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Working with a Landscape Pro- Your Questions Answered

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

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

The First Step: The Phone Consultation  

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

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

 

Next Steps: The On-Site Consultation

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

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

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

Common Questions during the Consultation 

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

 

What are your goals? 

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

 
How do you live? 

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

 

What are your tastes? 

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

 

What is your budget? 

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

 

Information Gathered for Design 

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

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

Design Timeline 

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

Moving Forward 

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

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


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

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Easy Vegetables To Grow for New or Seasoned Gardeners

Whether you’re new to vegetable gardening or have been at it for years, having some easy to grow vegetables in your garden plots allows you to maximize your yield without adding extra work to your schedule. In strange times like these, growing your own food is a great way to support your family by avoiding grocery store trips, while also giving you some garden therapy to help you relax. Growing some easy veggies ensures you a successful harvest, even if you’re busy entertaining kids, working from home, or just feeling overwhelmed. A tiny bit of effort now will pay dividends this spring and summer!

Here are 5 vegetables that are super easy to grow in Iowa and require very little maintenance or attention. Plant them, water them, and soon you’ll be harvesting your own homegrown produce aisle!

Beans

Green beans, purple beans, pole beans, and yellow beans are all super easy to grow. Beans are pretty resilient and self-reliant. If you choose a climbing type, make sure they have something to climb like a lattice, poles, chicken wire, or a fence. Beans are also a great way to get kids involved because the seeds are large enough for little hands to space out properly in furrows. Beans also grow pretty fast, so you’ll be eating them fresh in no time. 

Carrots

Carrots are another easy grower that pretty much take care of themselves. Because carrot seeds are tiny, it may be challenging to space them well. Once they are about 4 inches tall, it’s a good idea to thin out the seedlings a bit. Look for the tiniest seedlings and pull them out. Give each seedling a little more space, aiming for an area about the width of your thumb in between seedlings.

Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes are delicious, and like beans, they don’t require much maintenance. Because they are considered determinate tomatoes, also called bush varieties, cherry tomatoes don’t need any pruning. They will do better with support of some kind, like a tomato cage, but otherwise, you can simply make sure they’re watered and fertilized regularly. Before too long, you’ll have some delicious baby tomatoes for salads or snacking on straight off the vine.

Lettuce

Lettuce is super easy to grow, and this one you can even do indoors near a south-facing window. There are many different varieties of lettuce available, from red leaf to romaine. Kale, spinach, and arugula are also very easy to grow. If you plant a new crop of seed every two weeks, you’ll have fresh lettuce for sandwiches and salads all year long, even through the winter. 

Cucumbers

Cucumbers are also quite easy to grow. There are many varieties available for eating fresh or pickling. Cucumbers do tend to spread, so make sure they’ve got lots of space in the garden bed. Giving them a structure to climb, like a lattice or wire hoops, will make it easier to pick them later and keep them off the soil where they may start to rot. It’s a good idea to wear gloves and long sleeves when you’re harvesting cucumbers, as they have rather prickly stems and leaves.

The most important thing to remember when growing these veggies in Iowa is to keep an eye on the soil moisture. Tomatoes especially tend to be thirsty plants, so make sure they’re getting watered regularly if it’s not raining much. During Iowa’s hot mid-summer days, you’ll need to water more or less every day unless it rains. That’s another activity kids are usually more than happy to help with, so get the whole family involved in your gardening efforts!


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If you’re feeling inspired, why not try adding a few herbs to your easy-grow garden as well? Herbs like chives, parsley, mint, and oregano are just as simple to grow as the veggies above. Whatever you need to get started growing, from containers to soil to seeds to plants, we can help you out. With curbside pickup or delivery, just call ahead and tell us what you need, and we’ll get it ready to load straight into your vehicle.   

