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The Best Perennials for All-Summer Color

perennial salvia-ted lare

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

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


garden phlox, daylily, shasta daisy ted lare

Garden Phlox 

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

Reblooming Daylily

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

Shasta Daisy

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


perennial salvia, russian sage, yarrow ted lare

Perennial Salvia

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

Russian Sage

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


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


coneflower, coreopis, allium ted lare


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


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


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

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


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Top New Annuals 2019

Ted Lare Top New Annuals 2019

Top New Annuals 2019

The Ted Lare Look

Our annual gardens are where the hottest of trends get to shine every year. Many years we have our favorites from seasons past holding over to grace our gardens once again, but the temporary nature of annuals has us excited to try new things each year to capitalize on new trends without any risk!

Our favorite annuals for this year bring the best of color, flair, and enthusiasm to our gardens, and with thrilling plants and flowers like these, how could you not be excited about summer and spending some time in your own yard? Every year it seems like our annuals are bigger, better and more spectacular – and 2019 is no exception. These are our top picks for the most popular and successful annuals this year, ready to be brought home to dazzle your backyard and containers:

begonia top annuals 2019 Ted Lare

Canary Wings Begonia:
Begonias are an essential staple in the American garden, but the Canary Wings Begonia brings a uniquely colorful twist to set it apart from the rest. These shade-lovers are a phenomenal way to bring stylish blooms to those darker parts of your yard that might otherwise go uncelebrated, especially with the Canary Wings variation. With this brilliant new variety, you can enjoy golden-chartreuse foliage decorated with pops of crimson flowers, that will truly brighten your shady spots from spring through summer. Plant alone or with other shade lovers in a garden or container for a design that is not only on-trend this summer, but confidently commands attention in your garden design.

Simply chose a location with shade or morning sun and provide well-draining soil to get your begonia off to a great start. For such a complex flower, the Canary Wing Begonia is actually simple to take care of as long as you put in the initial effort to give it the light and drainage it needs.

sunfinity sunflower top annuals 2019 Ted Lare

Sunfinity Sunflowers:
There’s something traditional and charming about sunflowers that’s hard to improve upon in the garden – except maybe extending their growing and blooming season so that you have the chance to enjoy their cheerful bright yellow flowers for longer. Sunfinity Sunflowers take the winning formula of our favorite sunflowers and give them to us with a newly improved and extended blooming time in our garden! A charming presence in the backyard and an excellent choice to cut and enjoy indoors, these blooms are a simple joy that doesn’t quit.

Instead of a single flower that’s gone too soon on other sunflowers, enjoy over 100 blooms per plant all summer. These flowers have it all and are extremely low maintenance, so you can just plant them and forget about them – although that will be hard to do with their blooms exploding with enthusiasm all season long. Fit for both containers and gardens, there’s always a way to bring these sunny flowers home to cheer up any garden style and design.

vinca top annuals 2019 Ted Lare

“Tattoo” Series Vinca:
This new vinca variation brings the artistry of your garden design to life, with vibrant and intense flowers with stunning petals that look as if they’ve each been hand painted. With new colors, like Black Cherry, Black Coral, and Tangerine, offering top-notch color saturation and style in every bloom, you can take your backyard design from charming to professional with the addition of just one popular Tattoo Vinca variety.

Everything that modern gardens look for, the Tattoo Vinca bring intensity, color, and ease of care to your backyard. Simply pick a location with good sun exposure for the brightest and most vibrant results with a healthy plant that is ready to keep working to impress all season.

superbells top annuals 2019 Ted Lare

Superbells Doublette:
The Love Swept Doublette series brings a hint of romance to your yard with cascading calibrachoa blooms in blushing shades of pink with lacy white trim. We’ve come to trust Superbells varieties to bring the best blooms for the longest in our gardens for years now, and we’re very excited about this popular new color that we can add to our annual repertoire.

Wonderful for containers, these stunning flowers will spill out for a cascading effect of delicate but bountiful blooms that require little to no encouragement and minimal maintenance to absolutely thrive in your backyard. Plant by themselves in a container as they often grow so successfully that they overtake any other container mates. Thankfully, their beautiful pink and white tones on dainty flowers contrasted against emerald foliage is all the statement that you need for a single container – giving you all the lush garden style you want for this year.

salvia top annuals 2019 Ted Lare

Salvia Skyscrapers:
This beautiful bloom offers a uniquely vertical bloom that adds intrigue, contrast, and something strikingly artistic to your garden design this year. Three colors have been introduced in 2019 to offer beautiful blooms in shades of Dark Purple, Pink, and Orange – each prettier than the last and ready to pair with your current backyard style. With flowers towering like a skyscraper far above their foliage you’ll love the unique look and shape of these flowers that draw the eye to them.

Not only stylish, these flowers are also proven to be quite drought and pest resistant, with easy maintenance to make keeping their blooms around a dream. Blooming from late spring all the way through fall, they are practically tailor-made for our Iowa summer season. Try them as a vertical thriller in your containers or as a background element in your landscaping and add intrigue to your garden design this year.

