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Why We Need to Diversify Urban Landscapes: The Urban Forest

different types of trees in a landscape ted lare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tree Diversity for Healthier Communities

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

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

You Can Help Improve Biodiversity In Your Yard

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

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

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

5 Unique Trees To Plant In Your Yard 

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

 

Fort McNair Horse Chestnut Ted Lare

Fort McNair Horse Chestnut 

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

 

American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)

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

 

Tulip Tree Ted Lare

Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) 

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

 

Cucumber Tree Ted Lare

Cucumber Tree (Magnolia acuminata) 

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

 

American Hornbeam Ted Lare

American Hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana) 

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

 

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

 

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Dazzling Daylilies for Your Iowa Garden

Who doesn’t love daylilies? They’re a reliable, easy to grow perennial that flowers beautifully. Because they’re so popular and easy to grow, breeders have developed and registered over 15,000 varieties!

Daylilies are a great plant to make the transition from spring to midsummer. These are primarily a June to July bloomer here in Iowa. They are named daylilies because each individual flower lasts only a single day. But, new flowers continually open, almost every day, and the blooming period can last three weeks or more. 

Daylilies have come a long way from the orange or yellow ones that used to be so common. They now come in a staggering variety of styles, heights, and colors. Almost any color, and color combination, that you can think of! 

There are early, late, and even reblooming varieties of daylily. Some varieties have double blossoms, some have wider open-faced flowers, some have long, slender, curving leaves, and some have a ruffled edge on their petals. The new varieties are also great because, unlike the old ditch lilies, the new varieties don’t take over your flower beds. 

 

daylily garden ted lare

How to Grow Daylilies

Daylilies are pretty low maintenance; if you get them set up in a good location, they’ll reward you with blooms for many years to come. You can essentially plant these and forget about them. Water when you plant them, and let them get to growing. If the weather is really dry, it would be good to water them every now and then. You can use some bulb fertilizer when you plant them, but you won’t need to fertilize them again. 

Daylilies need good drainage and full sun for at least half the day. Some shade in the afternoon is ok and can help some of the darker colored daylilies retain their blossom color. 

  

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Daylilies should be divided every 4-5 years when they become crowded and flowering declines. Late summer is the best time to separate them. Simply dig up the whole clump and use a sharp knife to split them into smaller clumps, with 2-3 fans of leaves and lots of roots. Immediately replant them and cut the foliage back to about 6 inches tall. 

Here are a few Awesome Daylilies to add to your collection.

Tuscawilla Tigress has huge tangerine-orange blooms with soft orange rays. These flowers may get as big as 8 inches across!

tuscawilla tigress and Moses fire daylily ted lare

 

Moses Fire is a stunning mid-season rebloomer. Its cherry-red double blossoms feature gold edges with hints of gold variegations on the petals. 


Bridgeton Invention is a stunning mid-season rebloomer. It features creamy-white petals with a deep magenta eye-zone that fades into the yellow throat.

 

Bright Invention and Scarlet Orbit daylily greenstreet gardens

 

Scarlet Orbit is a gorgeous deep red daylily with a chartreuse yellow throat.  It is an early bloomer and has a beautiful fragrance. . 

Chesapeake Crab Legs a showstopping mid-season rebloomer with ruffled spider style flowers. It features rich orangey-red petals with subtle rays of orange and a chevron pattern at the top of its yellow throat.

 

chesapeake crab legs and witch's hand ted lare

 

Witches Hand is a mid-season rebloomer featuring dark burgundy-almost black petals, with a golden yellow throat. 

Now is an excellent time to add some daylilies to your garden for gorgeous and reliable flowers every year. You may even get a few blooms on mid-season varieties this season! Stop by the garden center, shop online, or call ahead to find out what varieties we have available. 

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Monstera adansonii: 2020’s Top Trending Houseplant

monstera adansonii ted lare

Monstera adansonii has quickly become the top trending houseplant for 2020. Everyone wants one, and they can be tricky to find. If you’re thinking “hang on, wasn’t Monstera the top trending plant of 2019 as well?” You’d be correct, but that was a different type of Monstera!

Last year, Monstera deliciosa was everybody’s favorite. While they’re both commonly called Swiss Cheese Plant, they’re a little bit different. Monstera deliciosa gets up to 8 feet tall indoors, with leaves up to 2 feet long, while Monstera adansonii is much smaller yet still features the bold perforated leaves.