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Garden Therapy: Reduce Stress and Improve Your Wellbeing

A little garden therapy can help reduce stress, improve mental health, boost our mood, release endorphins and engage our creativity. In these challenging times, it’s even more important to look after our mental health. Gardening can also help give us more of a sense of stability and security since we can take an active role in growing some of our own food. 

While the Ted Lare garden center is not currently open for browsing, we still want to support you to try some “garden therapy” for yourself. We’ve adapted our operations to still allow you to safely shop for the things you need for your garden—from plants, to tools, to soil.

 

Curbside Pickup

We’re implementing a curbside pickup option for orders. Currently, you can view a variety of items we have available on our Facebook or Instagram. Keep your eyes on our social media, as we’ll be posting daily videos of the exciting items we have in-store.

Local Delivery

We’re offering free local delivery for all purchases of $50 or more in the Des Moines metro area and surrounding suburbs.

 

Options for Ordering

Ordering On the Phone: We want to make it as easy and safe as possible for you to get what you need for your garden. To that end, we have arranged a dedicated cell phone and concierge service so you can shop from the comfort of your home. You can text us, FaceTime us, or phone us, and we’ll walk through what you need. We’ll then put your order together, get it set up for curbside pickup or delivery, and give you the total for your order and then we’ll take payment over the phone.  Once your order is ready to go, we’ll give you a call to let you know it’s ready for pickup, or to schedule delivery. 

Online Ordering: We are in the process of uploading all of our products to our website for online shopping. We’re adding more items every day, so keep checking back. If you don’t see the product you’re looking for, give our concierge a call at 515-205-6985.

Gift Cards: If you’re not sure what you quite yet, or if you’re looking for a great gift idea, consider a Ted Lare gift card! We’re currently offering our gift cards on a 20% off sale. Whether you want to purchase later in the season, stop by once we open to the public again, or give a gift to cheer up a friend, gift cards are a great option for everyone. You can purchase them online via our website, or you can call our concierge to get set up.  

Garden Therapy: Sensory Gardens

Sensory Gardening is a great way to engage all five senses to help you be mindful and present. A sensory garden generally includes plants that can trigger each sense: touch, sight, sound, smell, and taste. Sensory gardens can also fit spaces of any size. Whether you have a corner of the yard to work with or a single pot on the porch, you can create a sensory garden.

Herbs can often do double duty, stimulating your senses of taste and smell, as can easy-to-grow vegetables like tomatoes and peppers. 

Plants with larger leaves that rustle together in the wind add a gentle, soothing sound. Water, whether in a large water feature or a small tabletop fountain, also creates calming white noise to help you stay in the moment. 

Brightly-colored flowers, like pansies, add that hit of brilliant color for an energizing visual effect. In the gardening world, there’s no shortage of options for creating a visually beautiful design! For the best effect, choose the colors and shapes that you feel most drawn to. If it makes you feel happy, it’s good for you!

Plants with interesting textures beg to be touched. Try wooly thyme, dusty miller, lambs ear, or chenille plant, which all have wonderful soft and fuzzy flowers or foliage. 

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We’re committed to keeping our community of Des Moines safe, and encouraging positive mental health care during this time. Give us a call if we can help you get set up for some garden therapy. By supporting each other, we can make it through!

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Repotting: The Signs To Watch For And How To Do It

Repotting houseplants seems like a pretty straightforward task, and we’re often tempted to repot our new plants as soon as we get them home. However, repotting can be a somewhat traumatic experience for plants, and some are more sensitive to this disruption than others. The journey from the garden center to your home is quite an adjustment for your plants, and they should be given a little time to rest before repotting.

When Should I Repot My Houseplants?

Repotting houseplants is best done when the plants are actively growing, which happens from April through August here in Iowa. After this time, plants go dormant, and repotting should be avoided unless the plant is showing signs of being severely rootbound. If you’ve brought a new houseplant home, give it about 3-5 days to rest and adjust to its new environment before you repot it.

