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The Best Colorful Trees and Shrubs for an Attractive Winter Garden

Sometimes it seems like winter in our gardens is very monotone: grey leafless trees and white snow, with a few evergreens here and there. But there are actually quite a variety of hardy trees and shrubs that can add pops of color, shape, and texture to give our gardens a beautiful aesthetic, all year long.

We’ve got plenty of ideas on how to make your garden just as beautiful in winter as it is in summer. Here are just a few of the best shrubs, trees, and grasses for winter interest in Iowa.

Trees

Trees are an excellent addition to your garden for many reasons, not just because they’re beautiful. Trees increase property values, reduce noise, clean our air, and help lower our utility costs by shading our homes. These trees offer all of these benefits while giving your landscape four-season color.

Colorado Blue Spruce features bright blue needles on gracefully drooping branches that look beautiful under the snow. It can be trained for upright growth or a spreading groundcover form. The steely blue color is striking in winter.

White Pine features long silky-smooth needles. It looks a little fuzzy from a distance, which makes it look very cozy under snow in the winter. It is a beautiful shade tree in a brilliant warm green.

Norway Spruce is a durable evergreen with a uniform cone shape. The needles mature to a rich deep green for the winter.

Trembling Aspen is a North American deciduous native. It features striking white bark, the beauty of which is revealed when it has lost its leaves. It’s brilliant white contrasts beautifully with rich blue winter skies or evergreen backdrops.

As River Birch matures, it develops richly colored peeling bark in shades of white, brown, and golden-yellow. The unique bark adds visual texture and color interest in winter.

Red Jewel Crabapple is a small ornamental crabapple. It’s spring blooms are beautiful, but it provides beautiful color all the way through the year with brilliant red fruit that hangs on all through the winter. The fruit is a spectacular pop of color, and the Cedar Waxwings arriving next spring will appreciate them as well.

Shrubs

Shrubs add texture, height variation, and depth to your yard, drawing the viewer’s eye through the landscape. They also provide shelter and safety for our important native Iowa birds and critters.

Japanese Garden Juniper is a spreading groundcover juniper. It features bluish-green foliage that turns a purplish-blue in winter.

Montgomery Blue Spruce is a mounded shrub that resembles a short, plump Christmas tree at maturity. Its silvery-blue foliage looks beautiful under snow in the winter.

Green Velvet Boxwood is a mounding broadleaf evergreen that can be pruned into any shape you like, from a clean and uniform hedge to a unique topiary shape. Its leaves maintain a brilliant green through winter, and a totally unique texture compared to other needle-type evergreens.

PJM Rhododendron is another broadleaf evergreen. The leaves turn a dark purple-red in the fall. The dark leaves really stand out against a backdrop of white snow.

Ivory Halo Dogwood forms a rounded mound and has four-season interest. It has showy variegated foliage during the growing season, creamy white flowers and berries in the spring, and eye-catching bright red branches in the winter.

Little Lime Hydrangea is a deciduous shrub, but the blossoms will dry on the stems and last all winter. The conical flower heads and branches fade to rich golden brown and add unique shapes to the garden.

Technically Forsythia is a spring-blooming shrub. But it’s so early in the year, sometimes the very first thing to bloom, that it can still feel like winter when its bright yellow flowers burst into bloom.

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Grasses

Shrubs add texture, height variation, and depth to your yard, drawing the viewer’s eye through the landscape. They also provide shelter and safety for our important native Iowa birds and critters.

Grasses add a completely different look and feel to our yards in winter. Their tall wispy fronds add structure and drama against a snowy backdrop. Their golden yellow color contrasts beautifully with evergreens and snow.

Karl Foerster Reed Grass grows in clumps and up to five feet tall and features a fine delicate texture. A row of delicate golden-tan clumps adds texture and definition in winter.

Purple Fountain Grass grows up to four feet tall and features thick bottle-brush seed heads, and rich reddish-purple color all winter long. The gracefully arching seed heads and foliage are beautiful against snow.

Northwind Switch Grass grows up to five feet tall and turns a brilliant coppery-bronze in winter. It’s rigid upright form, and brick red seed heads are strikingly beautiful.

If you’re finding your yard a little lackluster to look at this winter, come visit our garden center in the spring. Pick out some gorgeous new trees, shrubs, and grasses to fill your yard with vibrant color next year.

Please note: we are currently closed for the season. We will be open on the weekends of January 24-26, and February 7-9 and then we will officially reopen for the season on March 23, 2020. Stay informed – sign up for our newsletter. We can’t wait to see you next year!

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The Best Living Holiday Ornaments & Inspiration

Adding living plants to your holiday Christmas decor is easier than it might seem. Incorporating live plants into your holiday decor brings a sense of vibrancy and natural beauty that you just can’t get with artificial plants. We’ve put together a festive list of our favorite ways to decorate with live holiday ornaments in Iowa, and two tutorials for fun holiday decor with houseplants.

Houseplants on a Christmas Tree

We think adding houseplants to the Christmas tree gives it a unique and elegant look. Here are a few innovative ways to add some of your favorite houseplants to your tree decor. The very best part about all of these ideas is that you can keep them out well after Christmas.

Glass Ornaments

Glass ornaments with openings can act like tiny terrariums. You can find open-sided glass ornaments in a variety of sizes and styles at our garden center. You can keep them super simple, popping a single air plant or a sprig of evergreen into each one, or get more creative by crafting a miniature ecosystem.

Get the kids involved and create tiny Christmas fairy garden terrariums. Using sphagnum moss as a base, you can create a tiny holiday scene in each one. Small pieces of an evergreen branch can stand in as a tiny Christmas tree. Hanging these on your Christmas tree, or placing them around the house, adds understated elegance and simplicity to your decor.