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New annuals are exciting ways to keep your garden up to date on all the newest trends. In addition to following hot styles like color trends (we love the focus on chartreuse and coral that we’re seeing this year), picking up some of the newest and hottest annuals on the market is not only a treat for you with the latest developments in ease of gardening, but a style refresher that makes your garden fashionable and up-to-date.

Canary Wings Begonia Images Via Ballseed

Sunfinity Sunflower Images Via Harris Seeds

“Tattoo” Series Vinca Images Via Harris Seeds

Superbells Doublette Images Via Proven Winners

Salvia Skyscraper Images Via Proven Winners

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The Dirt on Dirt: Creating Better Soils

Creating Better Soils

The Dirt on Dirt: Creating Better Soils

The Ted Lare Look

No matter our aims – from aesthetic to functional – there’s something incredible about watching something grow from nothing in our own backyards. Planting a tiny seed or watching a little seedling grow from just bare dirt is an experience that is important in our gardens every year. But is it just as simple as planting in dirt?

Soil vs Dirt:
Soil and dirt are terms that we might use interchangeably in our everyday lives, but they are actually key differences that make the change from a thriving garden to a barren one.

Soil is chock-full of microorganisms, micronutrients, and a lot of the delicate differences that make your soil alive and able to support life.

Dirt, on the other hand, has lots of the main building blocks, but is missing the key ingredients for life. While you can still technically grow from dirt, it’ll take a lot more work from you and your plants will never have the healthy glow to compare with those grown in soil.

How To Create Better Soil:
Good soil is the foundation for everything in your garden. It isn’t as glamorous as talking about the hottest new styles, colors, and annuals, but it’s the beginning of a healthy looking garden and a landscape experience that’s less work and more time enjoying for you. The healthier your soil is the less problems you will have with pests and diseases.

Here’s some ways to get your dirt upgraded to soil:

Getting Off of Chemicals:
We want to help our garden be the best it can be, and tinkering with our soil comes with the territory. The good news is that what’s best for your soil in the long run is to have some restraint and do less. Soil has been doing its thing for millions of years and has itself figured out; so the less we interfere, the better.

A garden that lets natural processes regulate pests is much healthier than one that we’ve killed all the life from with chemicals – opening the door for the next infestation, and the next, and the next. Working too hard in our gardens and using too many chemicals disrupts the natural paths of things, and while it might help with one issue, often leaves openings for more issues to pop up instead.

Good soil relies on the presence of creepy-crawlies – the vast majority of which are microscopic and very beneficial to the health of your garden. Under the surface, you don’t see bacteria and nematodes working hard to transform nutrients for your plants to use. With chemistry and biology, a garden soil full of critters is essential for life.

Using too many chemicals to support your garden or to treat pest breakouts will turn a soil full of life into lifeless dirt, and could even prevent these useful microorganisms from ever coming back.  

Avoid excessive fertilizer use, which can burn valuable and fragile microorganisms, and never exceed the recommended dosages on the container labels. While some of our garden favorites come addicted to these – like our high-octane annuals – not all of our plants have an equal need and many absolutely thrive off of gentler options, like organic and natural fertilizers that promote a healthy soil environment.

Adding Organics:
It is important to add nutrient-rich materials to your soil at least once a year. This can be done by adding a few inches of compost, leaves, grass clippings, straw, manure or mulch on top of your existing soil. When you mulch your garden, it begins to break down the minute it touches the soil, leaving behind nutrients for microorganisms and worms to feed on year-round.

While the process does slow down during the winter, it does still happen, and the nutrients that are produced are picked up by the plants’ roots whenever they need them.

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Dig With Care:
Again, less work here is more! Tilling the garden can help the materials gain deeper contact with the organisms so the breakdown process occurs more quickly. However, tilling can also confuse organisms as they will be moved around from their normal confines. Overworking the soil can actually break down the soil ecosystem by exposing them to too much air, chops up decomposers, and brings weeds up to the surface.

Instead, take advantage of the opportunity to sit back and enjoy your yard a little more rather than working. Only till, shovel, or fork when you need – like to add compost and other mix-ins to your soil to enrich it in the spring. Other than that, leave the soil undisturbed to work hard for itself, leave the tools in the shed, and save your back.

Foot Traffic:
Air is as essential to the healthy life of your soil as it is here on the surface where we breathe it. Microorganisms need it to survive and the delicate roots of our plants need the gaps to expand and grow. Every step compresses the soil and can crush these air pockets.

Avoid excessive foot traffic in your veggie and flower beds, especially after rain or being watered. We like laying boards between your rows of vegetable to avoid crushing the soil, suppress weeds, and clean up the look of your garden.

Testing your Soil:
If you are concerned about the health of your soil and would like to determine what to add to your soil to make it better we recommend testing your soil. Soil testing can be done by Iowa State University for a nominal fee. This method will tell you exactly what you should add to your gardens to create healthy soil.  

You can also test the soil yourself at home by using the simple, yet effective jar method, which will tell you what percentage of your soil is sand, clay, loam, and organic matter. To do it, put 2-3 inches of soil in a mason jar, fill it 2/3 full of water and vigorously shake. Let it settle out for 24 hours then look through the jar and pick out the layers. The sand will have settled first, then the clay, then loam, and organic matter. If you have perfect soil, your soil should consist of 40% sand, 40% silt, and 20% clay. If not, you can use the results to determine what you need to add to your soil!