A Bigger Plant Pot is Not Always Better

Overplanting is a common problem with houseplants. Overplanting happens when plants are repotted into containers that are too large, leaving a small root system sitting in a large volume of potting soil. This contributes to over watering problems and can cause poor root development and root rot. Most plants like to be potted in smaller containers, and it’s okay for them to be a little rootbound. We recommend sizing up no more than one size from the current pot. This is usually done in 2” increments for pot sizes.

If you are planting a plant that prefers specific conditions, like an orchid, it may need a specialized container. Orchid containers have large holes in the side of the pot for extra air circulation around the roots. 
   


What Type of Soil Should I Use?

Most houseplants will benefit from a good quality potting mix; there are even a few available designed specifically for certain houseplants. 

Some plants, like orchids and cacti, definitely need specialty mixes. Orchid potting mix and cactus mix are both free draining, but they feature very different types of materials. Planting orchids or succulents in other media can cause disease and root rot problems from overwatering.

How Do I Deal with Rootbound Plants?

When you remove your plant out of the old container, you will often see tangled roots. When you see more roots than soil, it means the plant is rootbound or potbound. In some cases, this can require an intervention. When repotting, it’s crucial to separate these roots before planting in the new pot. Very gently, pull some of the roots apart and untangle them from each other. Take out as much of the old soil as you can at the same time. You will break some roots while you’re doing this, but that’s okay. Some broken roots will encourage the plant to grow new roots (however, orchids are an exception to this rule). Carefully place the plant roots into the new pot prepared with a layer of fresh orchid mix at the bottom, and backfill around and over the roots. Leave about half an inch of space between the lip of the pot and the top of the soil line to allow room for watering.  

 

Orchids Are The Exception

Some specialized plants have their own rules that need to be followed using the example above. Orchid roots don’t grow the way other plants do, so do your best not to damage or break any of the roots while repotting—be very delicate. Orchids also like to have some air roots, so leave some of them exposed. 

Repotting After Care Tips

Tropicals and foliage plants should be soaked deeply right after repotting. 

Cacti should not have their watering schedule adjusted when repotted—place them in the new pot and don’t water them until they’re due for a drink. 

Should I Fertilize After Repotting?

It may be tempting to break out the fertilizer after repotting. However, it’s best to wait at least a month before fertilizing. Fresh potting soil is loaded with the nutrients your plant needs to get a good head start on growing new roots, so fertilizer shouldn’t be required for up to 3 months depending on your mix.

Whatever you need for repotting your houseplants this spring, we’ve got you covered. Stop by our garden center today, and we’ll send you home with everything you need to make repotting as trauma-free as possible for your houseplants. 

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If you’re looking to add some exotic, strange, or straight-up strange-looking plants to your home, stop by our garden center. We’ve got plenty of weird and wonderful houseplants for you to discover! 

 

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Top 5 Hardy Magnolia Trees for Iowa

Magnolia trees are not something that many people associate with Iowa. Most commonly, magnolia is associated with the Deep South, where they grow abundantly and perfume the air with their large, fragrant, tulip-like flowers. 

While it’s true that we can’t grow all the varieties that thrive in the warmer climates of the South, there are actually many hardy varieties that will grow and thrive right here in the heartland. There are easily 40-50 different cultivars that are suited to our local climate here in central Iowa. The range of flower colors available is actually quite broad, too, from white to yellow to a whole spectrum of pinks. 

Magnolias are an absolute show-stopper when they’re in full bloom in the spring. Often, the trees will be covered entirely in blossoms without a single leaf in sight, filling the air with their unique citrusy scent. 

There are so many varieties of magnolia available that there’s one for almost every setting, climate, and desired bloom time. There are very tall and very short varieties and some that bloom as early as March or as late as June, in so many different colors. While most of them enjoy lots of sunlight, there are even a few magnolias that will do well in a shady spot. 