Wire Ornaments

Simple metal or wire ornaments in classic holiday shapes, like stars or bells, are very trendy right now. Using wire, attach a grouping of air plants or succulents to one of these ornaments, and you’ve got a beautiful mid-century modern living ornament for your home.

Terra Cotta Pots & Macrame

Macrame has come back in a BIG way in the last year or two. Our favorite versions for the holidays are tiny macrame hangers for 1-2″ terra cotta pots. You can hang these on your Christmas tree for delightfully unique ornaments. If you’ve never done macrame before, don’t be intimidated. There are numerous videos online on how to make simple macrame plant hangers. Pop a tiny bit of soil and a mini succulent, “baby” spider plant, or other small plants into the terra cotta pot, and you’ve got some super cute living ornaments for your Christmas tree.

Our Favourite Live Christmas Decor

Evergreen boughs are a classic living Christmas decoration. There are so many different kinds of evergreens available, you can never go wrong with adding some branches to your holiday decor. Whether you add some to pots on the front porch, arrange them in vases on the table, draped over the mantle, or made into a wreath, evergreens always add a traditional Christmas feel to your home.

Amaryllis is a perennial favorite holiday plant. They’re elegant and simple with dramatic flower bracts, which makes them a classic central element for a Christmas centerpiece. Because their stems and leaves are tall and slender, amaryllis won’t block your view of the happy faces around the table!

Paperwhites are another classic Christmas bulb that compliments amaryllis well. They’re also tall and slim, but they feature beautiful bunches of white star-shaped flowers that complement the voluptuous, colorful blossoms of amaryllis.

We often associate floral arrangements with warmer days, but there are tons of beautiful flowers that work very well with Christmas decor. Classic red and white roses, or red and white carnations, have a decidedly Christmas-y feel when paired with greenery. Holiday floral arrangements combine nicely with sprigs of eucalyptus, ivy, or holly.

Tiny potted living evergreen trees are delightful both indoors and outdoors. You can get different varieties and place one in each room of the house, or use them to line your front walkway. It’s fun to decorate each tiny tree with a different theme. Strings of tiny fairy lights make them just as romantic as a full-sized tree.

Our absolute favorite live decor has to be our Table Top Grinch Trees. Combining living cedar greenery, a cute pot, and some adorable ornaments, these fun evergreen designs are always a bestseller. We also hold seasonal workshops in which we show you how to create your own unique Whoville tree. These stunning arrangements keep on living right into the new year if you keep them watered. Sign up for our upcoming class on December 4th to learn how to make your own. If you can’t make it to this class, we’ve got so many others coming up featuring ideas for live holiday decor, including:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can sign up for any of our workshop classes online or in person at our garden center. By the way, if you’re really set on making a Grinch Tree but can’t make it the workshop on the 4th, let us know! You can always come to the Holiday Creation Station workshop on the 3rd instead, but if we get enough interest, we may consider adding in another Grinch Tree workshop for our friends in Des Moines!

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How to Make Your Holiday Greenery Last

Festive evergreen boughs are the foundation of so many gorgeous holiday arrangements. They show up everywhere in your seasonal decor—from bouquets to wreaths, planters to garlands. Not only are evergreen cuttings beautiful, but their scents are hallmarks of the season. The only downside is they tend to dry out extremely fast and start dropping needles all over your floor.

So, how can you keep your beautiful natural Iowa evergreens vibrant and crisp all season?

Here are a few quick tips:

Buy them fresh. The sooner you can purchase greenery after it has been cut, the better. The longer boughs sit in the open air without water, the faster they dry out.

Choose boughs from evergreens that grow easily in Iowa. Try Eastern White Pine, Red Cedar, Balsam Fir, Common Juniper, and Yew.

Keep them outside as long as possible. The cold weather will help maintain their dormancy and keep sap moving through them as slowly as possible, helping your greenery to stay greener!

Soak cuttings in water before you create your arrangement. If you’re going to create an arrangement with fresh boughs, give them a good soak first. Cut evergreen stems like you would fresh flowers, then let them sit in a bucket of water for 24 hours so they can soak up as much water as possible. Even wreaths should be soaked. If you can, lay your wreath flat in a few inches of water overnight.

Spray greenery with an anti-desiccant. Anti-desiccant spray, also known as anti-transpirant, helps to lock moisture into needles and branches. You can pick up an anti-desiccant at our garden center. Giving your greens a good spray before you start arranging will help them retain moisture as long as possible.

Keep arrangements in water. If you’re creating an arrangement in a container, make sure the stems of the evergreens are submerged in water. Keep them in a vase or a bucket of some sort inside your planter. Check the water level daily; evergreens are thirsty things.

Mist evergreen cuttings daily. Especially indoors, evergreens will dry out much faster than outside. Give them a good spray over every day so they can soak in a little extra moisture.

Keep your finished arrangements in the shade, away from heat and direct sun. Direct sunlight will cause them to dry out faster. Being too warm, or located too close to a heat source, will also accelerate dehydration.

If you’re using lights in your arrangement, use LEDs. LED lights don’t produce heat, whereas incandescent lights get very warm and dry out your evergreen needles.

Consider adding non-traditional greenery. Rosemary, boxwood, and potted ferns can add a touch of brilliant greenery to your winter decor, and they last quite a bit longer than traditional evergreens. You could also use potted evergreen trees and shrubs in your decor, which could then be potted out into your yard in the spring.

If you’re not quite sure how to get started making an evergreen holiday arrangement, join us for one of our upcoming classes! You’ll learn from the pros how to make a variety of different Christmas-themed arrangements. You won’t believe how easy it is to create a stunning holiday arrangement for your home!