If your soil needs more sand, it may be beneficial to incorporate more compost rather than sand. Sand doesn’t mix well into soil and typically will form pockets of sand in your garden rather than a good blend. Compost will translate into better drainage which is sands major use.

If your soil has too much clay, work on incorporating organic materials to increase silt materials. This will eventually result in a lower percentage of clay in the soil. Too much sand is remedied the same way, but the organic matter is used to slow drainage and hold moisture.

Soil pH:
The ideal soil pH is between 6.2 and 7.2.  If you would like to know the exact pH of your soil, you will need a litmus soil tester or to have a soil test performed by Iowa State.   Based on these tests, you can then add material to the soil which helps to change the pH of the soil.  If your soil tests acidic, you need to add lime or limestone to the soil. If your soil tests alkaline, you will need to add sulfur.

When applying these materials, follow the label directions. It takes time to actually change the pH of the soil, so be patient with this process and pay attention to how your garden performs. If it is healthy and producing, the soil is probably in good shape. If it is still having problems, then look into having it professionally tested.  

Nature has an amazing capacity to work in your soil to correct itself if you give it the chance to grow. All it takes to turn backyard dirt to thriving soil is a little know-how, some patience, and even a little less work.

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Designing for Curbside Appeal

Designing Curbside Appeal

First impressions can say a lot about a person and the same rule applies to a home. The view from the curb tells us all we need to know about the people inside and as homeowners, we want that initial impression to be a good one. Whether we have the time to spend grooming and maintaining our properties or not, having a presentable house is a source of pride and an essential component in maintaining a beautiful home.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Rejuvenating Your Home:
When starting the journey to revitalize your home’s curbside appeal, there can be a lot to consider. In our experience, though, there are a few key components to every home where a simple change can make a significant impact.

A fresh coat of paint on your home can make the difference between “old and dated” and “modern and lively.” Paint that is faded or chipping will draw the attention of guests and passers-by, but not in a good way. Freshen it up with a new layer or consider changing it up with an exciting hue and watch your home transform into something entirely new.

Bring attention to your address. While your address isn’t the only defining feature of your home, it is certainly one of the most important. Without it, guests would never make it to your front door. Make sure your address is clearly displayed in a bold, modern font and is visible from the curb to prevent any confusion. We can also mount your address to a natural stone to make it more visible from the street.  

Adding color with container plantings is another surefire way to bring life and intrigue to draw people into your space. You can do this with porch pot containers, window boxes, or hanging baskets that will add a softer element to your home. This is probably the easiest way to make an improvement instantly.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Landscaping for Curbside Appeal:
With the house in order, the next priority on your list for creating curbside appeal should be your landscape. Your landscape is what brings unity between the natural and manmade elements in your front yard. To ensure a top-quality appearance, we will assess the following and make improvements as needed:

Trees: These stately additions come with many benefits for any property, but they can also be a hindrance if they aren’t cared for. Take a look at the trees (or lack thereof) in your space and ask the following questions: Are they encroaching on the house and blocking its appeal from the curb? Are there spaces that could use shade or dimension?

Shrubbery: These foundation plants are excellent for creating dimension and texture in a space, but if they aren’t maintained properly, they can often end up looking more shaggy than snazzy. Maintain them with regular trimming for shape and size or consider replacing them with slower growths for a more low-maintenance look.

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Planting Beds: Shrubs and trees make for beautiful touches of foliage, but they don’t offer quite the colorful array of a garden. These seasonal flowers will keep your space looking pretty and picturesque with a season of spring and summer color.

Garden Bedding: Over time soil, mulch, and rock used as garden bedding will need to be replenished to keep the clean and polished aesthetic we like to see in our space. A simple layer to revitalize each year will keep it looking updated and new.

Pathways: These walkways guide both the eyes and the feet through the yard, adding a welcoming touch that brings guests right to the front door. To keep it looking crisp and clean, make sure to keep your pathway clear of any overgrowing plants and spilling dirt or debris that will take away from the crisp lines. If your current sidewalk is out of date, we can bring it up to speed with a new paver or stone pathway.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Other Elements to Add Curbside Appeal:
Lighting: Your home shouldn’t just look its best during the day. Keep it looking top-quality even at night with some carefully planned touches of lighting. Whether you’re just looking to light the way to the door or highlight a mature tree or key feature of the house, new LED light fixtures can make a dramatic difference. You will not believe how much you love coming home to your newly lit home – our lighting installations look just as amazing for homeowners as they do for guests!

Porches: While most of our outdoor entertaining happens on the back patio, a front porch or patio can allude to the inviting warmth that can be found within the home. Reflect the comfort of your home on the porch with a swing or bench laden with outdoor pillows that will beckon neighbors and friends to stop by for a coffee and a chat.

Creating the right first impression with your home may seem like a quite the feat, but with some carefully planned elements to focus on, it can be as easy to create as it is to look at – especially with the help of our landscape design team. To reimagine the curbside appeal of your home today, consult with one of our designers today to begin the transformation.

