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The Best Living Holiday Ornaments & Inspiration

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

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.

Wire Ornaments

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.

Amaryllis is 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:

Sterling Silver Snowflake Jewelry, November 30, 9-11 AM, $25-$50

Holiday Porch Pot, November 30, 12:30-2:30 PM, $20

Vintage Santa, November 30, 12:30-2:30 PM, $60

Mini Birch Evergreen Holiday Centerpiece, November 30, 3-5 PM, $25

Succulent Christmas Tree, December 2, 6-8 PM, $20

Holiday Grapevine Wreath, December 3, 6-8 PM, $39

Holiday Creation Station, December 3, 6-8 PM, $20

Holiday Angel Painting, December 3, 6-8 PM, $45

Tabletop Grinch Tree, December 4, 6-8 PM, $40

Holiday Porch Pot, December 5, 5-8 PM, $20

Garden to Glass: Holiday Part 2, December 5, 6-8 PM, $35

Holiday Porch Pot, December 7, 9-11 AM, $20

Holiday Centerpiece, December 7, 12-2 PM, $20

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!

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How to Make Your Holiday Greenery Last

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!

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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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Landscaping Essentials for Building a New House

Landscaping Essentials for Building a New House

Homes are where we let dreams happen. A new home comes with a new start, and a new chance for your surroundings to reflect your family’s style. Home is the place we go back to every day, where we build our futures, and where we feel safest – it makes sense that we’d want to shape them to fit us and our needs.

New homes can also be overwhelming. With so much hope and expectation, it can be tough to know where to start. It’s important to keep in mind that there’s no rush. There’s a lot to be enjoyed about moving into your new home, and you don’t want to rush through the milestones. You don’t need to go from bare dirt to a prize winning garden in one month. Setting goals is important, but so is the process.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Getting Started with New Landscaping:

As you make plans for the construction of your new home, it is important to also think about the outdoor spaces as well.  As you select the size and layout of your home, think about how much space is left on the lot and how you want to shape the outdoors of your home. Think about the activities you want enjoy and how your new yard is going to accommodate them.  If you like to play sports in the backyard or are entertaining the idea of a pool area, then you want to create or preserve a large level lawn area for these activities.

Here are some general questions you can think about as you plan the build of your new home:

  1. What direction do I want the backyard and frontyard to face? Think about shade and sun, wind direction, and the existing views at different lots you may be looking at.
  2. Do I want the backyard to be shady or sunny?
  3. Will there be enough room on the sides of the home for lawn equipment to access the backyard?
  4. Will we want a privacy fence in the backyard?
  5. Are there views from the home you want to preserve?
  6. Are there other views you want to hide or screen with plantings?
  7. What size of patio or deck do you need?  Consider everyday activities with family and other occasions where you might want more space?
  8. What outdoor functional features do you want to include or plan for in the future? (firepit, outdoor kitchen, pool areas, shade structures, additional patio space)

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Spend a little time with your family talking about all of your wants and dreams for your new outdoor spaces included with your new home.  Then spend a little time prioritizing these different items on your list. Similar to the indoors of your home, you may need to trim some items off the list as budgets are developed for your new landscape construction.

As you get started building your new home, you will want to get a reputable Landscape Designer involved during the building process.  Our design team is the perfect resource for any new homeowner looking to get started. We’ll help you navigate the planning, design, and execution stages to guide you towards your dream yard. If you are looking for a truly unique design, try to get a designer involved early in the building process as you are budgeting for all of your expenses.  We can help with generating ideas for your outdoor spaces and shaping your own ideas into conceptual designs for construction.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Steps to Landscaping your New Home:

It can be overwhelming to landscape your entire home.  Here are the steps we recommend to prioritize your new home landscaping.

  1. Budget for Sod and Irrigation
  2. Assess how much you want to spend on the new landscaping for your home.
  3. Pick a Landscape Designer to work with and obtain Estimates for Hardscapes (pool, patio essentials, retaining walls, paths, etc.), Tree Plantings, and Planting Beds.
  4. Review estimates for proposed work to see what fits your budget.
  5. Revise hardscape and planting designs to fit your initial install budget.
  6. Continue to refine the design and material choices as construction approaches

We recommend trying to get as much of the heavy construction installed upfront, such as patios and retaining walls, during the initial home construction. These items are much easier and less costly to install before your lot is sodded.

