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The Best Shrubs for Small Lawns

boxwood bushes on lawn Ted Lare

As urban yards get smaller, landscaping trends are starting to shift away from huge overgrown shrubs in favor of smaller trees and tidy shrubs. If you have a small lawn space, you can still have a few beautiful shrubs without them taking over your entire space or requiring tons of maintenance. 

Here are a few of our favorite small performers. These shrubs will grow great in the Des Moines area.

Little Giant Arborvitae is a compact soft needle evergreen that grows in an attractive globe shape. It’s perfect for a full to part sun location. It grows up to an average size of 3′ tall and wide. It’s small size and slow growth makes this the perfect low maintenance shrub. 

Dwarf Korean Lilac Ted Laare

Dwarf Korean Lilac is a slightly larger shrub, growing up to 4-5′ tall and wide, but it is much smaller than more common lilacs that get as tall as 12′. These shrubs are smothered in wonderful, highly fragrant purple flowers in late spring. Lilacs perform best in full sun to part sun. 

Yuki Cherry Blossom Deutzia is a tiny but powerful little flowering shrub. It is loaded with hundreds of soft pink flowers in mid-spring. Forming a mound about 2′ tall and wide, these are great planted in a group as a ground cover. They enjoy full to part sun. 

boxwood Ted Lare

Boxwood is a classic, beautiful, and reliable evergreen. This shrub is a perfect choice because it can be pruned to be any size you want. Boxwood performs well almost anywhere, tolerating everything from full sun to mostly shade. Its average size is 4-5′ tall, but it takes a long time to get that big. You can easily give it a trim with the hedge trimmer once a year to keep it to your desired size and shape. 

Bobo Hydrangea is an awesome dwarf hydrangea with gigantic white flowers in summer. It can reach up to 4′ tall and wide, making it the perfect hydrangea, even for a smaller garden. This hydrangea does need at least half-day, or more, of full sun to deliver the best blooms. 

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My Monet® Weigela is just one of many varieties of weigela that stays small! My Monet® has variegated white, pink, and green leaves and pink trumpet-shaped flowers in late spring. It grows to about 3′ tall and wide. It will do best with morning sun and a bit of afternoon shade. 

My Monet Weigela and Spilled Wine Weigela Ted Lare

Spilled Wine® Weigela is another fairly small weigela that features gorgeous deep purple foliage and bright pink flowers. It’s colorful all season long, even when it’s not in bloom. It can get up to 3′ tall and wide. This will also bloom best with morning sun and some afternoon shade.

Kodiak Orange Bush Honeysuckle has beautiful coppery red leaves in early spring that fade to green for the summer, then transition to the most vibrant orange in fall. It’s not a true honeysuckle, it’s a Diervilla, so it’s an excellent eco-friendly North American native shrub. These average a size of 3′ tall and wide and are happy in woodland edges, so you can grow it in full sun or part shade. 

Sweetspire Little Henry One

Little Henry Sweetspire is an awesome 3-season-interest plant. It has lush green leaves in spring, beautiful white flowers in mid-summer, and ends the year with beautiful orange foliage in the fall. Its size of 4′ tall and wide makes it a perfect choice for a foundation planting. Another plus is that it does well in full sun to part shade.

 

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Why We Need to Diversify Urban Landscapes: The Urban Forest

different types of trees in a landscape ted lare

Bio-diversity is an essential feature of a healthy and thriving eco-system. Not only is diversity better for wildlife, but it’s best for plants and trees as well. In recent history, urban forests have been sadly lacking in variety. 

Urban forests, in the broadest sense, are the entire tree and shrub community within an urban area, including the trees in parks, on public boulevards, or that beautiful Oak tree on your neighbor’s front yard. 

Every tree within city limits makes up a part of the urban forest.

Unfortunately, for the last 50-100 years, developers have tended to plant hundreds of just one tree species in our urban environments. While these uniform landscapes may look nice for a few years, this can cause huge environmental issues in the long run.

Having a tree monoculture means the entire urban forest is much more susceptible to an outbreak of disease or infestation of exotic pests. We’ve seen entire blocks of Elm trees destroyed by Dutch Elm Disease. Many of those neighborhoods were then replanted with Ash trees, which are now being attacked by Emerald Ash Borer. 

When an entire community of trees is decimated so quickly, it has far-reaching ripple effects on many other parts of the environment. It’s an environmental disaster. 