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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

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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

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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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Best Patio Veggie Varieties

Ted Lare Best Patio Veggie Varieties

Getting in our daily serving of vegetables can be a challenge, and when your produce from the supermarket tastes less than stellar, it can be even harder. Having delicious, fresh edibles straight from the garden makes getting your daily servings a whole lot easier. With a patio garden, you’ll have all of the best garden flavors as close as possible to your kitchen— you’ll barely even need to leave the house to pick tomatoes straight from the vine! Get your fresh produce from plant to table in record time by growing your favorite flavors on the patio.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Container Gardening with Vegetables:
Gardening trends are always evolving and vegetable gardens are not immune to the growing understanding of the “best” way to go about growing your freshest flavors. These days, our homegrown produce isn’t limited to rows upon rows in a garden bed in the backyard. You can grow food just as delicious in containers, mixing up your gardening routine to something a little more convenient.

Container gardening has lots of advantages that make the most of their space. This growing style offers simpler upkeep, is easy to place wherever is most convenient, reduces the amount of work needed, and often even boosts the flavor of your edibles!

Best Patio Vegetables:
Patio gardening has traditionally been confined to little plants, like herbs. While herb gardens are still a valuable part of your patio garden repertoire, there’s so much more that you can do just outside your door! Container gardens are surprisingly flexible and there are lots of ways to bring beautiful and functional edible gardens to your home:

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Herbs
For edible garden beginners, home chefs, and those that like to keep things simple, herb containers are the perfect place to get started. They are low-maintenance, filled with delicious herbs that will elevate your cooking to the next level, and are adaptable to fill your balcony, patio, or windowsill with lush and fragrant foliage ready for the picking.

Each plant has its own unique set of needs, but many of the most popular herbs are happy growing in a smaller container and don’t grow to an unmanageable size. Simply ensure proper drainage, use good quality potting soil, and find a watering schedule that is right for your plants. Then, get ready to enjoy their delicious flavors in your cooking!

There are lots of herbs that pair well together in dishes and in containers for growing, as they have similar needs. We love the fragrant and lush look of rosemary, oregano, and thyme together for a Mediterranean blend, or a combination of basil, parsley, and mint for a container for more temperate homes.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Tomatoes
These are one of the garden staples that simply can’t be forgotten when putting together your patio containers. We’re lucky that this delicious vegetable staple absolutely flourishes in containers, making it easy to care for and perfect for the patio. You’ll instantly be able to taste the difference between your homegrown tomatoes and those you pick up from the supermarket—and these lush plants dripping ruby jewels of produce for you makes for a pleasant addition to your backyard.

Determinate tomatoes are the best choice for containers because of their more compact growing habit that doesn’t require as much maintenance to keep upright. These plants ripen quickly and need only a little support from a trellis or cage. Choose from a variety of sizes for all of your snacking, salad, and sandwich needs.  

The key to impressive tomato flavor is consistent watering. Keeping the soil evenly moist, but not waterlogged, will give you produce that is the envy of your whole neighborhood. Try using self-watering containers for a stress-free way to keep your plants hydrated, or develop a schedule that has you checking your plants regularly in the mornings.

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Peppers
Given the right love and care, some peppers actually grow better in containers than they do in the garden, thanks to their need for warmer soil temperatures. Bushy plants with small, delicate—and brightly colored, ornamental-looking—fruits are perfect for container growing.

Keep your peppers in a sunny spot where they can soak up all the heat that they can. Especially important for hot peppers, a little heat is important while they are growing to bring out the spice in them! Keep your peppers well hydrated to help them make the most of the constant heat and exposure.

Don’t be shy to repot your peppers as they grow and flourish into gorgeous mature plants. With a pot that’s a little bigger than normal, you’ll have a much easier time keeping their roots well hydrated even in the hottest days of the summer. For the best, tastiest, and prettiest pepper results, fertilize with a water-soluble fertilizer every 1-2 weeks.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Leafy Greens
There’s nothing quite as satisfying or healthy as a fresh, crisp serving of greens from the garden. Favorite leafy greens, like lettuce, spinach, and kale, are extremely popular options that really fill out a container garden. Not only will you enjoy the easy access to get them into your kitchen, but you’ll also love that their proximity to your home in containers discourages backyard critters from nibbling away at them before you have the opportunity to!

Most leafy greens are vegetables that prefer growing in the cool season, thriving in the spring and fall, but diminishing in the heat of the summer. These vegetables are perfect for grazing on and pulling a little bit to eat at a time rather than harvesting it all at once.

These greens grow with roots that are shallow and spread out, so planting them in a fitting, wide, and shallow container is ideal. This is a great way to add visual interest to your container garden, too, with a bit of a new size and dimension to enjoy. Plant lettuce, spinach, and kale with lots of sunlight so their broad leaves can soak up the rays. Plant with good quality soil and in a container with drainage, and keep them consistently moist for the lushest and tastiest results.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Bulbs
Bulbs do most of their growing work underground, so bulb edibles aren’t naturally the first option people think of with their container gardening. However, they’re actually a perfect fit for containers, which actually keep them very low maintenance and just as delicious. Onions and garlic are great container garden options as they are key ingredients in so many of our favorite dishes.

Plant garlic in the fall, with a bit of time to get established before the first fall frosts arrive. If you missed the fall planting, you can still plant in the spring, but you won’t get to experience end results that are nearly as big. Make sure that you use new, bagged soil and not recycled soil from the garden with your garlic so that you will have fewer problems with pests and disease. Place the container in a sunny part of your patio and watch it flourish with very little work from you!

While you can plant onion from scratch it’ll be much more worth your time and patience to start from sets. Plant them in a large and wide container so that you can get more harvest, and keep consistently moist.

Vegetable gardening doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task and you don’t have to commit large parts of your landscape to gardening to be able to enjoy the most delicious produce. You can have a source of tasty, fresh edibles that are good for you and your family and bring unparalleled flavor to your kitchen. With plants that grow lush, green, and often adorned with beautiful produce, you won’t even need to sacrifice aesthetic to have it all this summer.