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Planting Annuals

Planting Annuals

It’s because of, not in spite of, their short-lived nature that we love annuals as much as we do. Not only do we plant these transient blooms knowing that they will only be with our gardens for a short season or two, but their limited lifespan is part of what enables them to put on the spectacular displays of color we crave. Caring for your annuals properly is the best way to ensure that these plants can shine throughout their short lifetimes, improving the appearance of your garden and giving you that fresh summer vibrancy you’re looking for.

Plan Before You Plant:
All the basics you need to know about your annuals are actually printed right on the label. Look to the plant’s packaging when it comes to information on sun exposure, soil type, and water requirements. Use this information to plant your annuals in a place where they will have all the necessary resources to shine. Most annuals prefer 6 hours or more of sun and generous watering schedules, but there are still plenty of exceptions. When you pair the right location, care, and plants together, you’ll have the right recipe for gorgeous blooms that won’t demand as much time for maintenance.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Planting Your Annuals:
Start your annuals off right with soil that will support all their growing needs through the season. The right foundation makes all the difference, and with the right nutrients and structure, your annuals can bloom with more enthusiasm and less intervention all season. Better soil is the key to better color and longer-lived flowers all summer.

The easiest fix for your garden is to make sure that you have plenty of organic matter and structure. Rust-colored soils are likely in need of an organic matter boost, while darker soils already have tons of rich nutrients. If you need to boost the organic content of your garden, just mix in compost or worm castings. Heavy clay soils will also benefit from added sand, compost or worm castings to provide better aeration of the soil. If you are planting annuals in containers, use a high quality potting soil, do not use soil from your garden beds.  For those that want to get technical with their gardens, test kits are readily available to check the soil pH to match your garden to your plant’s needs.

Planting annuals is very straightforward. Plan out your planting area so that your plants are spaced evenly and have room for their explosive growth pattern. If you are planting bedding plants in your garden, typical spacing is 6” to 12” depending on the growth pattern of plants and varieties.  Planning out your garden or container will also give you the chance to change your design once you see the elements together, rather than after you’ve planted. Once you know where your annuals are going, gently remove them from their containers, loosen their roots with your hands, and plant them in place.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Watering and Fertilizing Annuals:
If you’ve given your annuals a great start with the right soil nutrients, they won’t need nearly as much fertilizer for the rest of the year. They’ll benefit from being consistently fed a variety of nutrients rather than relying on a quick supply of their key growing ingredients in chemical fertilizers. During the initial planting we also recommend adding Osmocote or another slow release fertilizer to your soil. A slow release fertilizer will help to keep your annuals looking their best all season long. If you’ve planted in a container with less soil to support your plants, or notice your annuals lagging during their growing season, a quick dose of water-soluble fertilizer, such as Miracle Gro, is usually all the help they need to keep looking fabulous.

Since your annuals are tropical plants designed for a single short growing season, they keep their roots close to the surface of the soil. Since they’re so close to the hot sun, they’ll need to be watered every 1-2 days to keep them hydrated enough to fuel top-level performance. The best watering system is something low-profile that focuses on getting the water to the soil where it is needed, instead of sprinkling over the flowers, which can sometimes ruin their petals.

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Maintaining Your Annuals:
Your annuals grow fast and keeping up with them is the best thing that you can do to keep them looking great every day. The most important maintenance that you can do is keeping up with your deadheading. As soon as you see a bloom starting to wither and die, pinch it right off the plant. Not only does this remove ugly spent blooms for a cleaner aesthetic, but it prevents your annual from spending energy on spent flowers by going into seed. Preventing your plants from seeding will have them blooming for longer – so consistent deadheading will help to extend your annuals’ beauty.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Overwintering Annuals:
Despite what’s implied by their name, you might be able to keep some of your annuals for two or three years. While these tender plants don’t stand a chance against our Iowa winters, many annuals can make it to next spring in the comfort of your heated home.

Annuals that can be overwintered well include flowers like geraniums and begonias.  Tropical flowering plants like mandevillas and hibiscus also make good candidates. Not every annual is created equal when it comes to overwintering – some are known to take to it very well while others don’t have much energy left in them after an exhausting season. Before committing the time, effort, and space to overwintering your plant, ask one of our garden experts if it’s a good fit to keep for another season.

Annuals are sensitive and need to be eased into indoor life, or the shock might put an end to your plan to keep your plant around. First, dig them up and re-pot them into large containers full of fresh (from the bag, so it’s guaranteed sterile) and nutrient-rich soil. Keep your repotted plant in a sunny spot and gradually introduce them to being inside over a few weeks as they acclimate. Try bringing them in for a few hours or overnight first before you try keeping them indoors for longer stretches, eventually moving them inside for the season.

By the time the spring temperatures melt away the winter, you can slowly reintroduce your annual to the outdoors before planting them again.

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3 Reasons to Trim Back Your Annuals

A little pruning now and then keeps it healthy, but you shouldn’t pull it out and chop the roots up.“
– Len Goodman

Some of us feel a little timid when it comes to trimming back our beloved annuals. These bold bloomers captivate our hearts and backyards in their precious, short growing season and we can be nervous to start cutting away their blossoms. It’s time to be brave and grab the trimmers, though, because cutting back your annuals will rejuvenate them for the end of the growing season, boasting bigger, better, and healthier growth into the fall.