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Losing all the mature trees in an area has a significant negative impact on the native bird, mammal, and bug populations. Less tree diversity or loss of trees in an area will also affect the bio-diversity of smaller native plants that need the protection of trees to live. Furthermore, it affects air quality, ambient temperature, water retention, and erosion in a neighborhood. 

Besides all these environmental impacts, it affects your pocketbook, too. Property values drop in neighborhoods without trees, or where trees are sparse or immature. Communities without a canopy of shade trees experience higher utility bills for heating and cooling. And, homes without trees are more susceptible to damage from high winds because there is no windbreak. 

Tree Diversity for Healthier Communities

Studies show that when a variety of tree types are planted in an area, it slows and reduces pest infestations and disease. If there are only 2-3 of any given species of tree in a neighborhood, the impact of an invasive pest of disease on the community tree canopy is far less devastating. As a result, there will be less of an impact on the community overall. 

Many cities across the US have been working hard to change the ways they plant trees to develop more of a healthy mix on public land. Unfortunately, the importance of tree diversity has not yet been realized by developers, HOA’s, and private landowners. Many neighborhoods, residential and commercial, are still being planted with large populations of one type of tree. Recent calculations show that 80% of new trees being planted today are Oak or Maple varieties. 

You Can Help Improve Biodiversity In Your Yard

One way to help is to take a look around your neighborhood when you’re getting ready to plant trees. Make a list of all the different types of trees you see, bring it with you to the garden center, and do your best to plant something that isn’t on the list. 

If you’re not sure how to identify types of trees, take some clear photos and bring them with you to the nursery. A picture of the whole tree and a close-up photo of a leaf will give our staff a chance to help you identify which trees live in your neighborhood. 

There are so many unique trees to plant, and many of them feature beautiful fall colors in shades you may not have even realized were available!

5 Unique Trees To Plant In Your Yard 

Here are five types of trees that look beautiful, grow well in Iowa, and aren’t common in urban developments.

 

Fort McNair Horse Chestnut Ted Lare

Fort McNair Horse Chestnut 

A fantastic specimen tree that’s well suited for Iowa climates. Growing to heights of 35’ tall and up to 25’ wide, this tree has a nicely-rounded growth habit with beautiful pink, showy flowers that emerge in spring. Grows best in full sun or partial shade, and has great disease resistance to boot! 

 

American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

Sycamore is a large tree, growing up to 75-100′ tall with 50′ canopy. It features rounded and balanced upright growth. It’s a relatively fast-growing and stately tree with beautiful two-tone bark. Its fall color features a range of brilliant yellows and golds. 

 

Tulip Tree Ted Lare

Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) 

Tulip tree also gets to be pretty big; up to 65′ tall with a 30′ canopy. It has an upright growing habit and features yellow tulip-shaped flowers in May and June. Its leaves are a unique shape with four lobes. In the fall, the leaves turn a vibrant yellow. 

 

Cucumber Tree Ted Lare

Cucumber Tree (Magnolia acuminata) 

This is one of the hardiest magnolia varieties available. It does get relatively large; up 40-60′ tall and spreading out to 35′. This upright tree has large, fragrant, cream-colored flowers in late spring. The leaves turn gold in the fall. 

 

American Hornbeam Ted Lare

American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) 

American Hornbeam is a medium to small tree, only getting to about 20-35′ tall and wide. It’s an adaptable tree and can survive well in shade or full sun. It is a bit of a slower grower, but it rewards owners with its stunning display of yellow, orange, red, and purple leaves. 

 

If you’d like to contribute to stronger biodiversity in your neighborhood with any of these trees, visit our garden center! We can help you choose the perfect tree to complement our shared urban forest.

 

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Small Shade Trees: Your Best Options for Small Spaces

small garden with shade trees ted lare

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

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

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

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

 

japanese maple, serviceberry, and eastern redhead trees ted lare

Japanese Maples 

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

Serviceberry 

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

Redbud 

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

    

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 Umbrella Magnolia 

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

umbrella magnolia and Sousa flowering dogwood ted lare

Kousa Flowering Dogwoods 

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

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

 

 

 

 

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5 Popular Ornamental Grasses for Iowa

dropseed prairie ornamental grass ted lare

Ornamental grasses add unique texture and structure to landscaping. They are also low maintenance, drought-tolerant, and many of them provide year-round interest in gardens. From lower mounding types to over 6 feet tall, and ranging in colors for ice blue to deep purple to vibrant green, there is a wide variety of grasses to choose from. 