Tree plantings are also nice to get started early as well, as they will take a while to grow into large shade trees.  Other than that, the front planting will most likely be required by your development. Hardscapes, Front landscaping, and Tree plantings are the areas to focus on first. Other items are easy to take care of down the road.  

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Preparing for New Plantings & Sod:

A vibrant and beautiful garden is impossible without good soil, and setting a good foundation is a great investment in making your gardening and yard maintenance easier for years to come. With a new home you’ve got a great opportunity to set this foundation – without any landscaping in place you can address your soil before you get started with anything else.

Some developers try to cut corners by leaving you with very little black soil, scraping it off and leaving a frustrating and unworkable amount for you by the time you move in. As you sign contracts with your home builder, ask questions about black soil depths in the lot and what is expected after the final build. The deeper the black soil the better, as you will have to water your lawn less and any new plants will thrive in black soil, compared to compacted clay. Four inches of black soil is the absolute minimum you’ll need for a healthy lawn, but of course more is better and even required for things like gardens and flower beds.

Even if you’re confident you’ve received the promised top soil, it can be a good idea to supplement additional black soil while everything is exposed, especially for areas you plan to plant during construction or later down the road. A full dump truck of black dirt spread across your front foundation will make a big difference to your future plantings installed with your new landscaping.  We recommend having 12” of black soil for planting bed areas if possible.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Landscaping Design for your New Home:

The toughest exercise in self-restraint can be planning your hardscaping and waiting until you have a confident idea of what you’d like your yard to look like before you start laying down permanent fixtures.

Our landscape experts are the best source of knowledge to help set your plans and designs in stone. We can help you through the entire process, from preliminary planning and conceptual design all the way through final construction.  All of our designers have years of experience and the creative vision to help you build the new home of your dreams. Our detailed plans will let us help you do it right the first time. By taking the time to do it right, you can make the most of your opportunity to design a perfectly-customized outdoor space. When you are ready to start planning the backyard of your dreams, get in touch with your design team to get started.

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Deer-Proofing Your Garden in Iowa

“Eating greens is a special treat, it makes long ears and great big feet.”
– Bambi

Few things in nature are as elegant and interesting as deer, and spotting one can often be quite exciting – except, however, when you spot them grazing on your gorgeous garden. As beautiful as they are, deer can be an incredible nuisance in our yards, as they trample through and chew our precious plants to pieces.

Why Deer Love Our Gardens:

Deer are natural grazers and love eating plants for their thirst-quenching moisture content and nutritional benefits. They particularly love to munch away in the spring with new growth looking tastiest after the long winter.
Particular plants that deer love to snack on include tulips, pansies, dogwood, and roses. They also enjoy english ivy, yew, pine, and hostas, as well as most fruits and vegetables. When many of these tasty treats are packaged nicely together in one area, like in our gardens, it only makes sense that they would keep coming back day after day.

deer watching

Deer-Proofing Your Yard:

To continue enjoying your garden beauties without worrying about deer damage, you’ll need to protect your yard against these plant predators.

Fences and Hedges:

When it comes to keeping animals out of our yards, it can be easy to convince ourselves that a fence will solve all our issues but deer are known for their expert jumping skills. While it’s true that they have been known to jump as high as 7 feet in a single bound, we’ve found from experience that deer are more likely to choose the path of least resistance, so a 6-foot fence will usually be enough.
A less obstructive solution could be to, instead, add a hedge around your yard, as a natural barrier. Boxwood is an excellent choice for a deer-repelling hedge, as it’s not only beautifully bright, but also deer-resistant, as well.

Repellants:

Much like the sprays you can buy to ward off insects, there are repellents that can be purchased to ward off deer, as well.
Scent-targeting repellents use powerful smells to confuse the deer’s sense of smell from detecting the treats they love. Typically they tend to contain quite potent smells, like fermented eggs, garlic, and soap. They may also contain natural scents from their predators.

a tall green headge with garden table and chair

Taste-targeting repellents work to change the flavor of the plants, so they aren’t as appetizing to the deer. They are usually based with spicy peppers or other unsavory flavors, so they are best used on plants you won’t be enjoying on your plate.