Monstera adansonii still allows you to have the bold, beautiful foliage of Monstera, even in a tiny apartment. Adansonii is great for hanging baskets or a trellis. While it may be shorter, with smaller leaves, this Monstera can still take up space with vines that can reach up to 20 feet long!

 

Swiss cheese plant in hanging basket and close up of monstera adansonii leaves ted lare

How To Care for Monstera Adansonii

Most Monsteras that are sold as houseplants have pretty similar care requirements: lots of bright light, lots of humidity, and they like to have their soil to dry out a bit between waterings. This is mostly true for adansonii, although it prefers indirect sunlight. Keep your adansonii near a window, but don’t let it get too much sun on its leaves. You can even send it outside for summer vacation, if you want, just keep it somewhere with a bit of shade.

If the air in your home is dry, the best thing you can do for your Monstera is run a humidifier close by. A pebble tray can help as well, but a humidifier is the most effective option. If misting is your only option, do it, but you’ll need to mist the air around your Monstera many times a day. 

There are plenty of choices for potting your Monstera, but a terra cotta pot with a drainage hole is one of the best options. Terra cotta’s porous material helps to wick moisture away from the roots. Monstera’s don’t like to have soggy bottoms. 

Like most plants, you can’t really water your Monstera on an exact schedule. How frequently it needs to be watered varies depending on the season, how much light it gets, how humid and warm your home is, and how rootbound the plant is. 

The best way to know if your Monstera needs water is to stick your finger in the soil, up to your second knuckle. If it feels just barely damp, it’s time to water. Adansonii doesn’t like to dry out quite as much as other varieties. Be sure to check the soil at least once a week. 

 

monstera adansonii climbing on a pole ted lare

Supporting Monstera Adansonii

Monstera Adansonii loves to climb. It is beautiful in a hanging basket, and that might be the best way to keep it from crawling all over your walls. If you prefer to see it climbing, you can give it some support. 

You can support a Monstera adansonii with a trellis or lattice, plant stakes, or even a moss pole. Moss poles are great because you can regularly saturate them with water, which helps raise the humidity level for your plant. A trellis can work wonders as well because it makes it easy to train the vines where you want to create a beautiful display of those dramatic leaves. 

You can also let adansonii’s free spirit go wherever it wants. They have strong roots along the vine that cling to nearly anything, even a bare wall. The only problem with this method is that those little roots are really strong, and there’s a good chance they’ll pull little specks of paint off your walls if you ever decide to move it. 

 

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If you’ve been wishing you had space for a Monstera, here’s your chance! Stop by the garden center or shop online to add a Monstera adansonii to your houseplant collection.

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Small Shade Trees: Your Best Options for Small Spaces

small garden with shade trees ted lare

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

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

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

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

 

japanese maple, serviceberry, and eastern redhead trees ted lare

Japanese Maples 

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

Serviceberry 

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

Redbud 

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

    

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 Umbrella Magnolia 

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

umbrella magnolia and Sousa flowering dogwood ted lare

Kousa Flowering Dogwoods 

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

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

 

 

 

 

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5 Popular Ornamental Grasses for Iowa

dropseed prairie ornamental grass ted lare

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

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

Prairie Dropseed

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

 

prairie dropseed and little bluestem ted lare

Little Blue Stem

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

Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass

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

 

Karl Foerester Feather Reed Grass and switchgrass ted lare

Switchgrass

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

Ravenna Grass

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

 

ravenna grass and purple flame maiden grass ted lare

Purple Flame Maiden Grass

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

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


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

 

 

 

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5 Best Low-Light Tolerant Houseplants For North Windows

houseplants ted lare

Having houseplants in our homes has a multitude of benefits. They can help boost our mood, improve concentration, and inspire creativity. They add life and personality to our homes and give us a connection to nature. When choosing houseplants for your home, it’s important to consider how much light each room in your home gets.  

All houseplants need light, but some are better suited to low-light locations than others. How do you know what is considered low-light? Well, in our homes, the only areas that can be regarded as bright light are right next to a large south-facing window. Just a few feet back from the window, in the middle of a room, we’re already at medium-light. And the opposite wall is the beginning of low-light.  

But don’t let that discourage you from keeping plants in rooms with North, East, or West facing windows. While all plants need light, some houseplants can thrive surprisingly well in very low-light locations, like near north-facing windows. Some plants can also thrive quite well under artificial light, as long as the lights are on for a solid 14-16 hours per day.  