Grasses used to dominate the landscape in Iowa, with over 80% of the state being classified as tallgrass prairie, though there is much less now. This means we can grow a wide variety of beautiful grasses, some of which are beneficial for our local ecosystems. Here are 5 of our favorite ornamental grasses.

Prairie Dropseed

Prairie Dropseed is one of the smaller ornamental grasses, getting up to 2-3’ tall. It adds a light and airy feel to the garden with its finely textured leaves and stocks. The seedheads are long and feathery, and sway in the breeze. This ornamental grass doesn’t self-seed very often, so it won’t take over your yard. The foliage turns a rich copper-gold color in the fall. 

 

prairie dropseed and little bluestem ted lare

Little Blue Stem

This Iowa native perennial grass features silvery-blue leaves that turn a gorgeous dark red in the fall. It gets up to 3 feet tall and is quite easy to grow. If you don’t want it to spread in your yard, you may want to remove the seedheads. Its foliage will last through most of the winter unless crushed by lots of snow. Little Blue Stem grass does best in a full sun location. 

Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass

This popular Feather Reed grass is a hardy perennial and easy to grow. It doesn’t set seed, so you won’t have to worry about it taking over your yard. It spreads by rhizomes underground, but it’s quite slow. It gets 4-6 feet tall and features pretty feathery plumes above dark green leaves. Karl Foerster does well in part sun to full sun.

 

Karl Foerester Feather Reed Grass and switchgrass ted lare

Switchgrass

Switchgrass is another Iowa native grass that is a great structural grass. It gets up to 4-6 feet tall, and several different varieties are available. There are varieties with very dark summer foliage, or with blue-gray foliage. Some types turn a gorgeous red in the fall. Switchgrass does well in full sun or partial shade.

Ravenna Grass

This is also known as Hardy Pampas Grass. Other varieties of Pampas Grass can be invasive, so check tags carefully. This is the perfect grass for privacy screening, reaching up to 10 feet tall, and clumps can get as much as 4-6 feet wide. Ravenna grass needs full sun to thrive.

 

ravenna grass and purple flame maiden grass ted lare

Purple Flame Maiden Grass

Purple Flame Maiden Grass adds a unique color variation to your garden. In the summer it’s a grayish-green color, and in the fall it turns to a brilliant red-orange. This taller grass, getting 5-6’ tall, adds structure and contrast to your garden all summer, and all winter. It features soft mauve plumes above the foliage that seem to dance in the slightest breeze. 

There are so many ways you can incorporate ornamental grasses into landscaping. Besides being beautiful, they’re a great way to add architectural structure and texture different from shrubs and flowers. They’re also an excellent choice as a backdrop to highlight beautiful flowering plants. Grasses also provide shelter and food for a variety of birds and pollinators. 


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Ornamental grasses are the perfect low-maintenance statement plant because they really don’t require much once they’ve been planted. If you’re not sure how to incorporate grasses into your landscape, have a chat with one of our professional landscape designers. We can help you figure out the best places in your yard to plant ornamental grasses, and the best varieties to suit your style. 

 

 

 

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5 Patio Essentials When Designing Your Backyard

Designing your backyard patio is a pretty fun project, but there is a lot to consider when you get into the details. There are a few essentials to consider in your design that will make your Des Moines backyard patio into an outdoor escape you’ll never want to leave. 

 

Outdoor Kitchen & Food Prep Space 

One of the most common requests for landscape designs is to incorporate a dedicated area for grilling. Our design pros have a lot of experience, and tons of ideas for how to incorporate an outdoor kitchen space into your yard, even in small spaces. 

Ideally, your outdoor cooking area should be easily accessible from the indoor kitchen, so you can quickly pop in and out for whatever you need. A whole outdoor kitchen might be more than you want or have space for, but you’d be surprised what sort of innovative ideas our designers can come up with to create a super functional and beautiful food prep space near the grill.

 

Living & Seating Spaces

People love to congregate together! Whether it’s just family or the whole neighborhood, you’ll want to make sure you have enough space for everyone. A designer can create a layout for your landscape design that will maximize your seating options while maintaining beautiful design and highlighting the features of your yard. 

