink flowers that are their namesake, adding a pop of color to shady areas. This classic flower is long-lived, mild-mannered, and will fit in well with other shade loving perennials.

Ligularia Dentata – These attractive annuals have fun lily pad-shaped leaves that can vary in color and provide contrast to other plant foliage.  During the summer, they burst to life with a yellow flower display. Ligularia Dentata are usually vibrant growers, but they can lay down during hot summer days.

Astilbe – Astilbes give great height to flower beds and come in a wide range of shades. For shady spots, we recommend the ‘Maggie Daley’ variety. Maggie Daley shows off stunning feathery magenta blooms during the summer. This variety also has a reputation for good performance.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Shade Loving Shrubs:
Shrubs are great options for filling large empty spaces and adding structure to your overall garden design. These shrubs thrive in shady patches.

Hydrangeas – Hydrangeas often become the crown jewel of any garden, making it clear that plants in the shady parts of your yard can also be in the spotlight. We love how vibrant and how much life a hydrangea shrub can pack into a spot in the shade, and find them the ideal choice for lining the shaded spots along fences or walls. Our favorite varieties for shade include Little Lime, Mystical Flame, Quickfire, and Endless Summer.

Japanese Yew – These evergreen shrubs have great texture and look a little more interesting than other shade-loving foliage plants. The Everlow variety keeps a low-profile and looks fantastic

Rhododendron – Rhododendrons add an elegant shape and gorgeous pink flowers to your shade garden. Our favorite varieties are the Korean rhododendron and PJM rhododendron.

Azaleas – Like rhododendrons, the shape of azalea shrubs look magnificent in shade gardens, with bold blooms in some lovely jewel tones. Try the deep fuschia Orchid Lights variety, the hot pink Northern Lights variety, or vibrant orange Mandarin Lights variety.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Shade Loving Annuals:
Annuals lack the lifespan of perennials, but they pack a lot of enthusiasm, color, and life into the one season that they do have. While some of our favorite annuals love to bask in the sun, there is no shortage of popular options that will thrive with a little less exposure.

Begonias – With shiny foliage and beautiful cheerful flowers available in every shade of the rainbow, there’s a Begonia out there for any landscape style and taste. Most begonias thrive in full or part shade, offering pretty colors to most sheltered corners of your yard.

Lobelia – These plants are dainty and delicate that have delightfully cheerful pastel colors that thrive in partial shade. Offering great ground cover, this is a great way to have some beautiful color over every inch of your yard.

Impatiens – These multi-colored annuals are the gorgeous poster children for shady locations. While they have a “wildflower” look that adds some whimsy to your garden, filling up shady or partially shady spots with beautiful color.

Sweet Alyssum – These dainty white flowers bloom for the whole summer season, offering a unique and intoxicating fragrance, even into the cooler temperatures of fall.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Bulbs in the Shade:
The classic option for those that want stunning flowers but like the “plant it and forget about it” method, there are many bulbs that will thrive in the shade. Many of these flowers create a natural focal point in your garden, despite being in the shade.

Crocus – Crocus are an always-elegant option that offer a classic late spring look. Try them in delightful shades of white, purple, and yellow.

Galanthus – Also known as Snowdrops, these white flowers stand out against their shady home and offer color surprisingly early in the season.

Daffodils – If you’re looking to brighten up the shaded spots in your garden, these flower’s signature yellow flowers add a little splash of sunshine where there is none.

Tulips – For a classic springtime look, there’s nothing that impresses quite like the tulip. Adaptable and able to bloom nearly anywhere from full shade to partial sun, they offer a truly stunning array of colorful options and styles.

The sun-filled spots in your yard and garden don’t have to be the constant spotlight of your landscape and garden design. With so many different varieties of shade-loving plants to choose from, the lighting conditions don’t have to limit your options and design for your outdoor space. With shade loving plants this stunning, there are options for everyone to enjoy that are the right fit for their home, lifestyle, and landscape design.

If you’re looking for more guidance on planting a shade-friendly garden, visit our garden center, just 10 minutes South of West Des Moines.