Once summer has embraced its best months and we start thinking about the fall and back-to-school season just around the corner, our star annuals that were lush and dense with vibrant color might be looking a little lackluster, despite some of our best efforts. A well-timed pruning can actually give them a second life by trimming the dead weight! Don’t spare the scissors, because they can give your favorite flowers new life to last longer in their prime right into fall:

Pictured below: Petunias

purple and white petunias in a pot

Reason 1: Some of Your Plants Can’t Take the Heat:

When we walk into a garden center to pick out our favorite blooms, we tend to fall in love with the look of our plants first. But a garden center is a bit like the United Nations of plants – something from the depths of the Amazon jungle might be on the shelf beside a desert dweller.

Your petunias are from South America, while Chrysanthemums come from China, and Rosemary originates from Mediterranean countries, like Italy. While they all come from different homelands, we adopt them here in Iowa and group them together in our own container designs. They might survive next to each other in a container, but some plants have some very different needs from each other.

Pictured below: Alyssum

Hibiscus yellow orange flower

While you’ve probably taken into account the most extreme needs when planting, once the season is in full swing the smaller differences become much more apparent. Annuals from temperate climates will thrive in the cooler nights of spring and fall while folding under the heat of July and August. Classics like Pansies and Violas, Osteospermum, Geraniums, Nemesia, Alyssum, and Snapdragons love cool temperatures and might not be looking their best by this point in the summer.

Once they start to struggle in the heat, they’ll benefit from a generous haircut and some fertilization. Your heat-lovers will be free to put on the best show they can in the rest of the hottest summer days, while the summer pruning will set up your cool-temperature plants to perform again as the days cool into fall. Without this trimming, they’d be too exhausted to even make an attempt at reviving in the fall. By pruning now, you invest in better color, later into the season. Your garden could still bloom with enthusiasm after your heat-lovers finish their season.

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Reason 2: Garden Interventions:

In the gardens of our childhood, your local garden center might have offered a maximum of 12 different annuals, known then as “bedding plants”. From those 12, you would make your selections, plant your annuals, and wait for them to bloom. It was formulaic, it was predictable, and it was easy to follow without negotiating different types of flowers, growing habits, and needs. In exchange for all the choice we get to explore and be creative with now, we have to be a bit more involved in our gardens.

With a wider selection of plants to choose from to fit our every need, we have more variables to balance. In creating our perfect aesthetic, we keep in mind how aggressive our plants are or how much water they need to pair plants successfully. Sometimes our “perfect look” calls for pairing some mismatch plants, like meeker and slower growing Marigolds or Snapdragons with much more aggressive Verbenas or Petunias. This doesn’t have to rule out matching them though, you’ll just need to keep your trimmers ready to save your passive plants from getting consumed by the stronger growers. Trimming back and taming your annuals opens up new pairing possibilities to create a container that is absolutely perfect.

Pruning Marigolds in a garden

Reason 3: Get A Response:

Pruning your plants gets them angry and ready to grow back with more conviction and a vengeance. Your annuals are like a champion boxer – they more you try to knock them down, the tougher they get. If you trim off a quarter of their growth a couple times a year, they come back bigger, stronger, better, and more gorgeous. You get to trim off any unsightly dead growth, only to be rewarded by even more stunning growth! This method works best on plants like Petunias, Pansies, Calibrachoas (Million Bells), Bacopas, and most foliage container plants.

Simply pinch back the foliage and give them a healthy dose of fertilizer to fuel their comeback growth. Check back in a week and you’ll be delighted to see that your plant making a comeback filled with stubborn growth and blooms.

Pictured below: Snapdragons 

Pruning Marigolds in a garden

Keep in mind that this isn’t a one-size-fits-all-annuals method, as some won’t respond well to being hacked back. Anything with a central blooming stem (like Canna Lilies, Snapdragons, Begonias, or Marigolds) won’t make a comeback in the same way or nearly as quickly. Don’t let them go to seed, as they’ll stop blooming, but don’t be quite as aggressive with the scissors on these plants. They still need your guidance and some trimming to be egged on to keep growing and blooming for our enjoyment, just in a gentler sense.

We can sometimes be a little nervous to take a generous snip off of the gorgeous annuals we’ve adored watching bloom all summer. Just as our kids need haircuts before schools reopen in the fall, a haircut is often exactly what our favorite hard-working plants need to come back stronger. Taking charge of your garden with scissors in hand is all you need for gorgeous blooms all summer and long into the fall.

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Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses with a purple sky backdrop

“There is not a sprig of grass that shoots uninteresting to me.”
– Thomas Jefferson

Whenever the word “grass” is uttered, our thoughts instinctively go to the traditional, green grass that adorns lawns worldwide. We think of the constant mowing and maintenance that eats away at our weekends, and we can’t help but cringe away at the thought. However, with interest growing for ornamental varieties, it’s time we take a second look at what grass can really offer us.

Ornamental Grasses:

Unlike their cookie-cutter, short and green cousins, ornamental grasses come in all sorts of shapes, colors, and sizes to add decoration to your yard. They can range in color from green to red, and they even come in such shows-topping shades as blue and black. They can come as short as a lawn, or they can grow above your head. Whatever appearance you want from your grass, chances are there is a plant waiting for you.