These sprays will usually need to be applied 1-2 times per month, depending on rainfall and are best applied early in the season before the deer have had a chance to sample your garden. We also typically recommend rotating repellents occasionally for most effective results.

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Deer-Proof Plants:

While no plants are truly deer-proof, there are plenty of plants that deer tend to avoid due to smell, taste, or even toxicity. With even a couple of these deer resistant plants in your landscape, your yard quickly becomes less appealing to these curious critters.

Deer-Proof Perennials:

  • Black-Eyed Susans – classic daisy flowers with dark eyes.
  • Bleeding Hearts – traditional, heart-shaped flowers.
  • Coreopsis – colorful, daisy-like flowers.
  • Daffodils – terrific trumpet flowers, toxic to deer.
  • Coneflowers – cone-shaped native flowers with prominent eyes.
  • Ferns – a varied family of foliage plants.
  • Irises – beautiful bearded flowers.
  • Lavender – very fragrant flower spikes with namesake color.
  • Mint – excellent edible with strong fragrance to ward off deer.
  • Monarda – pincushion flowers adored by pollinators.
  • Ornamental Grasses – beautiful, but not as appetizing as a lawn.
  • Sage – spikes of fragrant flowers.

Pictured below: Left- Monarda, Top Right- Coreopsis, Bottom Right- Bleeding Hearts

Bright orange crown imperial flowers

Deer-Proof Annuals:

  • Cleomes – spidery flower spikes.
  • Marigolds – pincushion flowers on tall stems.
  • Petunias – pretty trumpet flowers in many colors.
  • Rosemary – delicious, fragrant herb.

While we may enjoy spotting them grazing in a field out in nature, our gardens are the last place we want to find deer. With these tips and tricks for deer-proofing your yard, though, you won’t have to worry about losing another plant to these majestic mammals.

To view our selection of deer-repelling plants and products, or for more information, visit us in store today or check out our informational sheet on deer-proofing here.

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Top 10 Spring Bulbs to Plant in Iowa

“I must have flowers, always, and always.”
– Monet

As we enter the final active season in the garden, now is the time to be thinking about the very first plants that pop up in our gardens: spring-blooming bulbs. These first spring flowers always hold a special place in our thoughts, as the first sign of bright and cheerful life peeking through the snow. However, to ensure these plants will be ready for next year’s show, they need to be planted as early as September and October, so the time is now. To get you started, here are our top 10 spring bulbs for fall planting:

Daffodils:

Daffodils have come a long way since the traditional yellow and, though they are a classic, they are still one of our favorites. Double-blooming daffodils, like Rosy Cloud and Wave, provide a new look for an old-fashioned flower, while still maintaining the same deer-resistance as the old varieties that we love in the garden.

Pictured below: Daffodils

yellow daffodils

Snowdrops:

The icy white Snowdrop is the perfect spring bulb for fall planting, adding lively garden brightness to your chilly spring bed. ‘Elwesii’ is a must-have for your fall planting if you like to have early-rising flowers in your garden – and, in this case, early can sometimes mean February, as they pop up just as the snow starts to recede.

Spring Snowflakes:

Also called giant snowdrops, Spring Snowflakes are not new by any means, but they add a delicate touch to your garden in a stunning, critter-resistant package. You’ll love their dainty, dangling petals peeking out of the snow at the first sign of spring.

Pictured below: Alliums

A bunch of purple aliums in a garden

Tulips:

Tulips really speak for themselves, but the Burgundy Tulip provides a new, sleek look with unique and eye-catching color. Also, the petals are arranged in what is called a “lily shape”, making them extra-resistant to wind. Other varieties, like Princess Irene and Affaire, have beautiful multi-coloring on their petals and if deer or rabbits are a problem, there are plenty of deer-resistant tulips to choose from this year, as well!

Alliums:

Also known as ornamental onions, Alliums offer large, round balls of tiny flowers that tower over the garden on long stems. Traditionally purple, they come in many shades, like light Globemaster, dark Gladiator, and blue-hued Caeruleum. Butterflies flock to them, while deer avoid them, and you’ll love how low-maintenance they are.Love what you’re reading? Sign up to our email newsletter, and get inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.