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Creating Backyard Privacy

Creating Backyard Privacy

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Creating Backyard Privacy

The Ted Lare Look

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With a camera in everyone’s pocket, social media within our fingertip’s reach, and a world of people a click away, it can feel a lot more difficult to live a private life. We’re so plugged into our lives around us and surrounded by technology and media that the only place we can actually relax is in our homes. While a little peace and quiet is wonderful to enjoy in our fast-paced lives, nobody wants to live their life indoors. Having a private escape on your property can be the perfect way to enjoy what your yard has to offer, without worrying about prying eyes. Below are some ideas on how to create your own private sanctuary in your backyard.

Hedges and Privacy Screens:
Planting hedges and privacy screens are a beautiful and all-natural way to add a little bit of functional privacy to your home. Their dense growth creates a lush curtain of green that shields your yard while allowing you to enjoy the outdoors. You’ll get all the function of a fence or barrier, but with a much more aesthetically pleasing shade of green.

Hedges don’t just screen your home from the outside giving privacy, but they can also act as a stylish, multi-purpose feature by providing a sound barrier from the hustle and bustle of the outside world, allowing you to create an atmosphere of peace and quiet right outside your door. Not to mention, they also work great as a buffer from winds and snow, which can not only be a benefit for those of us who like to spend more time outside, but it can also help to lower heating costs when the weather cools.

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Growing Your Own Hedges:
While there are many different styles and types of hedges that you can grow, planning the best fit for you is important. The first step toward starting your own hedge at home actually begins with planning, so that you can choose the look and function that works for your backyard oasis. Working with one of our expert designers, we’ll find the most tailored look for your style, home, and interests. Here’s what to consider when planning:

What space do you have? Start off by planning where you want your hedge to go. You might want to have a hedge capture your whole yard, but some yard layouts might call for a partial hedge instead. Measure the total length and consider how wide you’d like your hedge to be to have the numbers you need to get started.

What do these measurements mean? How many plants you use and how close you plant them depends on both the plant’s growth habits and the density of a hedge that you want. For some plants you could need up to 3 layers, planted only 1’-2’ apart to create a dense look.  Other plants may only need to be planted in one layer and require spacing 6 ft apart. Often a combination of plants is best, for a unique look and more color and texture through the year. Our designers are familiar with all of the most popular varieties and which species is the best choice for the look that you want.

Which plant to choose? The first decision is between deciduous and evergreen shrubs. While there are tons of exciting types of deciduous plants to choose from that offer a stunning array of seasonal colors, they do lose their leaves – and therefore some of their density – in the winter. Evergreens offer an identical look no matter the season, and won’t sacrifice density at any time of year.

[/fusion_text][fusion_separator style_type=”none” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” sep_color=”” top_margin=”1px” bottom_margin=”20px” border_size=”” icon=”” icon_circle=”” icon_circle_color=”” width=”” alignment=”center” /][fusion_imageframe image_id=”21487|full” max_width=”” style_type=”none” blur=”” stylecolor=”” hover_type=”none” bordersize=”” bordercolor=”” borderradius=”” align=”left” lightbox=”no” gallery_id=”” lightbox_image=”” lightbox_image_id=”” alt=”fiddle-leaf fig plant” link=”” linktarget=”_self” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”fullwidth-img” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=””]https://www.tedsgardens.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Blog64_Creating-Backyard-Privacygrowing-your-own-hedge.png[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_text columns=”” column_min_width=”” column_spacing=”” rule_style=”default” rule_size=”” rule_color=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=””]

Hedge How-To:
For a professional and polished final look, our landscaping experts are a fantastic resource to make sure that your project looks as good as you imagined. If you’re a bit handier, though, it can be easy to plant your own hedge. For homeowners looking for a stress-free experience, hiring the pros is a great solution, and for those that like to be hands-on throughout their projects, we’re happy to help you make your hedge happen. Here’s how to plant them yourself:

1. For a manicured look, mark your hedge line. Use a stake at each end of the line and tie a string between them to mark a straight line. To keep each plant placed precisely, measure and mark your string with the distances that you want to place plants at.

2. Dig your holes as deep as the plant’s root balls. Take the plants out of the containers or casing you purchased them in the holes for planting. If they look root-bound, gently work the roots to loosen them. Fill in the holes and water your new hedge plants to help them to settle in and start growing.

3. Adding mulch around your plants will help them to thrive. Mulch is temperature regulating and helps to keep moisture levels more consistent for a healthier plant, but also helps to make your hedge look more polished.

4. You can “train” your hedge into the right shape with some careful pruning once they are growing well. Simply trim down the tops and sides a few times annually to keep your plants healthy and in line.

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Favorite Hedge Plants:
There really is a wealth of different options to choose from when picking your hedge plant. Shrubs exist in nearly every shape and size, so there’s a plant for nearly every style. These are some of our favorite hedge plants that you’re bound to see thriving in Iowa neighborhoods:

[/fusion_text][fusion_separator style_type=”none” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” sep_color=”” top_margin=”15px” bottom_margin=”15px” border_size=”” icon=”” icon_circle=”” icon_circle_color=”” width=”” alignment=”center” /][fusion_imageframe image_id=”21488|full” max_width=”” style_type=”none” blur=”” stylecolor=”” hover_type=”none” bordersize=”” bordercolor=”” borderradius=”” align=”left” lightbox=”no” gallery_id=”” lightbox_image=”” lightbox_image_id=”” alt=”fiddle-leaf fig plant” link=”” linktarget=”_self” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”fullwidth-img” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=””]https://www.tedsgardens.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Blog64_Creating-Backyard-Privacyboxwood-and-arborvitae.png[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type=”none” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” sep_color=”” top_margin=”20px” bottom_margin=”20px” border_size=”” icon=”” icon_circle=”” icon_circle_color=”” width=”” alignment=”center” /][fusion_text columns=”” column_min_width=”” column_spacing=”” rule_style=”default” rule_size=”” rule_color=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=””]

Boxwoods
These evergreens are known for being dense-growing and very low maintenance. You can find them in many sizes ranging from 3’ to 9’ tall, and you can trim them into different shapes to suit your style. These shrubs boast bright green foliage that darkens slightly in the winter months. While they are known to attract useful bees to your yard, they also keep out other wildlife like deer, keeping your whole garden protected from other kinds of prying eyes.