A bunch of tall white ornamental grasses


Their appearances alone make them a beautiful addition for any garden, but they also have the added benefit of being some of the easiest plants to grow. Much like typical turf grass, ornamental grasses can handle a wide scope of weather changes, powering through even when our annuals and perennials may be suffering. However, unlike lawn grasses, these decorative delights won’t need to be trimmed every week to look pristine.

In the vast prairies of Iowa, we are no strangers to grass, and the grasses are no strangers to us. In fact, some of the most popular varieties of ornamental grasses are natives to our area. This means these plants are seasoned professionals at growing here without extra watering, grooming, or fertilizing. Our local pollinators also love them, so you can even expect to see more friendly faces buzzing around your yard.

Pictured left: Karl Forester Reed Grass by Patrick Standish, Pictured right: Prairie Dropseed by Ron Frazier

Karl Forester Reed Grass near a stair case and prairie drop seed ornamental grasses growing in a garden

Our Top Selections:

Feather Reed Grass, also known as Karl Forester Reed Grass, is a bestseller in the world of ornamental grasses. It boasts beautiful, tan-coloured tufts sitting atop tall blades of green. To add a touch of pink to your garden, try the Korean Feather Reed Grass.

Prairie Dropseed is a lower growing grass to enjoy in your garden. You will love the fine, airy look of the bright green blades that proudly display plumes of light brown on top in the summer.

Northwind Switch Grass is a brilliantly bright grass that grows straight and tall to add drama to your garden. The bold blades start off olive in the growing season, with light seedhead tufts to add texture. In the fall, however, they transform to a blazing yellow that simply looks fantastic.

Purple Maiden Grass is shorter-standing grass that, as the name implies, produces purple tufts of color. With this beautiful grass, though, you’re not just getting one color only. In fact, over the season the purple tufts fade to a wonderful white, while the green blades transform to orange-red in the fall.

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Other Grasses We Love:

  • Shenandoah Switchgrass
  • Erianthus Grass
  • Maiden Grass
  • Big Bluestem
  • Little Bluestem Grass
  • Little Miss Dwarf Maiden Grass
  • Overdam Grass
  • Blonde Ambition Blue Grama Grass

With ornate ornamentals like these, it’s easy to once again become excited by the thought of growing grass. These plants give us the chance to experiment with color and texture in our yards, without any constant maintenance and grooming. To learn more about ornamental grasses or to bring some home to your yard, stop by our garden center today.

Pictured below: Switchgrass by Matt Lavin

3 Switchgrass ornamental grasses on a front lawn
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Container Gardening with Succulents

Savvy gardeners have picked up that succulents are the hot trend to be on right now. Not only do we find them everywhere – from wedding designs to home decorating magazines – but they’ve proven to be the dream match between versatility, aesthetic, and ease of care.

High-performance annuals will likely always have a place in our home and hearts, but contemporary styles have allowed us to repurpose some of our containers for succulents. Here’s how to take advantage of the unique elegance and low-maintenance care of succulents, which you can feature in your home and garden year after year.

three succulents in containers on coffee table in living room

Choosing a Container:

Many of us have a few extra containers sitting unoccupied at home, but they might not be the perfect pairing for your succulent garden. While those containers are an exciting but fleeting experiment with a look for only one summer, your succulents are a chance to make a statement that lasts.

Planting a container full of annuals often includes a plan to have them spill elegantly over container edges. Their natural habit of obscuring their own pot sometimes makes the design of the container secondary. Succulents are much more subtle than annuals and will replace aggressive, in-your-face blooms with cool jewel tones in stately, sculpted forms. Very few of them trail, but they all possess an exotic and dignified vibe that makes it important to choose a container that works with them to display their charms.

Pictured below: Echeveria

close-up echeveria succulent

Choosing shape: Gravitate towards shallower pots. Not only is it important to maintain the right proportions to make your low-lying and slow-growing succulents the star of their show, but it’ll help your plants to stay healthy too. Succulents have tiny roots that spread in a fibrous web close to the surface, rather than drilling deep to find moisture. On a larger and deeper pot, the lower soil will remain untapped and possibly waterlogged, threatening to rot your succulent’s roots. Unless you choose a tall container for a specific design purpose – in which case, opt to fill the majority of the container with a substrate with better drainage than soil – a shallower container promises healthier, prettier plants that are in proportion with the entire design of the container.

Choosing for Function: The biggest choice when picking your container comes down to what you want your container to do. This requires some big-picture design ideas.

For a tabletop centerpiece, a shallow clay or ceramic dish is a great way to display some diminutive succulents like echeveria and haworthia. For the more creative and DIY types, repurposing antiques like wooden milk trays, metals dishes or shallow boxes are a fun and unique container choice. Some people have even managed to turn other everyday objects like watering cans or bird cages into containers! As long as they have good drainage, your succulents will thrive in whatever container you can dream up.

In contrast, for a pedestal top centerpiece that commands the focal point of your entire yard, something more dramatic like a cast iron urn is a great place for the more bold succulents like sword-leafed yucca with trailing burrows tail or string-of-pearls. Succulents have an amazing ability to command fun and functionality and can help you turn your backyard into a classic European design, even while adding some fun and whimsy.