Surprise Lilies:

These little lilies are quite the surprise for a spring garden, appearing as tall stalks of what seems like simple foliage at first, then revealing their beautiful rosy clusters of trumpet flowers later in the season. A favorite of hummingbirds, the Surprise Lily will also quickly become one of your favorite flowers, as well.

Crown Imperial:

The interesting and uniquely-shaped Crown Imperials are a great way to add bright, sunny colors, like yellow and orange, to your garden in an eye-catching way. These beautiful bell flowers gently fall underneath a tuft of leafy foliage on top of tall stalks, certainly making them a stand-out in any spring bed.

Pictured below: Crown Imperial

Bright orange crown imperial flowers

Hyacinths:

For the prettiest plumes of star-shaped flowers, Hyacinths are the choice to make for spring bulbs. You’ll love the violet Blue Jacket and the purple-pink Miss Saigon for vibrant groundcover that livens up the world after a full winter of white. Hyacinths will also fill your yard with a sweet fragrance.   

Grape Hyacinths:

Slightly different than their aforementioned cousins, the spikes of Grape Hyacinths are, instead, decorated with purple bell-shaped flowers, making it appear like a perfect bunch of grapes. They are low-maintenance and lovely, making them an excellent choice for spring.

Pictured below: Grape Hyacinths

A bunch of purple Grape Hyacinths

Crocuses:

Long-loved spring favorites, Crocuses have dazzled in the chill of early spring for many years. Their little cup-shaped flowers perfectly decorate the ground with the floral life we crave all winter, and the new Blue Moon makes them even more dazzling, with deep purple flowers adorned with streaks of white for full-spectrum beauty.

We love our spring gardens and fall is the perfect time to prepare them for the first arrival of spring. These bulbs and more are all ready to join your spring spectacular, so get them in place for your best show yet!

To see our full selection of spring bulbs or to learn more about fall planting, visit us in-store today or sign up for our Blooming Spring Bulbs class on September 22nd, 2018 at 10:00 am.

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Amazing Fall Flora for Pots

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald

Tired from the intense heat of our Iowa summer, our gardens have seen better days, and we eagerly search for that fresh life we were surrounded by in summer. Luckily, you can still have beautiful fall flora even as the weather cools, and these are our top choices for your pots.

Pansies

These annuals are year-round spectacles of color and spring vibrance. The soft, clover-like flowers burst into bloom against a background of dark, pointed leaves in the spring and last late into the fall. As annuals, they won’t be hardy into the winter, but you can make them weather the frost with a thick layer of mulch and plenty of sun. Our favorites are the bright and simple Mimosa Yellow, and the complex and stunning Endurio Blue Yellow with Purple Wing.

Pictured below: Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums flowers

Kale

This cool-weather-loving plant has lots to offer to your backyard aesthetic, with gorgeous, crinkle-leafed green and lacy tendrils of beautiful color that look fantastic in a pot. As delicious as other varieties may be, the fall kale we love, Red or White Peacock, is purely ornamental and is best observed with the eyes, rather than our mouths.

Mums

The ultimate fall annuals, mums – or chrysanthemums – are delightful, daisy-like flowers that are packed with colorful petals with beautiful ferny leaves that look amazing even after the blooms are spent. Though they are labeled as hardy, their breeding over the years has primed them for performance over weather tolerance. They are wonderfully easy-to-care-for, only needing sun and water to keep their blooms bright all season. Try our top choices, the Karelli Bronze and the Petit Orange for a beautiful fall spectacular.

Pictured below: Kale and Ornamental Peppers

kale and ornamental peppers in a black pot

Ornamental Peppers

While they are technically peppers that can be eaten, ornamental is the best way to describe these powerfully spicy and brightly colored vegetables. These peppers pack a punch of color – anywhere from yellow to black – to punctuate your fall garden, and only need rich soil, occasional watering, and full sun to dazzle in your pots.