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Hardy Magnolias For Iowa

One of the common historical problems with magnolia in the midwest has been that they’d often get hit with a late spring frost during critical blooming periods, and their blossoms would not be hardy enough to withstand the freezing temperatures. Luckily, there’s been lots of research and development put into magnolia breeding. Over time, many later-blooming varieties have been bred to avoid those late spring frosts we often get. 

Here are our top five hardy magnolia trees for your Iowa yard or garden.

Royal Star Magnolia is a fairly compact magnolia that can be pruned as a shrub or tree. It can grow up to a height of 20′ tall and up to 15′ wide. It features large-yet-dainty 6″ bright white double blooms that open to release their sweet fragrance in March. Royal Star performs best in a full to part sun location. This cultivar is a brilliant addition to moonlight or white-themed gardens. 

Ann Magnolia is another compact variety, maxing out at 15′ tall and 12′ wide. It features gorgeous blossoms, with petals that are dark reddish-pink on the outside and pale pink to white on the inside. They open in April and get to be 4-6″ across. Ann magnolia likes full to part sun.

Butterflies Magnolia is considered one of the finest yellow magnolias. It is a medium-sized tree reaching up to 30′ tall to 15′ wide. The blooms of Butterflies magnolia are a beautiful canary yellow with a rich lemony fragrance. They open in April and are about 4-6″ across. Butterflies magnolia likes sunlight, but it can also tolerate a fair bit of shade compared to other varieties. 

Umbrella Magnolia is a medium-sized tree growing up to 20′ tall and 15′ wide. It features very large, creamy-white flowers with huge tropical-looking leaves. It is not as fragrant as other varieties, but its blossoms are exceptionally showy. Its 6-10″ blooms burst to life in May or June. Umbrella magnolia will do well in the shade; it’s native to North America and grows commonly in the understory of the Appalachian Mountains.  

Black Tulip Magnolia is a smaller tree reaching 15′ tall and 12′ wide. It features the darkest magnolia flowers of the bunch, with deep burgundy-red blooms that open in April. Black Tulip magnolia will do best in a full sun location.

There’s nothing like the drama of a magnolia tree in bloom to celebrate the season of spring. If you’d like to consider adding a beautiful magnolia to your yard, stop by our garden center today. We can help you select the perfect variety for your yard. 

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How to Make a Driftwood Succulent Planter

Succulents are some of the decade’s most popular houseplants. Since these adorable plants are typically small enough to group into fun arrangements, more and more people are getting crafty to find new and unique ways to display their succulents. One of our favorite looks is the driftwood succulent planter. Whether you’ve collected some driftwood from Iowa‘s lakes and rivers or brought some home from a trip to the coast, these planters are a great way to use driftwood as part of your home decor.

The dry and weathered wood is a perfect match for succulents. It’s very similar to the dry, natural surroundings that wild succulents thrive in. With a few supplies and a handsome chunk of driftwood, you can make your own DIY driftwood succulent planter

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A large piece of driftwood (choose one that has gaps or grooves about ¼” in deep, or that is large enough that you can drill a hole in it to hold some soil)
  • Succulent or cactus soil 
  • Sphagnum moss
  • E6000 or floral glue
  • Assortment of succulents
  • Optional: A drill and a Forstner or spade drill bit, or a Dremel with a cutting bit

 

How to Create a Driftwood Succulent Planter

  1. Clean up your driftwood. If it’s dirty, rinse off any dirt or sand. If you’re worried about bugs in your driftwood, you can bake it in the oven at 250º for 2 hours. If you line a baking tray with parchment paper, it makes cleanup a lot easier when you’ve finished baking the wood. 
  2. Once your driftwood is at room temperature again, decide how you want to position it. Usually, its most stable resting position is best if you’re going to use it as a centerpiece or mantel ornament. If you want to hang it, you can choose whatever angle you like best. 
  3. If your driftwood does not have any gaps or holes deeper than ¼”, you may need to make the gaps deeper and wider or drill holes with a spade or Forstner drill bit. Don’t drill all the way through, however. The holes for soil only need to be about ¼-½” deep. 
  4. Once you’ve decided where you’re going to place your succulents, glue a thin layer of sphagnum moss into the bottom of those spots. This will help to keep the soil in, so it doesn’t wash away as soon as you water your plants.
  5. Then, fill your gaps or holes with a little bit of cactus potting soil. You don’t need much, but enough to give the succulents somewhere to develop a few roots.
  6. Clean off excess dirt on your succulents.