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Planting Your Succulent Container:

Guidelines: Your succulents will be incredibly low-maintenance, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a few guidelines for how to take care of them. The cardinal rule of succulents is simple: they cannot be left in standing water. Drainage is the biggest factor when it comes to helping your plants thrive. This means including drainage holes you are sure won’t get clogged, and even adding a bottom layer of pebbles to the bottom of anything deeper than 6 inches. Water them thoroughly, but make sure that the water is draining freely so the delicate roots don’t drown.

Make your container crowded! This might feel like breaking the rules if you’re used to gardening with aggressive annuals, but the slow-growing nature of succulents means that they won’t overwhelm each other like other plants. This is a great excuse to cram in all of the delightful shapes and colors that you want.

hands potting succulents

How to Plant: Set pebbles at the bottom of your container if it is deep enough to need the extra drainage, and then layer cactus or succulent soil on top, setting the plants in that. Be delicate with these dainty plants and don’t yank them out of their pots – tip the pots upside down, cup the soil around the plant to guide it, and gently squeeze until gravity helps you free the plant. Fortunately, you won’t have to handle their delicate roots and can plant them just as they come out of the container you buy them in.

Your plants should be crowded enough that there are only little gaps between the root balls, so you shouldn’t need too much soil to fill in your container. Gently tuck it into the grooves of your soil. The idea is to fill in the air pockets without compacting the soil into an impenetrable stone. If your soil settles after the first watering, top it up as needed.

Succulent Container Care:

If you’ve set them up to succeed, the joy of succulents is their longevity and ease of care. They’ll thrive in our heat and will be more tolerant of the sun than many of our annuals, although too much can still always give them a sunburn.

Water your succulent container garden more than you would a cactus, letting the soil dry out a little between waterings, and soaking the soil until it flows out of the bottom with every watering. This is called “flushing” and is actually a vital part of their care that helps prevent the build-up of salts or fertilizer in the soil, where it can burn the roots. If you do choose to fertilize, do so with care. Use a half-dose at most, and only every few weeks, if at all.

various succulents in a container

If you’ve never bought succulents before, individual plants could give you some sticker shock the first time you go shopping. These plants are slow growers, so they are certainly more expensive, but they are so long-living that they are a great investment for your garden. If you want to use a container that isn’t easy to bring inside for the winter, simply plant your succulents in their pots and bring them inside individually when the weather cools. Just water them less over the winter while they are dormant, and they’ll be ready to impress outside again the next year. And the year after that!

There are few things as impressive than a classic 5-year-old succulent. These plants are so uniquely beautiful they are guaranteed to catch the eye for years to come. Their unique care makes them the most welcome addition to your garden, and their contemporary aesthetic will inspire you to design not just individual containers, but eventually your whole home and garden aesthetic around them.

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Give Our Bees a Break

“The hum of bees is the voice of the garden.”
– Elizabeth Lawrence

The sights, sounds, and smells of our garden are part of why so many of us have fallen in love with gardening. A warm, sunny summer day doesn’t seem quite complete without the quiet buzzing of bees busily bumbling from flower to flower. They are amazing to watch as they go from bloom to bloom, slurping nectar and scooping pollen before they lift off and wobble to the next flower like an overloaded plane.

These days, it seems like our gardens are quieter. While many of us got used to the sound of our gardens humming along, the open blossoms these years seem to have fewer bees floating between them. Iowa’s pollinators, especially the bee, are in trouble and it’s not just our gardens that will suffer if we lose them. We have some ways to combat their habitat loss, and population decline from pesticides and disease in your backyard to boost their health and the health of your garden.

bee on yellow sunflower

Getting a Bee-Friendly Garden:

Bees are an important part of the health of our garden. Without enough to be in every yard, it’s important to entice them to spend their time in ours. The more appealing we make our yard, the more likely it is to be a regular stop for the few bees that are left in our neighbourhood.

Bee-Friendly Planting: Part of bringing more bees to your garden is providing them with their favorite foods. Bees will always prefer local Iowa native plants over fancy hybrids that they don’t recognize. They also like to visit plants that are in clusters instead of single flowers. They love fantastic color as much as we do, so don’t be afraid to put on a show! Plants like lilac, black-eyed susans, echinacea, and sunflowers are among their favorites.

Pictured below: Echinacea

Beautiful Paver Patio Outdoor Living

The Right Conditions: Bees will favor yards that offer lots of sunshine, little nooks and crannies to rest, and shallow water where they can get a drink. Consider filling a shallow container with some pebbles and filling it partially with water to create a bee bath that gives them a place to land and quench their thirst.

Leave it Natural: Native plants are a great compromise to have a cultivated garden that is bee-friendly, but having areas that are allowed to grow a little wilder are perfect to give bees the natural habitat, food sources, and shelter that they crave. In a busy urban center, a tiny patch of wild can be a bee oasis.

The friendlier we make our yards to bees, the better our gardens look. Bees pollinate our blooms to help them reproduce, creating more, healthier flowers. Bees are also a crucial step for many of our fruit-bearing garden favorites, so they are a must if you want to enjoy tasty apples or raspberries.