Crossandras

Also known as a Firecracker Plant, Crossandras are the perfect plant to pot outside all year and bring inside when the mercury drops below freezing. They provide a luxurious, tropical aesthetic of orange-red flower spikes that will transform your space into an oasis that will have you forgetting about the weather outside. Better suited for the humidity of the jungle, these plants will need plenty of sun and water to keep them performing their best.

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Celosias

Celosias, or Cockscombs, are pretty plumes of brightly-colored flowers that bring summer colors to your fall landscape. Not only will you appreciate their unbelievable beauty, but you’ll also love the increased presence of butterflies in your yard when they are around. They are drought-tolerant and prefer full sun to keep them looking their best. For a full spectrum of stunning color, try Fresh Look RedKelos Orange, and purple Intenz.

Lemon Cypress

A beautiful, compact tree with a delicious citrus fragrance that follows it wherever it goes, the Lemon Cypress is a cool-weather-loving lovely that looks stunning in larger pots. It may prefer the cool weather, but our colder Iowa winters are a little colder than it prefers, so bringing it inside will keep their yellow-green needles happier and healthier. Make sure it still receives plenty of sun, though.

Crotons

These fabulous Variegated Crotons are full of interesting and bright foliage with plenty of personality to add to your pots. The large, glossy leaves burst with colorful variegations throughout the year. Plant them with rich, well-draining soil in full sun to partial shade and enjoy the spectacular show this low-maintenance plant provides.  Bring them inside before the temperatures dip below freezing and enjoy them as a houseplant this winter.

Pictured below: Crotons

croton plant

Other Fall Pot Favorites

Bidens are sensational, star-shaped flowers that are low-maintenance, drought-tolerant, and adored by butterflies. Our top choices are Campfire FireburstSun Drop, and Yellow Sunshine.

Mona Lavender offers spikes of lavender-hued, tubular flowers that hummingbirds love. As low-maintenance as they are, you’ll love them, too.

Coleus is a fantastic fall flora with fabulous foliage and a marvellous mounding habit. They come in many beautiful varieties, like Under the SeaCampfire, and Chocolate Covered Cherry.

Ornamental Grasses are the ultimate low-maintenance landscape addition to add texture to your life. As natives to Iowa, they are also phenomenally low-maintenance. We love the Purple Fountain Grass for its stunning color and texture.

Pictured below: Celosias

red celosia plant

Zinnias are another daisy-like flower with a terrific trailing quality that looks perfect in patio pots. They come in many vibrant colors, including the cheerful orange Magellan Orange, and are drought-tolerant enough to handle a little neglect.

When the leaves change and the air changes to that crisp, cool air the world comes alive with color and excitement. As lively as it may seem, though, the world is slowly falling into hibernation, and our gardens are a perfect example of this. With these stunning fall selections, though, you can still enjoy that burst of fresh life from summer right until winter comes.

To learn more about plants for potting in fall or to browse our selection, visit the garden center today!

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Proper Tree Planting in Iowa

green leaves on a tree branch

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Proper Tree Planting in Iowa

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

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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.

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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.

[/fusion_text][fusion_separator style_type=”none” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” sep_color=”” top_margin=”15px” bottom_margin=”15px” border_size=”” icon=”” icon_circle=”” icon_circle_color=”” width=”” alignment=”center” /][fusion_imageframe image_id=”18387″ max_width=”” style_type=”none” stylecolor=”” hover_type=”none” bordersize=”” bordercolor=”” borderradius=”” align=”left” lightbox=”no” gallery_id=”” lightbox_image=”” alt=”apple tree with green apples” link=”” linktarget=”_self” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”fullwidth-img” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=””]http://www.tedsgardens.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/TREE-3.jpg[/fusion_imageframe][/fusion_builder_column][fusion_builder_column type=”1_4″ layout=”1_4″ spacing=”” center_content=”no” link=”” target=”_self” min_height=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_position=”left top” undefined=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” hover_type=”none” border_size=”0″ border_color=”” border_style=”solid” border_position=”all” padding_top=”” padding_right=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”0px” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=”” last=”no”][fusion_text columns=”” column_min_width=”” column_spacing=”” rule_style=”default” rule_size=”” rule_color=”” class=”blue-background” id=””]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Hidden Benefits of Evergreens

close-up of evergreen trees

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Hidden Benefits of Evergreens

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“Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.“
– John Muir

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For such large statement-makers, evergreens certainly get forgotten a lot. These reliable and foolproof additions to your yard bring more than just aesthetic to the table. While it is easy to just plant them and forget them, let’s take some time to get to know these beautiful plants:

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Evergreens suffer from the curse of being so good at their job that they scarcely get noticed. For many of us, they are simply just “there” in our gardens, and don’t get many kudos beyond their ornamental purpose. Not only does an evergreen add year-round style and color in an easy and foolproof way, but they could be one of the most beneficial additions you could make to your yard and home.