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Prairie Establishment

Iowa Prairie

“Not a breath of air stirred over the free and open prairie…”
– Francis Parkman

Prairies once covered hundreds of miles in the state of Iowa. Today, less than 0.01% of the original prairies remain. Not only are they an integral part of our heritage, they play an incredibly important role in our natural environment. Without them, the Iowa that we know and love wouldn’t be the same, so restoration is key to protecting the land that we call home.

The Importance of Prairies:

Prairies are beneficial for many, many reasons, both visually and environmentally. They provide beauty in all seasons, with changing colors and textures throughout the year for aesthetic appeal, while also providing a natural habitat for nesting birds and wildlife. They also make for an excellent food source for butterflies, bees, and other pollinators, while working hard to prevent erosion, as well. Not to mention, they work perfectly for ditch planting and providing a screen in urban environments.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

How to Grow a Prairie:

With so many benefits for both you and the environment, growing your own prairie couldn’t be more appealing! Although large expansive sites are optimal for prairie restorations, you can also plant backyard prairies with just a few hundred square feet. Prairies thrive in many soil types, so your only concern should be choosing a site that gets full sun, especially in the afternoon. However, if you have a prairie remnant on or near your site, remember to contact your local county conservation office for advice on how to protect it.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Selecting Your Prairie Seed Mix:

Once you have your site, you will need to select your prairie seed mix. There are mixes available for both wet and dry sites, and you’ll want to select one that is as diverse as possible. Try to pick one with many different species of grasses and flowers for year-round interest and to provide the best pollinator habitat. Typically, they are modeled after historical prairies with about 60% grasses and 40% flowers. To fit with your aesthetic, you can adjust this percentage, but remember to keep at least 20% grasses for a true prairie.

When choosing your prairie seed mix, it’s important to select locally-sourced seeds harvested from Iowa plants that are adapted to our ever-changing climate. Here at Ted Lare Garden Center, our horticultural experts will be happy to help you select the best mix and the correct amount for you and your plot. You can also learn more about selecting and planting seed by visiting the Tallgrass Prairie Center online.

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Planting Prairie Seed Mix:

Before you begin planting, you will need to kill off any existing vegetation. You can do so with 1-2 applications of Round-Up from April through October, but remember that spring is easier for killing any weeds than fall. If there are any trees or shrubs, you’ll want to remove those and treat with a herbicide, but if you have steep slopes and erosion problems, you can skip treatment. Once the vegetation is killed, it is best to till the soil and remove old vegetation, if possible.

With the site properly prepared, prairies can be planted in both spring and fall, but late fall and early winter are optimal, as many prairie seeds need our cold winters to break dormancy. This late seeding also rules out the need to break up the soil before planting, as freezing and thawing will naturally work the seeds into the soil.

To ensure an even application, spread your seed right after a light snowfall so you can see where the seeds have fallen. While seed injectors and mechanical seed spreaders are great for larger acreages, spreading by hand is both simple and cost-effective. To spread by hand, grab a handful of seeds and walk quickly over the area, slowly moving your fingers to release seed as you go, and repeat until the area is covered. Without snow cover, it will be difficult to tell where seeds land, but continue to cover the area as best you can.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Maintaining Prairie Grass:

Maintaining your prairie during its first year is the most critical, as there will be a seed bank of weeds waiting to sprout that your prairie seeds will have to battle against for light and nutrients. To give them a fighting chance, mowing your prairie grass is key.

Mow your prairie seedlings down 3-4 times over the course of the first summer. Don’t fret, it won’t hurt your new seedlings, but it will actually force them to put more of their energy toward producing roots, giving you a stronger plant overall. Weeds, however, do not tolerate mowing well and will eventually stop sprouting, allowing your prairie seeds to overtake the spaces the weeds were occupying. After the first year, mowing will typically only need to be done first thing in the spring.

By about year 4, your prairie will be ready for a prescribed burn. If your area does not allow prescribed burning, you can instead use a rake to remove dead foliage after your typical spring mowing to keep thatch levels from smothering the plants. If your prairie is large, simply mowing in the spring will be enough to keep it looking good.