  1. Decide on your plant placement, but don’t put them in just yet.
  2. Once you’ve decided where you want your plants, glue some more sphagnum moss around the edges of those areas.
  3. Place one or two tiny dabs of glue on the underside of a couple of the leaves of your succulents, and press it into its new location, so the glue sticks to the sphagnum moss. 
  4. Continue gluing in each of your succulents. Remember not to cover the base in glue completely, or the plant won’t be able to put out any roots and will die fairly quickly.
  5. Once all your gaps are full of succulents, let your finished driftwood planter set overnight. 
  6. The next day, water your succulents with just a little bit of water—you may need a syringe or eye-dropper to get the water in the right place. Remember, succulents don’t need much water.

Congrats, your succulent planter is complete! When you water it in the future, you may want to set it in the sink or on a tray to make sure you catch any drips. If any of the plants die, simply pull them off and glue a new one in its place. If you’d like to hang your succulent planter, you can loop some strong twine, double-looped fishing line, or rope around the ends and hang it however you please. 

Ready to make your own DIY driftwood succulent planter? Come on down to our garden center; we’ve got everything you need to get started, including a large selection of fun and unique succulents!

 

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5 Houseplants with the Most Amazing Leaves

It’s always exciting to bring a new houseplant home. But if you’re tired of the same old plain green leaves, why not look for something more exotic the next time you shop for indoor plants? There are plenty of intriguing species we can grow indoors with unique leaves packed with personality! Here are a few of our favorite striking indoor plants for Iowa

Fittonia, often called Nerve Plants, are dramatic in more ways than one. They have striking dark green leaves with bright red or white veins. They’re beautiful to look at, and they can tolerate fairly low-light situations. However, they’re very dramatic about being watered. If you let their soil dry, they’ll wilt and collapse as if the world has ended. Luckily, it hasn’t (unless you leave them like that for days on end!). Give them a thorough soaking, and they’ll perk back up within a few hours like nothing ever happened.

Lithops, often called Living Stones, are an unusual family of succulents that actually look like rocks! They’re native to very dry areas of southern Africa, and some even survive in areas that get less than 2″ of rain each year. They stay small and low-profile, and they can go months without water. However, they do need full direct sunlight for a minimum of 5 hours per day. A bit of extra shade in the heat of the afternoon is helpful. 

The warning to NOT overwater these guys is super important. Lithops are dormant for spring and summer, so don’t water them then unless the leaves start to shrivel. At that time, only offer a small amount, just enough to moisten the top of the soil. They start growing again in August or September, and plants that are at least three years old may bloom in the fall, producing cute little spiky flowers. 

In the fall, you can give them one deep watering, but make sure they have good drainage. Cactus soil is ideal, as it prevents them from staying wet for very long. Stop watering altogether by the end of September. They grow through the winter, but they need the soil to be very dry to complete their growing cycle. Do not be tempted to water if the old leaves start to shrivel; this is a normal part of their growth and reproduction process.

Staghorn Ferns have recently become more popular for their large leaves that look like moose antlers. Staghorns are epiphytic, which means that in the wild, they attach themselves to other plants and don’t grow in soil. They do best when mounted on a hanging platform of some sort, or in a hanging wire or mesh basket with little to no soil. An orchid bark mix would be well suited for staghorn. 

So, how do you water a staghorn? There are two primary ways to make sure your fern is getting enough moisture. They like humidity, so if your home is dry, you may need to mist even once per day during the driest parts of the year. The higher the humidity in the area, the less frequently you’ll need to mist or water. 