Arborvitae
Known for their elegant looks, these hedges are a perfect option for hedges that highlight each individual plant with more generous spacing. These tall and narrow cone-shaped trees come in a wide assortment of varieties, some of which can grow up to 30’ tall. The local favorites are the Emerald Green Arborvitae and the Holmstrup Arborvitae – both favored for their beautiful foliage that is both hardy and disease resistant. The name “Arborvitae” actually translates from Latin to mean “tree of life,” and these plants prove it with a long life of up to 50 years, even in our sometimes harsh conditions.
Pictured Above Right: North Pole Arborvitae Via Plant Finder

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Korean Lilac & Common Lilac
Lilacs are a great choice for adding a floral touch to your hedging needs, covered in clusters of small flowers, usually in shades of white or purple, or variegations of both. Not only beautiful, they’re also wonderfully fragrant and add a delightful, relaxing note to the atmosphere of the backyard. Plus, those same gorgeous and fragrant blooms are favorites of hummingbirds and butterflies alike!
Pictured Above Left: Korean Lilac Via Plant Finder

Dwarf Burning Bush
For truly captivating color, look no further than a dwarf burning bush for your hedge. The gorgeous, green summer foliage transforms to radiant red for the fall, truly setting the season in your landscape. They also look particularly fantastic when paired with evergreens for a cool contrast with the appeal of year-round coverage.
Pictured Above Right: Dwarf Burning Bush Via Monrovia

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Privacy Planting Screens:
Although a hedge is a nice place to start when adding privacy to your backyard, a more beautiful and complex solution is a privacy planting screen that has several varieties of plants. The combination of plants will create a more diverse mix that provides more color, height variations, and seasonal interest.

Most planting screens would incorporate multiple trees, shrubs, and perhaps ornamental grasses and perennial flowers. Below are some images of planting arrangements we have done in the past. One of our friendly designers can help design and install a more complex project for you, such as this.

Berming:
Another way to create privacy is to change the elevation of the land. Given enough space on your property, you can add black dirt and re-shape the land to increase the height of your yard, allowing for more privacy. Typically we would then plant a privacy screen on top of the rolling berms to create an immediate planting screen. If you have an expansive area, these berms also have a lot of visual interest by themselves, giving you the feel of a rolling manicured golf course.

Getting a moment to ourselves shouldn’t be that difficult, so it’s wonderful to have a little spot of quiet solitude right in our own yards. Whether you want to plant your own or need help from our landscape and design experts to create some much-needed privacy, come in today to ask how you can turn your backyard into a private getaway.

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Container Garden Inspiration

container garden inspiration

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Container Garden Inspiration

The Ted Lare Look

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Gardening is constantly evolving, which is a gift to us gardeners that want to change things up and keep up with the latest new idea. Every year the whole gardening process starts again, with planning, planting, nurturing, and finally the beauty of your efforts in full bloom. Every spring we get the choice of which classics we want to hang onto for another year, and what new styles we’re ready to embrace! Although flower beds are nice, containers are where true creativity has the chance to flow.

Containers for Any Home:
Containers can work for anyone from a tiny apartment space with mere square feet on the balcony to rural homesteads with acres of land. They’re the perfect place to experiment without the larger commitment of planting in beds. Best of all, they act like throw pillows for your landscape, accenting here and there to frame the rest of your garden design. As such pivotal pieces in your backyard repertoire, it’s worth taking some time to design what goes into them.

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Creating a Container Design:
Setting a great foundation is vital to the success of your container garden, so taking a little time to consider the details before you start is important. While these gardens aren’t as high-maintenance as your traditional garden beds, a bit of thought is what takes your container from “nice” to “stunning.” If you want your designs to be the envy of your neighborhood, start by considering the “3 P’s:”

Prepping – Choose the details wisely, starting with your planter. You’ll want something made with durable material, holes for drainage in the bottom, and the right size to give your plant’s roots the space they need to develop. Once you’ve selected the perfect container for your logistical needs (and aesthetic), use some high-quality sterile potting soil to get started.

Planning – Due to the size of your containers, your plants are going to be growing close together. It might seem odd, but this is part of the appeal! It gives them the unbeatable intensity that makes them look so fantastic as accents in your yard! Growing so close means that you’ll want to match plants with similar needs together so they can share the same sun exposure, fertilizer, and watering. Also, consider the shape of the plants and how they fit together. You might choose a tall, statement-making “thriller” as the centerpiece, something with a mounding habit to be the “filler,” and something trailing that adds even more height to your container as the “spiller.” Arrange them all from tallest to shortest from the middle outwards, so you can see and appreciate all the plants and they all receive the sun they deserve.

Planting – Once your container is prepped and planned, it’s time to re-pot your transplants or plant your seeds and give them enough water to get started. Establish a schedule of watering, fertilizing, and maintaining your gorgeous plants and enjoy your growing season of fabulous growth and your design simply glowing.

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If you aren’t sure what to plant, there are tons of different looks you can recreate! A quick Google or Pinterest search is bound to turn up some dazzling looks that you can copy or use as inspiration to start. Or you can take a look at some of the expertly curated recipes we’ve put together on our site. We love building our containers as we shop, choosing one plant that we fall in love with and simply can’t go without, and structuring the rest of our container look around that.