The only other maintenance that may be required is periodic weed control. It is important to keep an eye out for aggressive weeds, such as Canadian Thistle, which can spread quickly. Herbicides may be necessary, especially during prairie establishment.

To learn more about the mowing and maintenance schedule, be sure to check out our Prairie Establishment handout.

While it may not look like much in its first year, keep it up, and your hard work will pay off. Typically it takes about 3 years to see your prairie start to thrive, so do not panic during those first two years.  Watch as your native prairie plants burst into bloom, getting more beautiful with each passing year. With prairie establishment, you’re not only beautifying your backyard, but you’re also bringing our natural Iowa landscape back to life so we can continue to enjoy our rich heritage for years to come!

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Proper Tree Planting in Iowa

green leaves on a tree branch

“I feel a great regard for trees; they represent age and beauty and the miracles of life and growth.”
– Louise Dickinson Rich

Some gardeners are intimidated by the idea of planting a tree in their yard. While it can seem like a big project, planting trees is actually quite simple, and a great investment in a living legacy that will continue to grow in your yard and with your family for years to come. Trees are the ultimate statement-maker in outdoor decor, providing a number of benefits to your yard and home, while providing a dramatic, stately look that will endure the seasons and years.

When to Plant :

The best time to consider adding a new tree are the temperate seasons of spring and fall. With autumn fast approaching, we’re getting close to tree-planting season, making this the ideal time to start planning for your new addition. Back-to-school season is full of new beginnings, why not start your property with a gorgeous upgrade, too?

Trees can manage in our mid-summer heat waves, but they truly thrive in the cooler temperatures of spring and fall. Planting when it’s cool gives your tree all the low-stress weather it needs to get established before the mercury drops further.r

Steps to Planting a Tree :

Planting isn’t complicated, but approaching it with the right steps is a sure way to succeed. If you’re nervous about taking the project on yourself, though, our landscaping teams are always happy to help make your property dreams come true. For the do-it-yourself crowd, follow these simple steps to get your yard looking perfect with the ultimate classy upgrade.

1. Getting your yard ready:

You’ll want to plant your tree as soon as you get it home, so preparing your planting area beforehand saves time and will have your tree looking its best sooner. If you can’t plant right away, you’ll want to make sure the tree is shaded and that the root ball stays moist until you do plant.

2. Pick the perfect location:

Choosing a spot for your tree is a compromise between your tree’s needs and your aesthetic vision. Match your location to the needs of your tree so it will get the moisture and light it craves – and make sure you plan for your tree to grow over the years, too.

3. Dig in:

Your house relies on an amazing foundation to stand the test of time and your tree does, too. Start your tree right with a good hole and you’ll be sure to have a healthy and vibrant addition to your home. Dig a hole twice as wide and the same depth as the root ball, making sure that you’re planting in good soil. If by chance the hole is dug out deeper than the root ball, make sure to add more dirt to the correct level and tamp or pack down the dirt. This will ensure the tree does not sink past the existing soil level. If your dirt isn’t up to the standard, add some black earth, compost, and peat moss to help it get established. If your yard doesn’t have ample soil on top of a largely useless layer of clay or rock, just dig the hole for your tree wider to give it the space it craves to perform its best.

4. Planting for a good start:

Once you’ve planted, water generously to help the roots get established as quick as possible. Water near the edge of the root ball and be sure to pack the dirt down as you water. This will help to remove any air pockets that are near the root ball. A sufficient amount of water should saturate the dirt and begin to puddle near the surface

A layer of mulch – a simple wood mulch, like cedar – is an absolutely crucial step. Not only does it look polished and professional, but the mulch will help to regulate temperature at the roots for your tree, providing shelter in the cold months of winter, and shading from the hottest days of the summer. Take care not to let the mulch directly touch the tree’s trunk, though. Leave a space between the two to prevent any rotting.

Planting a tree is simple and doesn’t have to be a chore. Choosing a tree to be your home and family’s companion for years to come is an investment in your future that will grow with you. It’s the ultimate classy addition to your home’s aesthetic and will weather everything to come with your family – promotions, new schools, graduations, new pets, new family members – all with a lush and green flair of style.