The second watering method is to soak the roots. You can dunk the entire root ball into a bowl or sink of room temperature water for a minute or two. You’ll have to pay attention to your fern to figure out how it likes to be watered. Fronds beginning to go black or brown at the base means it’s getting overwatered. Wilty fronds with brown tips are telling you the plant needs a bit more frequent watering.

Sensitive Plant has leaves that may not be that exciting to look at from a distance, but they are truly fascinating when you get closer. Kids and adults alike love to interact with this plant, because as soon as you touch its tiny leaves, they fold up and move away from your finger, only to reopen a few minutes later. This amazing reaction is a defense mechanism to keep the plant from being eaten by herbivores. Don’t touch it too often, though, as the constant folding/unfolding is stressful and weakens the plant.

The sensitive plant likes bright light, with some direct sun in the morning and high humidity. It is poisonous, so keep the plant out of reach of kids and pets and watch closely when allowing kids to interact with the leaves. Let the top of the soil dry before watering again, but don’t ever let the whole pot dry out completely. Sensitive plants can benefit from a few applications of all-purpose houseplant fertilizer during its growing season. 

Mother of 1000s is a variety of kalanchoe. Its thick triangular leaves propagate little baby plantlets all along the edges. This is another succulent species, so it needs excellent drainage; cactus soil is best. In the tropics, Mother of 1000’s can become invasive because the babies simply drop off when they’re ready and can quickly fill in an area. 

Mother of 1000’s likes plenty of indirect light, so they should be close to a window with a sheer curtain to protect the plant from direct sunlight. Thanks to its succulent leaves, it doesn’t need to be watered too frequently. Allow the top 2 inches of soil to dry out before watering. 

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If you’re looking to add some exotic, strange, or straight-up strange-looking plants to your home, stop by our garden center. We’ve got plenty of weird and wonderful houseplants for you to discover! 

 

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Forsythia: A Cloud of Yellow Spring Delight

Forsythia is a classic shrub that has been around in North America for a long time. They fell out of fashion for a while, but they’re back in style for 2020! Forsythia is fairly easy to care for, as long as you give it a full sun location. They also make great foundational or screening plants, with some varieties reaching heights up to 6′ tall and wide. Besides being reliable and easy to grow, they feature some of the earliest spring color of the year—and these shrubs sure know how to put on a show! 

Before the leaves come out in the spring, the long willowy branches of forsythia burst with flowers from top to bottom, similar to Magnolia trees. The flowers are quite small, but their color and abundance are astonishing. Forsythia blossoms are the brightest yellows you’ll see. They practically glow when they’re in full bloom, and can be seen from a long way away. Forsythia branches also make a gorgeous cut flower arrangement if they’re cut and brought indoors just before they bloom. 

But, there is one common challenge and frustration that we hear from some people who have forsythia shrubs, which is that their forsythia never blooms. This is because forsythia is a bit of an odd plant. 

Technically, most forsythias are winter-hardy to zone 3, so theoretically, they should grow just fine here in Iowa. But the trick is that not all forsythia flower buds are winter-hardy to the same zone as the plant itself. Since the buds for the next year set right after it flowers, they are susceptible to winter damage. For example, Forsythia ‘Lynwood Gold’ is listed as hardy to zone 5, so it should be able to withstand temperatures down to -15º or -20º F, but the flower buds sustain severe damage in weather colder than -7º. This means, upon the arrival of spring, the shrub is left with lots of branches and leaves but will struggle to bloom. 

However, don’t lose hope on these stunning golden-yellow shrubs! Lots of work has gone into breeding forsythia varieties that have hardier buds. So, if you want that nearly fluorescent cloud of spring color in your yard, it all comes down to picking the right cultivars.

Here are a few of our favorite varieties of forsythia that should bloom heartily here in Iowa. 