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Privacy:

We love to enjoy our outdoor space at home, but most of us prefer to do so with a little bit of privacy. Using plants as a natural barrier and screen can make your home and yard more comfortable to enjoy while adding to your backyard aesthetic, instead of distracting from it. Deciduous trees are delightful in the summer to provide a lush screen for your home but with our long Iowa winters leaving them bare for months on end, they just don’t do the job. Cold weather shouldn’t make you feel like you need to live life with the blinds closed. Evergreens provide beautifully lush coverage every day of the year. With so many species available, you can choose a natural screen that is as large or small as you need – either as a bold statement plant, or a modest and small-footprint privacy screen.

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Energy Conservation:

It’s common knowledge that bigger canopy trees, like Elms and Willows, help to shade and cool our homes in the summer when the sun is harshest. But in our sometimes frigid winters, we find ourselves begging for some extra warmth. The truth is that the winter wind pulls heat from our house and makes our furnaces work on overtime to maintain a comfortable temperature. Our gas bills are higher and houses are left less cozy.

Evergreens provide all the same summer-shade benefits that we crave on the hottest days of the year, but they also do an amazing job of protecting our homes in the winter when the deciduous trees have dropped their leaves to hibernate. This makes them a great choice to block the prevailing winds we know so well in Iowa. Plant close enough to your home to be effective, but still far enough (15-20 feet away) that the roots have room to grow.

In Midwestern states that take a temperature dive in the winter, it’s smartest to plant evergreens on the North side of your home. A towering, lush tree on the South could block the sun from naturally warming your house, while a northern placement will them block the majority of the coldest winds. A deciduous on the South will let the sun in when the temperatures are coldest but will provide shade in the summer.

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Wildlife:

We’re realizing that dousing our yards in chemicals can not only make our yard problems worse in the long run, but they also pose a hazard that prevents us from enjoying all our outdoor space. Natural yards that have healthy predator populations will keep the pests in check for you and, like anything that we want to keep around, our helpful predators need some protection, too.

Evergreens help to sustain populations of birds and other creatures that help to maintain a balanced yard ecosystem. Animals use their consistently green branches to find shelter in the winter and protect themselves from bigger predators, all while making a home close to your garden to keep pests in check. By keeping your tree growing close to the ground, you’ll be maximizing its benefit as a shelter to the best predators for a healthy yard – while also hiding the patch of grass under the tree that notoriously struggles to grow.

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Air Quality:

Trees are the earth’s lungs, and they work hard to strip the air of pollutants, replacing carbon dioxide with oxygen. In the summer, our deciduous trees help to guard our yards from the pollutants and smog that might creep into our homes, but their abilities are limited in the winter when air pollution is at its worst.
While barren deciduous branches don’t do much for air quality, the needles on your evergreen do. They aren’t perfect at removing all pollutants, but they are able to help you and your home all year while your deciduous trees are sleeping. And while they won’t remove all the pollution, their fresh pine scent will certainly help your home feel a little fresher. There’s a reason so many household cleaners smell like pine!

Evergreens are so reliable that we often forget about them and neglect to give them credit where it is due. While we often consider them as the background plants, they are often the unsung heros. They offer tons of benefits to you, your family, your home, and even your bank account. With so many benefits, we’re lucky that they are also such a stunning addition to any home. Not just a pretty face, beautiful evergreens are ready to work to make your home and yard easier to enjoy.