The possibilities with container gardens are endless. Here are some ideas for what you can do with your container that ranges from functional to extravagant:

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Vegetable Container Gardens:
Can you imagine picking your entire salad from one tiny container? Vegetables like tomato, celery, onion, carrots, cucumber, lettuce, and peppers can all be grown together! Choose your salad staples and grow them within grazing distance of the kitchen for the freshest produce all summer, like your own private produce aisle in your backyard! Tuck some marigolds into the container for a pretty boost that does some heavy lifting, repelling pests.

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Herb Container Gardens:
Herbs are the original container crop, as they’re hardy enough to thrive just about anywhere. Think of your normal spice rotation when you pick your herbs so that you can plant what you use the most of. Your herbs will thrive the more you pull from them for seasoning! Some of our container favorites are cilantro, thyme, mint, basil, rosemary, and oregano. The texture of these leafy plants is delightful to look at and you’ll be treated to a heavy herb perfume every time you walk by.

[/fusion_text][fusion_separator style_type=”none” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” sep_color=”” top_margin=”10px” bottom_margin=”20px” border_size=”” icon=”” icon_circle=”” icon_circle_color=”” width=”” alignment=”center” /][fusion_imageframe image_id=”21447|full” max_width=”” style_type=”none” blur=”” stylecolor=”” hover_type=”none” bordersize=”” bordercolor=”” borderradius=”” align=”left” lightbox=”no” gallery_id=”” lightbox_image=”” lightbox_image_id=”” alt=”fiddle-leaf fig plant” link=”” linktarget=”_self” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”fullwidth-img” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_offset=””]https://www.tedsgardens.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Blog62_Container-Garden-Inspirationflowering-pots-2.png[/fusion_imageframe][fusion_separator style_type=”none” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=”” sep_color=”” top_margin=”10px” bottom_margin=”20px” border_size=”” icon=”” icon_circle=”” icon_circle_color=”” width=”” alignment=”center” /][fusion_text columns=”” column_min_width=”” column_spacing=”” rule_style=”default” rule_size=”” rule_color=”” hide_on_mobile=”small-visibility,medium-visibility,large-visibility” class=”” id=””]

Flower Container Gardens:
This is the classic aesthetic-driven look for containers and we can see why. With thousands of varieties to choose from in millions of combinations, it’s yours to play with the color, texture, style, and look of a flower container. To keep the options simple, we find that the best containers work with about three species, in three different sizes, in three different but related colors. That way you have quite the array of visual effect without getting overly complicated. Try matching flowers to something you fall in love with at the store, or pick up something in one of the year’s trendiest colors or styles for something that is cutting-edge and trendy.

When your containers are established, the options that they hold for your garden are endless. Feel free to move and relocate to refresh your look, and enjoy a patch of intense blooming and life wherever it’s most convenient for you! Containers are the perfect blending of style, convenience, and personal touch. They’re a staple for any backyard, and their flexibility means that there’s something perfect out there for everyone!

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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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Iowa Planting Guide

Patio path plants


Iowa Planting Guide

The Ted Lare Look

Determine the Conditions of Your Planting Area

Develop your Garden Space

Plant Selection

Low Maintenance Gardening and Planting

Maintaining Your Garden’s Beauty

If hardscapes are the bones of a landscape, plants are the heart. Filling our yards with greenery, blooms, trees, and shrubs allow us to give life to our homes and customize the colors and textures of our design. For novice gardeners, there can be a lot to think about – from methods of planting to soil testing to USDA hardiness zones. That’s why we put together our guide to planting in Central Iowa. It’s full of advice for planting and maintaining vibrant, healthy plant life, leaving you with a garden that you don’t just love looking at, but that you love working in, too!

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Determine the Conditions of Your Planting Area

When it comes to your garden, your property is a canvas. Even if your home came with a garden, it’s always possible to restore and re-imagine an outdoor space. When re-planting a garden from scratch, every garden project always turns out looking more true-to-vision if there’s a plan for the layout of the area before we break ground.

Before creating a garden layout, it’s important to assess the conditions of your desired planting space. You can start with a spiral notebook and a pencil and begin to take note of the different aspects of your yard. As you work through these components of the property, you can begin to form priorities about which aspects you want to remain the same, which you want to change, and which elements you’d like to move before you consult with a Ted Lare Design Build specialist. Take note of the following:

Shade – The shade areas of a property can be difficult to change, and unless you have a strong desire to remove a tree, it’s often best to work with the existing gradations of shade and sun when creating your layout. To help visualize the area, use your pencil to sketch a rough layout of the property and shade in areas with different darknesses to denote areas of full sun, part sun, dappled shade, part shade, and deep shade. Later on, this will help you to choose plants suited to the shady areas you have.

Soil – Soil is an amazingly complex component to every garden and so much of our planting success depends on our ability to match plants to the soils they’ll thrive in or amend the soil to suit the needs of our plants. A few things to consider when getting to know your soil:

  • Soil Types – From clay to peat to loam, the quality and structure of the soil dictates important features like moisture retention, drainage, and organic matter content. Soil amendments and mulch can help with correcting problem soil.
  • Soil Temperatures – Iowa occupies USDA zones 4 to 7, which is a pretty broad variation! In Central Iowa, we sit in zone 5, but we typically recommend using zone 4 plants.

Iowa Soils – Typically you will find your yard consists of black soil form the original farmland, or compacted dense clay from the development of your neighborhood.  Digging several holes in your yard 12 inches deep will tell you what you have to work with. If it is rich black soil, you are lucky and do not have to do anything to your soil before planting.  If it is dense clay, we recommend amending your soil with black dirt and compost.