Even if you’re working with a smaller yard, a designer can help you create multiple defined outdoor spaces. A dining space with a table and chairs near the grill is a top priority, and a living room or family room space with comfortable seating is ideal for relaxing. It’s always nice to have a lounging space where you can soak up some vitamin D and watch the kids play, or even a private and secluded space where you can sit and meditate or enjoy a quiet cup of tea. 

 

Shelter From the Elements 

We usually get outside to enjoy the natural environment, but sometimes it’s nice to have a little shelter from the elements as well. A landscape designer will work with your yard and consider our climate, prevailing winds, and sun positioning to give you protection from the elements. 

Whether it’s with umbrellas, strategically planted trees for shade, a patio with a full roof, or an elegant gazebo, a designer can create shade and wind protection that blends seamlessly into the overall design of your landscape. With a little something between you and the sky, you can still enjoy your outdoor space when the weather is less than ideal. Watching the rain from a covered gazebo can be a cozy way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

 

Fire

Having a fire feature in the backyard extends the day, making your yard inviting and comfortable, even after the sun goes down. Firepits and outdoor fireplaces are available in endless styles and variations now. 

A landscape designer can show you a variety of ideas and designs that could fit in with your design style. Whether you prefer sleek and ultra-modern gas-powered firepits, a more traditional style wood-burning fire ring, or even an outdoor oven, our designers can work a fire feature into your space. 

Not into a firepit or a fireplace? Torches can give you a similar ambiance and are available in many different styles.

 

Integrated Lighting

Integrating lighting into your landscape is a subtle way to make a huge impact. A landscape designer will work in lighting that matches your style and highlights the assets and focal points of your landscape and home. 

Twinkling string lights make seating areas feel cozy and warm. Decorative overhead fixtures add an element of art to covered patio spaces and are the perfect finishing touch to really anchor a covered space. Discreet path lighting and accent lighting invite you to explore your yard after dark and highlight the best features of your home and landscape. 

Seeing the different elements of your space lit up after dark gives you a whole new perspective on your space, and a new reason to fall in love with your home! 

 

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Keeping these ideas in mind will help you design the patio space of your dreams for your family to enjoy for years to come. If you’re not quite sure how to put your design onto paper, get in touch with one of our professional landscape designers! We can help you nail down a design, and come up with a plan to make it happen.

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The Best Landscape Border Materials for the Long Haul

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

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

Plastic Edging

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

Spade Edging

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

Metal Edging

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

Natural Stone Border

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

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

Paver Stones

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


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

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Working with a Landscape Pro- Your Questions Answered

When it’s time to consider a new landscaping project, you need to know the basics of how to work with a landscape professional. What is the consultation process? How long will it take? And how much is all of this going to cost? 

Our resident landscape expert Keegan Lare, shares his advice on what to expect when you work with our professional team here at Ted Lare.    

The First Step: The Phone Consultation  

After you call in to start a project, we organize a phone conversation with one of our designers. This typically happens within 24-48 hours of the initial call, depending on what part of the season we’re in. 

During this call, we answer any questions you may have, and we try to get a feel for the projects you’re looking for. If it seems like a solid fit for both sides, then we schedule an on-site consultation at your home or your business if it’s a commercial job. 

 

Next Steps: The On-Site Consultation

We usually meet for up to an hour to check out your residence and discuss our initial thoughts on your project. 

We charge $100 for consultations in the Des Moines Metro area, but this $100 gets credited back to you if we do the work. Depending on the complexity of the job, we may charge up to $200-500 to account for some of our design time. This will all be discussed on-site and agreed upon before we move forward. You will also receive that amount back in credit if you decide to carry out the project.

Most importantly, the on-site consultation is a time for you to ask questions, so don’t be shy!  

 

Common Questions during the Consultation 

Here are some of the questions you can expect us to discuss with you when we visit your property for the first time. 

 

What are your goals? 

In general, we like to ask homeowners what their top 3 goals are for their outdoor spaces. These goals help us focus on what is most important to you and allows us to develop a plan that meets your aspirations.

 
How do you live? 

We’ll also ask for general information about your lifestyle. For example, how big are the gatherings you expect to have on your new patio? What does a typical weekend look like for you? Do you love the sun, or prefer to hang out in the shade?

 

What are your tastes? 

Any images that show your taste in materials (patios, walls, etc.) always help us get an idea of what you like. Providing any previous plans for the property also helps us save time creating a base plan from scratch. 