If you would like more detailed instructions or have any questions, make sure to contact our experts at Ted Lare Garden Center and we’d be happy to help with any concerns!

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Native Plants (Iowa)

“You’ve got to stay strong to be strong in tough times.”
– Tilman Fertitta

These days we seem to get busier and busier every year. The hurry of our families and lives is sometimes overwhelming. We do our best to keep up, but when we finally get a moment to ourselves, the last thing we want is a reminder to do more work. Without the time and energy, maintaining a gorgeous garden seems impossible. This couldn’t be further from the truth, though! With a wide variety of native plants to choose from, it’s downright easy to create an impressive garden you’ll be eager to show off that doesn’t demand constant toiling. You’ll be able to have your dream garden and the time to actually sit back and enjoy it.

Pictured below: Yarrow

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Benefits of Native Gardening:

Native gardening has gained popularity for its low-maintenance beauty thanks to the natural hardiness of its plants. But many gardeners also know that they don’t need to plant only local plants to have a hardy garden. There is a wide variety of hybrids on the market these days, offering non-native plants that are tougher than their exotic cousins. While they are hardy enough to make the cut in foreign territory, these plants are still being taken out of their natural comfort zone: hybrid varieties of classics still take some degree of maintenance and sometimes provide mixed results. Native plants, however, have been thriving in your local climate for thousands of years, which is a type of hardiness that any hybrid will struggle to compete with.

Native plants are the ultimate low-maintenance option that is a perfect fit for the time-sensitive gardener. They have very few gardening needs and are perfectly happy in full sun with little to no additional water. Not only are they drought- and heat-tolerant, but they’ll even thrive on a little bit of neglect. A garden with native plants offers a stunning variety of natural colors that essentially take care of themselves, year after year. These pretty locals will be a favorite of guests to your garden – from visiting pollinators and birds to your friends and family.

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Native Gardening in Iowa

In Iowa, we are no strangers to prairie plant life. Our native flowers are accustomed to plenty of sun in the summer but are hardy enough to survive our chilly winters. Some of our favorite, low-maintenance Iowa prairie flowers are tough growers with a pretty exterior:

Butterfly Milkweed

Don’t let the name fool you, because Milkweed (also known as Butterfly Weed) is a charming flower that adds to its beauty by attracting scores of butterflies. It’s mainly known as the flower of Monarch butterflies, but their nectar is also a favorite of ladybeetles and bees. The pretty clusters of flowers will help to draw scores of beneficial insects to your garden, but will also repel destructive pests like deer and rabbits. This flower works hard for you and is frequently available in delicate shades of orange or pink to dress up your low-maintenance garden.


These flowers feature a seed head with long, falling petals that cascade in a cone shape. Also known as Echinacea, these flowers offer many color options beyond their classic purple hues. The unique shape of these flowers is eye-catching to the passerby as well as to helpful insects and local birds.


Also known as Achillea, Yarrow is another example of an unapologetically vibrant native plant. While the colorful clusters of flowers make this perennial incredibly popular, the leaves add functionality as a long-loved herb. Many gardeners swear on Yarrow leaves’ pain-relieving ability and have used them for a variety of common ailments from toothaches to bellyaches. A bit of Yarrow in the garden adds a splash of color, all while requiring minimal care. In fact, a little neglect actually helps this plant to thrive.

Pictured below: Coneflowers

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This native is as tough as the name suggests. Ironweed is a perfect plant for the middle or back of the garden, maturing at a height of about a foot and a half tall. The blooms are what makes this plant so spectacular. Vibrant, dark purple flowers cover the tips of the plant mid-summer, making it a real showstopper. Certainly one of our favorite natives, you will love this plant and so will the pollinators!

Rough Blazing Star

Also known as Liatris, the Rough Blazing Star is also unofficially known as the “butterfly magnet” because butterflies cannot resist the blooms of this lovely plant. It is extremely drought tolerant and stands at about three feet tall with clusters of large purple blooms. Rough Blazing Star is much bigger than common Liatris and also blooms much later. Try this plant in your garden, and you will be impressed with its hardiness and beautiful blooms.