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Aphids 101

aphids on a branch

We can certainly count ourselves as lucky here in Iowa that our garden pests aren’t as intimidating as warmer states. But just because we aren’t facing down dangerous pests like army ants, venomous spiders, and scorpions, doesn’t mean that our own pests aren’t annoying. While a single aphid by itself can seem nearly harmless, the damage that they can cause when they gather in numbers makes them rank up close to mosquitoes as most hated local insects.

Iowa fall perennial japanese anemoni

Aphids 101:

It’s their numbers that make aphids – also aptly known as “plant lice” – such a burden in our gardens. Each tiny bug sucks the sap from the plant they are on. With enough of these plant lice, it can have devastating effects on your plants as they have the life literally sucked out of them. Your poor plants can go from gorgeous to limp, discolored, or even dying in what seems like the blink of an eye. Aphid infestations grow fast, so you’ll need to be vigilant to save your backyard oasis from invading pests.

The problem with aphids is that they can reproduce incredibly quickly. A couple aphids can easily turn into an invasion overnight. These tiny insects can reproduce sexually or asexually, and the females often hatch from their overwintered eggs already pregnant. With a maturation time of only a week, aphid families grow at an exponential pace adding up to millions of invaders.

aphids on a branch and under a leaf

Aphid Spotting:

Being proactive is a great defense against aphids because it’s easier to deal with getting rid of a few bugs than a horde. Your plants will thank you for protecting them before the damage is done, and you’ll be pleased to maintain the lush, healthy garden aesthetic that you’ve worked to achieve in your garden all year.

Aphids are easy to spot, regardless of the type. While they can come in any variety of colors, from green to gray, or even spotted, they are almost all pear-shaped. They hang out in clusters, often on the new tips of growing plants or on the underside of leaves.

Aphids can be particularly troubling in the late season. Take care to keep a close eye on your plants to spot them early to save you extra work tending to unsightly damage.

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Aphid Damage:

While many gardeners are familiar with what aphids themselves look like, most of us are all too familiar with what aphid damage looks like, and are keen to avoid it every year in our own gardens. Different plants will present different complaints from aphid damage, but often show yellow discoloration, as well as wilted or curled leaves.

As if this attack on our gardens wasn’t enough, the presence of aphids is an invitation for fungus and mold to set in, as well as a likely way for diseases to be spread to your gardens.

aphids on a damaged leaf

Getting Rid of Aphids:

Our problems with aphids start with their sheer numbers, but thankfully for us, these pests have almost no defenses, and almost every other garden creature you can think of loves to eat them. The best defense you have against invading aphids is their natural predators, especially if you’re able to identify the pests early before they take over.

For an easy, chemical-free solution, release ladybugs into your garden to do all the heavy lifting for you. Not only are these gorgeous beetles like charming jewels in the garden, they are aphid-devouring machines. These beetles will stay in your garden as long as they need to, so long as they have tasty aphids to eat.
Instead of releasing ladybugs, you can also easily knock off collections of aphids on the undersides of leaves with a strong jet of water, tackling some of their numbers easily and with minimal effort or invasive pest control.

hose spraying leaves with water

For larger or persistent aphid infestations, some gardeners find that they need to turn to more powerful solutions before the damage to their garden is irreversible. When using these stronger solutions, we recommend following these steps:

Neem Oil – an organic insecticide that disrupts the aphid life-cycle and repels other pests. To use, dilute the solution in water as directed on the package and spray affected plants until completely wet.

Insecticidal Soap – a plant-safe liquid soap that is effective against many soft-bodied pests, including aphids. To use, apply in the morning by spraying plants with water, then follow with soap solution. Wait 30 minutes and rinse with water.

Pyrethrum – a very strong chemical insecticide that kills aphids on contact. To use, spray affected areas in early morning. This should only be done if the above steps failed to work.

Using strong chemicals can not only get in the way of you and your family enjoying your garden and yard, but they often wipe out all insect life in your garden. While this sounds promising, it often means that your aphids problem will bounce back even worse after using strong pesticides, because they won’t have any of their predators keeping them in check.

When it comes to aphids, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of treatment. These pests are tenacious and annoying but can quickly become more frustrating if they take over and damage your beautiful backyard. As we get into aphid season, remember to check your plants often for suspicious starter colonies of the pests so that you can keep your yard and garden aphid-free and beautiful all summer long.