Forsythia Northern Sun reaches heights up to 8′ tall. Its golden-yellow blossoms are hardy to temperatures of -20ºF. 

Forsythia Northern Gold gets up to 8′ tall as well. Its blooms are a slightly richer gold color than Northern Sun. Its flowers are also hardy to -20ºF. 

Forsythia New Hampshire Gold is slightly smaller, reaching up to 5′ tall. Its flowers are a deep yellow, and it’s hardy down to -20ºF as well. 

Meadowlark Forsythia is also a bigger variety, reaching up to 8′ tall. It’s even tougher than the rest, with buds that are winter-hardy down to -35ºF. Meadowlark is an excellent choice if you live on the prairie where the winter weather can get especially extreme.

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Forsythia is a beautiful addition to any garden. If you’re looking for a forsythia hardy enough to bloom in Iowa, visit our garden center! We’ll make sure you find a variety that will erupt with cheerful yellow blooms year after year.

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Beautiful Early Spring Flowers for Your Iowa Garden

Bright, cheery flowers are certainly a welcome sight after a long dreary winter in Iowa. Sure, there are the show-stealers like tulips and daffodils, but what about tiny jewels of early spring? The dainty little blooms that bravely burst into blossom early on, standing proud in the garden—and sometimes even in the snow!

We’ve got a few all-time-favorite must-haves for our own flower gardens that herald the arrival of spring. By the way, if you find yourself wanting to get your hands on these for your garden, you can pre-order them as bulbs to plant this fall and fill your garden with early spring flowers next year!

Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) are bright yellow little charmers, each standing about 5″ tall. Don’t let their small size fool you, though; even a small clump will produce an impressive display of vibrant flowers in March when everything else is still dormant and brown. These little guys are native to dark woodlands of France and Bulgaria, which means they will perform well even in dense shade gardens. Did we mention they are rabbit, deer, and squirrel-proof?

Snow Crocus (Crocus chrysanthus) are dazzling flowers, not to be confused with the larger Dutch Crocus (usually solid in white, purple, and yellow). Instead, Snow Crocus is a bit smaller in size and blooms two weeks earlier in March. They’re available in a variety of pastel and even variegated colors! Snow Crocuses are about 5″ tall and naturalize easily into lawns because their foliage looks just like grass. 

Snow Iris (Iris reticulata) is a favorite among our staff. Many of our employees have these in their gardens, and they all agree: they are amazing! They bloom about the same time as Snow Crocus, in early March. These beauties of late winter come in colors like electric blue, royal purple, or golden yellow. They grow to be about 6″ tall, look stunning in clumps, and they will naturalize over time.

Lenten Rose (Hellebore) is a little different from the others on our list. They are not technically a bulb, though we plant them in a similar way! Lenten roses come in a wide range of solid or mixed colors ranging from white or buttery yellow to intense black or purple. Some varieties even have luscious double blooms! They grow to about 1′ tall and usually flower in mid-March, although their little flower buds can often be seen poking up even earlier. This perennial has nicely shaped leaves that hold up well throughout summer and even into early winter. Hellebores are a gardener’s joy as they’re squirrel, rabbit, and deer-resistant, and they love a good shade garden! Hellebores should be purchased and planted in spring.

We saved the best for last: Greater Snowdrop (Galanthus elwesii). Snowdrop is our absolute favorite early spring flower, but not just any snowdrop–it has to be the Elwesii Snowdrop! This plant is incredibly hardy and is the first to flower every season, usually popping up and blossoming in February. It has even been known to bloom as early as January here in Iowa! They grow to about 5″ tall and feature a graceful white bell-shaped flower. Early foraging pollinators flock to its pollen. Snowdrops are also rabbit, squirrel, and deer-resistant. This flower is one of the few plants that pop up like magic at the first sign of warmth in spring! 