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fiddle-leaf fig plant

Develop Your Garden Space

If you’re just establishing your garden for the first time, you have a big job ahead of you. Once you’ve completed your assessment of the area and decided how much of your space you want to develop into a garden, it’s time to make some decisions. This is a good time to get a Ted Lare Design Build landscape designer involved. Our experts can handle this part of the project to make sure your garden layout reflects the result you want. This will involve:

Removal and Soil Prep – Before you can create planting beds, you need to remove the old soil, sod, and debris in the way. Our team will clear out the material you don’t need and prepare the soil for planting.

Hardscape Design – You’ll want to discuss all the hardscapes you hope to incorporate, whether now or in the future, with your designer. That includes patios, pathways, retaining walls, water features, fire pits, decks, and pergolas. Our team has a lot of experience building each of these fixtures, and our designers can help you prioritize which hardscapes will have the biggest impact within your budget.

Locate All Trees – Well-maintained, mature trees enhance the appearance of all landscapes. Your professional will design your garden strategically around your trees so the final look works with them.

Fill Planting Beds – When it’s time to fill the planting beds, our experts take a strategic approach. We want to create structure in our design by planting shrubs, then create attractive green spaces with our choice of grasses. After that, we’ll plant perennial flowers that will become the foundations of our color palette, and then accentuate with annual flowers.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Plant Selection

While flowers and cover crops provide most of the fine details of our garden designs, larger plants also establish structure and framing of the overall space.

Ornamental trees create framing for the area, and can have extra benefits like shade, edible fruit, and added privacy. Shrubs and trees both have excellent potential for attracting wildlife, like our many beautiful native birds!

Planting trees and shrubs may seem daunting, but the process is generally not as involved as you might think and our garden professionals are more than equipped to assist you. Simply select a tree that works with your design, and before you know it, our team will have it planted and staked for you, ready to grow big and tall.

When choosing perennials, USDA zone is the most important factor to make decisions by. While our region of Central Iowa is considered zone 5, zone 4 plants have a much better shot at surviving our winters, especially if you live out of town where there’s less wind protection. We have tested a lot of these plants, so consult our Garden Center staff for more information on plants that work in Central Iowa.

Working with Wide Open Spaces – While urbanites with fenced properties may be happy with a few shrubs and trees to liven up small to medium properties, those in rural locations may be working with much larger territory to cover. Planting a forest in our backyards could be cumbersome, to say the least, so how do you fill in those acres best?

We’re big believers in the beauty of our native prairies. Prairies teem with important wildlife, and we love a field of wildflowers in the summertime. Consider establishing a prairie on larger properties to bring eco-friendly, rustic beauty to your acreage.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Low Maintenance Gardening and Planting

Planting a garden is a big job, and if you’re planting annuals, it’s a job that will need to be done every year. The key to consistency is enjoying the work. We’ve found the best way to take pleasure in gardening is to work with plants that work with, not against, the specifications of our properties.

Time-Saving Plants – Especially with larger properties, caring for many plants at once can quickly become overwhelming. Including a significant population of low-maintenance plants that require little upkeep can free up an enormous amount of time, allowing you to focus more time on the more demanding plants you can’t live without. Planting shrubs, perennial flowers, and annual flowers from potted containers, rather than growing plants from seeds, will also save time and allow you to enjoy some color during the planting season right away.

Effort-Saving Plants – Even if a plant variety requires very little upkeep on paper, a variety that isn’t naturally adapted to the Central Iowa climate or your soil conditions will end up demanding a great deal of effort once planted. Choosing native plants that thrive in our state will save you from taking on an exhausting uphill battle.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Maintaining Your Garden’s Beauty

Once your dream garden has been planted, the maintenance begins. Keeping notes on the needs of each of your plants can do wonders for simplifying the care schedule for your garden. Give some thought to these major maintenance areas when developing a care strategy:

Watering – All plants will require varying degrees of moisture to thrive. Manage thirstier plants with a quality natural wood mulch, and consider irrigation systems for gardens with large populations of delicate flowers. Your plants will need the most watering care the first year and then will need less time the following years, except in drought conditions.

Drainage – Sometimes the problem isn’t getting enough water, but having too much of it. If your downspouts don’t have proper drainage, you run the risk of flooding your garden during downpours. Consider installing a drainage system for your downspouts to route your rainwater where you want it to go.

Weeds – While there are ways to plant strategically to fight weed competition, it’s nearly impossible to eliminate weeds altogether. Using new, sterile garden soil at the time of planting will allow a head start on weeds by reducing the population of weeds in the seedbed, however, it is ideal to keep a weed pulling schedule and scout for new weeds every few days. Pulling a newly sprouted weed is always easier than dislodging an established one. They also have a much lower probability of growing back. After watering, weed management is the most important part of landscaping maintenance. If you let them go, your hard work and investment will be slowly destroyed.

Pest Management – When thinking about pest control, don’t just think small. While it’s always a good idea to have horticultural soaps and other natural solutions on hand for invasive insects, the pests that can do the most damage in the least amount of time are much larger. Deer-proofing your yard can save you from the devastation of waking up to a completely destroyed garden. Inspect fencing for small gateways, which can allow rabbits to come in and feast on your precious flowers and edibles, as well.

Patios are so much more than another entry into our homes. A well-loved patio becomes an extension of the home, and for many of us, our favorite part. Patios can be an urban retreat into nature, a refuge for winged wildlife, a gourmet dining experience, and a place where childhoods are made – all in one day. In many ways, how we build our patios dictate a lot about how we’ll build our memories with family and friends. By building our dream patio layout, we can enjoy the absolute best moments that homeownership has to offer.

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Backyard Patio Areas

Patios and a pool

A well-loved patio becomes an extension of the home, and formally of us, our favorite part.”