Showy Goldenrod

This plant is a much tamer, non-invasive version of ordinary Ditch Goldenrod. The blooms are large with a bright, sunny yellow color, born on very sturdy stems that grow up to three feet tall. It has large flowers bloom later in summer and fall, adding that perfect pop of color to any Iowa garden. Bees and other pollinators are also very attracted to this plant.

Pictured below: Butterfly Milkweed

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Using native plants in your garden makes growing a healthy and hardy garden a much more realistic option for busy gardeners. With a garden that practically takes care of itself, while still offering up an array of charming blooms, you’ll actually have the opportunity to sit and enjoy your garden. And we offer lots of varieties to choose from and the advice you to help you get started.

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Landscape Design Trends: Low Maintenance Planting

Low Maintenance Planting Prairie Gardening Iowa Native Planting Native Plants

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

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

Let Go of the Lawn:

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

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Using Native Plants:

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

Natural Wood Mulch:

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

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

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

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

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

Design Ideas:

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

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

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

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Landscape Design Trends: Seat Walls & Columns

columns patio stone design rock retaining wall seating campfire backyard pool

Seating is about inviting people to feel at home and relaxed, and this trend is all about making it easier to relax outdoors.

While extra chairs can eat up space and distract from the aesthetic of your outdoor space, a seating wall incorporates comfort and entertainment into your backyard. Often seating walls provide overflow seating for larger backyard gatherings, in addition to furniture.

“Smart people that like good health spend several hours outdoors daily in the shade of trees.“
– Steven Magee

Retaining Walls, Upgraded:

Retaining walls are an important structural “cornerstone” to landscape design. In the process of landscaping your space, a change of grade or natural slope can be elegantly contained with a visually pleasing barrier. Retaining walls are elegant solutions to practical layout problems in your yard.

A seating wall upgrades the utilitarian retaining wall to do even more. Not only functional and beautiful, people can sit on it comfortably as well. Suddenly, late nights spent with family and friends outdoors gets an intuitive upgrade. Hosting a larger gathering becomes easier, and nobody has to worry about finding a place to sit with this subtle design solution. Your retaining wall now has a stylish and practical purpose, and you’ll find your backyard will quickly become the go-to place for gatherings.

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When you’re looking to build a seating wall, the first thing to focus on is comfort. You’ll want the wall to be easily accessible, so your wall should be a comfortable height and have a wide capstone. With a wall that is about 18” high and a cap at least 12” wide and stable, the rest of the wall is flexible to whatever you imagine!

Construction methods vary depending on the material chosen. Some seating walls may require a concrete footing to frost depth, while others may only require a compacted gravel base of nine inches.

Freestanding and Functional:

Seating walls aren’t restricted to retaining walls, and can have so many practical functions paired with stunning aesthetic. Circular seating walls can invite people inside to enjoy a roaring fire, or invite people to picnic on flat capstones.

Dressing Up the Design:

The beauty of these seating walls is that they don’t need to be purely functional and can be dressed up with containers of flowers, or dressed down with timber or stonework. Whatever your choice of design, elegant stone wall features are a classic way to add depth and shape to the landscape of your yard, introducing practical ways to enjoy your outdoor space more.

Peruse our portfolio of landscape design projects, organized by category and design material, and start envisioning your new backyard escape

Stone Columns:

Stone columns can be both beautiful and structural, depending on how they are incorporated into the design. Often, stone columns are used to add one more level of detail in a pergola, or covered patio design, by wrapping the timber pos in stone. The use of stone upgrades the overall ‘look and feel’ of the space, and compliments the other stone elements of the design such as a patio or fireplace.Stone columns can also be used as stand-alone elements in the landscape, used to frame a view or just add an interesting vertical element in the design. Whether you’re thinking about installing a seating wall for your home, or looking into adding columns into your yard for visual interest, our landscape designers can advise you on the best practical and creative solutions for your yard. Get in touch with our design office, and start talking through design ideas and options for your backyard escape.