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Are you ready to add some early spring flowers in Iowa to your garden? Stop by our garden center to ask about our favorites or pre-order online. Hellebores will be available as bedding plants for planting later this spring; the rest of this list should be planted in fall. Make sure to sign up for our newsletter to receive updates on what to plant each month for a full year of gorgeous color!

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Decoding Houseplant Fertilizer: What, When, & How Much

It may seem like fertilizing your houseplants is too complicated, so it’s just easier to skip it. However, fertilizer is the only way for houseplants to get the nutrients they need in their small, controlled environments. Since houseplants are kept in pots, soil nutrients don’t get replenished in the soil the way it does outdoors. By leaving fertilizing out of your houseplant maintenance routine, you may be missing out on the true potential of your favorite plants!

As we head into spring in Iowa, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about giving your houseplants a boost as they begin to come out of their winter rest period.

What is in Fertilizer?

Fertilizer is most commonly a mix of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). The amounts of each of these nutrients are called the NPK ratio. They’re commonly seen on fertilizer packaging as numeric ratios, like 10-10-10, or 6-12-4. Most fertilizers also include trace amounts of other minerals and nutrients that your plants need. Most houseplants do best with a balanced (i.e., 10-10-10 or 20-20-20) fertilizer specifically designed for houseplants, or a formula with a higher nitrogen number. But, houseplants that flower need a fertilizer with a higher phosphorus number to support blooming. Some of the more finicky bloomers, like African Violets, have specific fertilizers formulated just for them. Higher nitrogen promotes more greenery and lush leaves, high phosphorus promotes more blooms.

 


What Type of Fertilizer is Best?

There are so many fertilizer options available, it can be hard to decide on the right one. We recommend two guidelines when choosing fertilizer:

  1. Make sure it says on the packaging that it’s specifically for houseplants.
  2. Consider an organic brand if possible.

The reason for these guidelines is that fertilizer for outdoor plants or lawns has different ratios of nutrients and minerals because indoor and outdoor plants have different nutrient needs. 

We recommend organic fertilizers because they’re healthier for your plant’s soil, and our planet, in the long term. Organic fertilizers are created from organic compounds in things like seaweed, compost, or worm castings. Synthetic fertilizers are often created from inorganic compounds that are a byproduct of the petroleum industry. These products deliver nutrients, but that’s where the benefits end. Organic products give your plants and soil a boost by adding organic matter that helps to repair nutrient-depleted soil, along with beneficial microbes that contribute to healthier soil over time. 

If you do prefer synthetic fertilizers, we recommend Scott’s Osmocote for houseplants. It comes in a pellet form that dissolves slowly, and you only need to use more every four months. It makes fertilizing houseplants super quick and simple. 

The organic fertilizer line we recommend is Espoma. Espoma’s products are of excellent quality, and they have a variety of different organic fertilizer options, including easy-to-use liquid formulas. 

 


How to Fertilizer Your Houseplants

Here are a few essential tips to remember when you fertilize your houseplants.

  • Only fertilize during the growing season (once you start seeing signs of new growth, or in mid-March), avoid fertilizing your houseplants in winter.
  • Be conservative in the spring and fall and dilute the fertilizer to half the recommended strength.
  • Taper off fertilizer applications. Starting in mid-August, diluting to half-strength again, and fertilizing less frequently.
  • Liquid fertilizers should usually be applied every 2 weeks. Always water plants with plain water before applying liquid fertilizer.
  • Granular fertilizers are usually applied once a month.
  • Slow-release fertilizers are usually applied once every 4 months.
  • Some fertilizers can be applied as a spray to the leaves, check the bottle for instructions.

We don’t recommend fertilizing succulents and cacti. It can be tricky to make sure they get the right amount, and too much fertilizer might kill them!

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Fertilizing your houseplants is pretty simple, and it’s not something to avoid. Your houseplants will thank you for feeding them with healthy, vigorous growth during their growing season! If you’ve got any questions at all, stop by our garden center and ask our expert staff. We can help you figure out which product is best for you and explain how to use it.