– Robert Frost

Outdoor Dining on the Patio    

Creating a Backyard Utopia

Patio Birdwatching

Family Leisure on the Patio

Our backyards are the setting of some of our fondest memories, serving many purposes. They are a place to gather, a place to relax, and a place to enjoy our own personal piece of nature. Landscaping sets the scene for your outdoor lifestyle, customizing your space for the way your family lives, dines, and plays, and it’s amazing how a fresh change in your backyard layout and materials can make your entire property feel brand new.

fiddle-leaf figs placed indoors

Outdoor Dining on the Patio

On those perfect summer days, we all love to take our meals outside and dine al fresco. Creating an outdoor space for enjoying meals with family and friends is one of the best investments you can make. Whether you’re clinking glasses with friends on the Fourth of July, hosting a barbeque birthday party for the little ones, or just enjoying a glass of wine and a bowl of cherries with your sweetheart, it’s always better on the patio.

Outdoor Dining on a Budget

While it’s a wonderful thing for your outdoor dining area to be all decked out, you can achieve a similar mood on a budget with a few small changes. A bistro set with an elegant table and chairs adds character and charm to small patios. For larger spaces, an outdoor dining set with an umbrella gives your patio a restaurant feel and some shade when needed. Hang overhead string lights for enchanting evening parties. Plant flowering shrubs around your patio border and install standing planters of annuals to surround your guests with color.

Outdoor Kitchens

For the outdoor dining enthusiast, an outdoor kitchen is a must-have feature. Today’s outdoor kitchens are available in materials that can be matched to the style of your home and patio, with high-end features like pizza ovens and wine fridges. Complete your outdoor kitchen with an outdoor dining room to complete the experience. Warning: your friends may never stop asking when you can host them next!

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fiddle-leaf fig plant

Creating a Backyard Utopia

For some of us, our backyards are sacred places. They’re a hideaway from our busy lives and a place to sit peacefully, meditate or read a good book. They are a relaxing location to reconnect with nature and enjoy the sights, smells, and sounds of the outdoors. Even a yard that’s little more than a fenced-in patch of lawn can be transformed into a natural paradise with a few the right design and installation team.

Water Features

Adding a water feature to your backyard truly adds a new element to your outdoor living space. A water feature can be purely decorative, like a natural stone fountain, or a ready-made habitat for frogs and fish, like a pond or waterfall. The sound of softly babbling water is nature’s background music for a relaxing day in the backyard.

Garden Paths & Seating

There’s something whimsical about a cobblestone path to lead you through a garden. Stone strikes a balance between the visually appealing and the practical, and can be used in so many ways. Stone steppers organize spaces while keeping the natural aesthetic of your garden, while larger vertical stones and boulders provide endless options for outcropping, seating, and decoration. Wherever your garden path leads, a garden bench, swing, or conversation set is the final touch to give you a cozy little spot to enjoy your backyard oasis.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Patio Birdwatching

Over 429 bird species call Iowa home, and your backyard is a convenient spot to observe them in action. If you’re a natural birdwatcher, a few changes in your backyard environment can bring more feathered friends into view and keep you comfortable for hours of observation.

Attracting Birds to Your Backyard

For some of us, outdoor time is for the birds! Coax them in by creating a bird-friendly environment. Plant different varieties of ornamental trees around the yard, which will appeal to a broader range of bird species, or native plants to attract familiar faces. Some birds get territorial over their preferred birdfeeders, so it’s a good idea to spread out several feeders with assorted seed to reduce competition. If you don’t have a water feature, a simple pump fountain or birdbath offers birds a place to refresh themselves – a delightful sight to watch!

Birdwatching from the Patio

Birdwatching is a waiting game, so your ability to birdwatch goes only as far as your ability to sit comfortably. A place to relax in the shade will allow you to stay vigilant without getting too much sun in your eyes, or your skin! Make sure your backyard’s best viewing spot is complete with comfortable outdoor furniture, an outdoor-friendly coffee table for beverages, and a good pair of binoculars.

fiddle-leaf fig plant

Family Leisure on the Patio

Childhood should take place outdoors as much as possible. Spending time out in nature and away from technology gives you and your children or grandchildren a space to unplug, bond, and make new memories. Many of your favorite summer vacation activities can be recreated right on your property without losing any of the magic.

Backyard Activities for Kids

Kids love the outdoors as much as adults do, but they need a stimulating environment to let their imaginations run wild. Within safe view of the patio, installing an outdoor play structure or swing set gives them a chance to interact, pretend, and get some exercise in the fresh air. An in-ground pool makes for a whole new level of fun for all ages, and secures your home as the place to be on hot summer days. Encourage a love for nature by letting kids paint birdhouses or make DIY birdfeeders to incorporate in the backyard environment.

Backyard Activities for Families

The moments we spend with many generations of family at once are the ones we remember our whole lives. Kids, parents, and grandparents may not have the same taste in movies, beverages, or music, but the natural setting of your backyard is a place where none of that has to matter. While roasting hot dogs and marshmallows around the fire, we can put the focus on storytelling and togetherness. A round of board games on the patio table opens the air for laughter. The patio also makes a great referee stand for a pickup game of badminton or soccer.

Building a Family-Friendly Deck or Patio

When there are active kids in the picture, the less time we have for for deck and patio maintenance. Using low-maintenance materials and furniture makes messy activities, like tie-dying and foam fights, a stress-free affair to clean up. To create an atmosphere of warmth in the evening, try adding string lights or an LED lighting system around your patio seating. Cap things off with beautiful flower planters with colorful annuals and a porch swing or hammock to add a fun, whimsical feature for relaxing and chatting for everyone in the family.

Patios are so much more than another entry into our homes. A well-loved patio becomes an extension of the home, and for many of us, our favorite part. Patios can be an urban retreat into nature, a refuge for winged wildlife, a gourmet dining experience, and a place where childhoods are made – all in one day. In many ways, how we build our patios dictate a lot about how we’ll build our memories with family and friends. By building our dream patio layout, we can enjoy the absolute best moments that homeownership has to offer.