 

What is your budget? 

Discussing a budget range is very helpful so that we know any limitations on the project. We’ll generally give options with different price points, as clients find it beneficial to have a few choices.  

 

Information Gathered for Design 

When at your site, we capture all the data we need to create an initial design. This includes several photos of the yard and home, critical measurements of the space, and information on accessibility, powerlines, and obstacles. 

This process can be quick or rather extensive, depending on the existing conditions of the location. New homes without a lot of previous installations are easy to measure and capture. Older homes with many existing hardscapes and plantings can take longer to document. 

Design Timeline 

We try to respond with design ideas and a preliminary budget within two weeks of the first meeting, but this time frame depends on the complexity of the project. If there are many construction elements to design and price out, it may take longer.  

 

Moving Forward 

After we provide you with an initial design, the decision is in your hands on how to move forward and set a schedule. Often there are different phases of work to choose from, such as tree removal, garden preparation, installation of hardscapes, etc. We are happy to do it all at one time or phase it in over a few years. Usually, it makes sense to do as much construction as possible in one trip to limit the cleanup expenses involved in multiple trips over several years. 

Once the project scope of work is agreed upon, we work to schedule the project in the near future.  If it is a simple planting, it may only be a few weeks before we can complete the work. If the project involves a lot of construction, it might be a few months before we can start a project. Once we start a job, we see it through to completion.  Our install crews are some of the best around and you will love working with them.


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The landscape consultation process is often that simple. For a small fee and in short order, you can have professional designers guide you towards your ideal renovation. If you have any further questions on the landscaping process, or would like to start a project, please don’t hesitate to contact Ted Lare Design & Build. We would love to hear from you!

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Creating Shade

It’s no accident that many of us wistfully imagine a shady sanctuary, relaxing under the leafy boughs of a tree. The image of a perfect afternoon spent under the cool shadow of a tree has been romanticized by poets and painters for centuries. We can’t deny that there’s something nostalgic about letting our minds drift off underneath a beautiful shady tree – and what better location than from the convenient security of your own backyard?

When you think of creating your own backyard oasis, you aren’t limited to giant trees with decades of growth. There are some fantastic options that provide the shade and elegance that you want, some of which can fit into the corners of even the smallest suburban lots. Here are some of our favorites that you might have seen in your neighbors’ yards:

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

source

Best Large Shade Trees for Iowa (over 30 ft tall and wide)

Ted’s Pick: Swamp White Oak

Tall, mature trees are destined to become landmarks in the neighborhood. Thanks to its faster rate of growth (compared to other oaks), Swamp White Oak reaches its mature height sooner, bathing everything around it in cool shade. 

Swamp White Oak is also well-suited to the landscape because of its high tolerance for urban soils. It’s tough, and yet also ruggedly handsome. The thick, straight trunk has attractive peeling, flat-ridged bark. Its leaves spend the spring and summer with dark green surfaces and white, fuzzy undersides. In the fall, the color matures into lovely shades of yellow and golden brown.

Other large shade trees to try:

fiddle-leaf fig plant

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Best Medium-Sized Shade Trees (around 30 ft tall)

Ted’s Pick: Hot Wings Tartarian Maple 

It’s hard to beat a maple when it comes to fall color. What sets Hot Wings apart is the presence of red tones before the fall begins. During the summer, the branches bear clusters of bright red samaras that look almost like fruit or flowers against the brilliant green foliage. In the fall, the leaves take on a gorgeous display of red, orange, and yellow tones.

A fast-growing specimen, Hot Wings Tartarian Maple grows “out” as much as it grows tall, which gives it an attractive rounded habit at maturity. On top of offering plenty of shade and color, this maple is also very cold-hardy and has no trouble surviving a Des Moines winter.

Other medium shade trees to try:

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fiddle-leaf fig plant

source

Best Compact Shade Trees for Patio Areas or Corners of Home (under 30 ft)

Ted’s Pick: Serviceberry

There’s so much to love about serviceberry trees. Not only are they wonderful choices for adding three-season interest, they produce delicious edible berries similar in color and flavor to blueberries. The Autumn Brilliance cultivar is especially beautiful, with its intense orange-red fall foliage.

In the early spring, the serviceberry blooms profusely with crisp white flowers. As spring fades into summer and the flowers are replaced with berries, you’ll notice your yard becoming a lot more popular with the local birds!