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Keeping Bees Alive:

Providing the right food and shelter to attract bees to our gardens is helpful for both us and these adorable pollinators, but we also need to focus on curbing practices that can harm these buzzing beneficial insects. Our local bees are struggling with our use of pesticides, and understanding how these chemicals works can help us prevent hurting our pollinators.

Your entire garden is an ecosystem, complete with lots of complex food chains. When some of our most irritating pests appear, they are usually followed by predators that help us keep their numbers under control. Most pesticides wipe out all insect life – not only will your bees be hurt as the innocent bystanders, but the predators that keep the pests under control will be gone, too. Pesticides might fix a problem for now, but wiping out everything only invites the pests to come back as a bigger problem in the future. In the end, using pesticides and other poisons hurts everything in your garden, including bees, without a lasting benefit to your garden.

Bee on purple Lavender and Bee on sunflower

To help save your bees, avoid spraying pesticides on anything that is in bloom, if you use them in your garden at all. If you have to use chemicals to solve a garden problem, start with the mildest solution and work upwards in toxicity. Instead of chemicals, consider using safer methods like netting, garden fleece, or mesh barriers to keep pests away, or even using companion plants in the garden that naturally repel pests.

Creating bee-friendly gardens is easy, and we only have benefits to be rewarded with. There are many solutions to the problems that reduce our bee numbers, and many of the ways to attract bees to our yards are not only simple but very aesthetically pleasing. By saving the bees, we not only feel a little better about our impact on the world around us, but we get a garden bursting with life and healthy blooms.

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Every year we fall in love with new types of annuals in stunning new shades, shapes and sizes. While there’s a lot to be said about playing with something new in the garden, there are a lot of reasons why we never quite move on from the classics.

Coneflowers are the ultimate statement in simple beauty and elegance. We’re always enchanted looking at these confident and colorful blooms. They’re a great choice for any garden, pairing the beauty of traditional flowers with the color choice of modern annuals. These perennials are hardy, stunning, and easy to grow, all while attracting the right kinds of pollinator traffic to your garden.

purple close-up coneflowers

Beautiful Echinacea

Coneflowers are also commonly known as Echinacea, the terms being interchangeable as “Echinacea” is the scientific genus for this type of bloom. Whichever term you use, every variety of this flower is noted for its distinctive shape: a prominent seed head is the centerpiece that a ring of delicate blooms fan away from, angled gently towards the ground. Their cascade of petals in a cone shape is eye-catching and unique in any garden.

While purple coneflower is the traditional favorite, new variations are constantly available, offering the same elegance in new shades and varieties. Each new type captures the elegance that we depend on from echinacea, but the exciting new colors and styles offer us fresh flowers to take on supporting or leading roles in any garden. From exciting and fiery double-petaled divas to dainty and understated whites and purples, there’s a coneflower for any garden aesthetic.
No matter the variety, these flowers seem to capture a simpler time. Including them in your garden is an easy way to transform your backyard into an elegant country cottage sanctuary, or even add a touch of nostalgia in a garden bursting with contemporary color.

white coneflowers

Coneflowers in Iowa

While their blooms might look dainty and delicate, these flowers are anything but. Their heavy seed heads and petals are supported on tough stems that can usually grow very successfully with limited supervision.

Coneflowers are also a famous Iowa native, meaning they won’t need extra pampering to withstand everything our summer weather might throw at them. These perennials will bloom mid-summer, year after year, without you working hard to help them survive drought or heat conditions. Echinaceas are a perfect balance between pretty and practical to give you a gorgeous garden aesthetic while saving you most of the back-breaking work.

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Growing Coneflowers

These perennials can be started from root division in the fall, but the most popular way to introduce them is by starter plant in the spring. They are easy plants to care for that will reward you with abundant blooms every year.

Planting: Choose a location for your coneflowers that will receive lots of sun. While full sun is ideal for these flowers, they can tolerate some shade as long as they see direct sunlight for about 6 hours every day. They’ll grow best in soil that has good drainage but will benefit from having a little bit of compost mixed in before planting to nurture them as they grow.

purple coneflowers

Care: Coneflowers won’t need any supplemental watering if they see average rainfall, but will need a drink weekly to keep them looking their best in droughts. Echinaceas are extremely tough and can handle dry conditions, but a layer of mulch around them will do wonders to lock in the little moisture that they need, especially on hot summer days. Although a little fertilizing won’t hurt your echinacea, they usually don’t need the extra help to thrive in their home soils.

Maintenance: You can expect to see lots of coneflower blossoms in the middle of summer. Prolong their blooming season as long as you can by deadheading the blooms. Near the end of the season, though, leave the last seed heads on your flowers to dry and attract songbirds. If your flowers are looking floppy on weak stems, or are fading in the late summer season, cut the blooms to the ground instead of deadheading or cut back the plant by a third to revitalize it when it grows back.

light pink coneflowers

Coneflowers are garden powerhouses that provide a long list of aesthetic and practical benefits to your garden. These classic beauties are the perfect choice for any garden, fitting seamlessly into your design while beautifying their surroundings. Incredibly simple to grow, these gorgeous perennial blooms are a gift to you and your garden, year after year.