Serviceberries are medium growers, which allows them to look well-established after a few years while remaining compact.

Other compact shade trees to try:

These trees are great options for people looking to create shade in their backyard landscape. They provide a relaxing respite for you and your plants, soaking up the sun in any area where you’d rather not. Provided a little bit of space, some good soil, and simple regular upkeep, even a modest tree can be a practical addition to your backyard that gives back year after year. 

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Ted Lare Landscaping Contest

Unique Plants for Shade

At Ted Lare Design Build, we believe in creating a landscape that doesn’t just look good, but feels good, too. And we want to hear from you! Show us your Ted Lare landscape and tell us how your outdoor lifestyle has changed and be entered for a chance to win a $200 gift card to Ted Lare.

To enter, simply snap a photo that showcases your Ted Lare landscape and share how it has transformed and shaped your outdoor lifestyle.

Then, post your photo and story to Instagram or Facebook, and tag us with the hashtag #tedlarecontests. That’s it!

Contest runs from June 11 to July 7, 2019, and is open to any Iowa resident with a Ted Lare landscape.

Conifers

Magical Gardens

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Growing Irises

Irises

There’s no mystery in why irises are the showy crown jewel of many people’s gardens. Their beautiful, fan-shaped petals delicately drape against flashy green foliage. Although many of us picture the iconic blue, indigo, and yellow foliage of a classic iris, the name “Iris” is actually from the Greek word for rainbow, a testament to just how much variety can be found in these plants. With so many colors and such phenomenal foliage and blooms, there is a statement-making iris for anyone.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Growing Irises: What are Tubers?
Irises grow a little different than many of the other plants in your garden. While you can technically grow them from seed like other flowers, the most recommended and direct way to get irises for your garden is from bulbs.

Irises grow from rhizomes, a horizontal stem that is rounded and swollen underground. Many gardeners are familiar with tubers in foods that they eat, like potatoes, or yams. Irises emerge by shooting roots and stems from a tuber.

Planting Iris Tubers
Irises prefer lots of sunshine to fuel their dainty, show-stopping blooms, so they are best planted in mid or late summer in a spot that receives lots of sun in a day. At least half a day of full, hot sun is important for them to grow and look their best. Plant each tuber about 12” apart so that each bloom has the space that it needs for good air circulation. The more sun and air it gets, the more it will shine in your garden.

Take special care to protect Iris rhizomes from moisture and rot to have a successful showing of these blooms. Choose well-draining soil or amend yours with sand to make sure that the roots don’t sit in water, which can damage them.

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Steps to Plant Irises

  • Check your tuber to make sure that it is healthy. Avoid signs of rot like soft pots, smell, or a hollow feeling. It’s disappointing to put the effort into growing a beautiful Iris to only have a crop of nothing.
  • Dig a wide and shallow hole (about 10” wide and 4” deep) in well-draining soil
  • Set the tuber in the hole on its side, with the roots facing downwards. Fan out the roots around the tuber.
  • Fill in the hole, but leave the top of the tuber slightly exposed so that it has access to the sun and air it needs to stay dry.
  • Water thoroughly after planting, but afterwards only water occasionally to avoid rot.
  • Don’t mulch, but consider sprinkling some low-nitrogen fertilizer on top.

With a bit of patience and regular upkeep, you’ll have a gorgeous bloom that is ready to impress!

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Caring for Irises
If you take the time to be meticulous about planting the tuber, the care for a growing iris is actually very simple. Water lightly and keep them exposed to lots of sunshine and these plants do all of the heavy lifting for you.

Blooming irises are a blessing in your landscape, with complex and delicate blooms that catch the eye. Appreciate them in your garden or cut them and bring them inside—these gorgeous flowers are a treat that commands your attention no matter where you place them.

At the end of the season when the blooming is done, resist the urge to trim and clean them up right away. Leaving the foliage intact allows the plant to continue to gather sun and get the nutrition it needs to survive the winter and bloom again in the spring. You can cut the flowering stem right down to the tuber if you want, but leave the leaves as long as you can – you’re investing in your future Irises!

Tubers might be a little strange and intimidating when you’re first working with them, but they actually have the same needs that most of your garden plants do. Provided you care for the tubers properly, you’ll soon enjoy these magnificent flowers all summer long.