Here are some of the best low-light tolerant houseplants to add to your home in Des Moines. These options are tolerant of very low-light, so you can include these even in rooms with only north-facing windows, or that have artificial light on all day. 

 

zz plant, calathea, and nerve plant ted lare

ZZ Plant 

ZZ Plant a popular low-light houseplant because it is one of the most resilient plants. It can even survive in a location with only artificial light. While it can survive in these conditions, it will be happier in an area with a window. Somewhere near a window is perfect for a ZZ Plant, though it does not like direct sunlight. ZZ Plant is super easy to care for as well, only requiring watering once every 3-4 weeks.   

Calathea 

Calatheas, also known as Prayer Plants, add gorgeous color and unique leaf patterns to your houseplant collection. Prayer plants are also different in that they move quite a bit, folding up their leaves every evening, like hands folding in prayer. With many different species available, you’ve got tons of options. Calathea are pretty low-maintenance, they like their soil to dry out a bit between watering, and will do best near a north- or east-facing window, or far enough back from a south- or west-facing window so they don’t get direct sun on their leaves.

 

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Nerve Plant 

Nerve Plant, or Fittonia, is another easy-care low-light plant, with a little more visual interest. Fittonia features small leaves with veins in either bright white or bright red. Their high-contrast leaves are beautiful to look at. Nerve plant is fairly low growing and will live happily near any window. They’ll flourish particularly well in a high-humidity environment. 

Snake Plant 

Snake plants, in all their beautiful variations, are another popular option. They’re a beautiful structural plant that also prefer indirect light. From the short wide leaves of birds nest snake plant to the taller tubular leaves of Sansevieria cylyndrica, or the gracefully arching leaves of Sansevieria gracilis, or the beautiful Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Laurentii.’ Snake plants are another easy-care succulent type, only requiring water every few weeks.  

 

snake plant and spider plant ted lare

Spider Plant 

Spider plants are also a resilient houseplant that can survive quite low-light situations and still happily grow. Spider plants will do better in a higher-humidity location. They come in a few different varieties, with plain green leaves, or variegated white and green. There are also different leaf styles, from the long and straight to the gorgeous curly varieties.   

If you’re looking for some houseplants to add to your home, stop by the garden center and have a look through our wide selection. 

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The Best Perennials for All-Summer Color

perennial salvia-ted lare

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

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

 

garden phlox, daylily, shasta daisy ted lare

Garden Phlox 

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

Reblooming Daylily

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

Shasta Daisy

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

 

perennial salvia, russian sage, yarrow ted lare

Perennial Salvia

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

Russian Sage

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

Yarrow

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

 

coneflower, coreopis, allium ted lare

Coneflower

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

Coreopsis

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

Allium

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


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

 

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5 Patio Essentials When Designing Your Backyard

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

 

Outdoor Kitchen & Food Prep Space 

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

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

 

Living & Seating Spaces

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

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

 

Shelter From the Elements 

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

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

 

Fire

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

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

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

 

Integrated Lighting

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

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

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

 

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

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How to Grow Citrus in Iowa

While an imported orange from Florida or California might hit the spot, imagine the satisfaction of biting into an orange from your own personal grove! Some citrus trees do very well as houseplants, so you can grow them yourself right here in Iowa! All you need to grow citrus is a little patience and care. You’re not limited to just oranges either—lemons, limes, and even kumquats are all on the list of citrus fruits you can grow in containers!    

How to Choose A Citrus Tree

The most important thing to know is that you’ll have to keep your tree indoors for the winter, so choose a dwarf variety. The added bonus of dwarf citrus trees is that many of them also produce fruit at a younger age. 

Meyer Lemons are among the best options. They grow up to about 4′ in height, and they will even produce fruit on young plants that are barely 2′ tall!

Dwarf Key Lime is another fantastic choice. It grows 4-6′ tall and will bear delicious fruit in 1-3 years. Be patient, don’t give up on it, and it will eventually come through with a bounty of limes for your pies, mojitos, tacos, and more!

Nagami Kumquats do well here, too. They can get up to 8′ tall. If you’ve never tried a kumquat, it’s like a small tangerine that has a lovely sweet flavor. Even better, the flowers are amazingly fragrant!

Citrus Tree Growing Conditions  

Citrus trees like acidic soil (no surprises there!), so your citrus tree will do best in a specific citrus soil mix. It’s also important to fertilize with citrus fertilizer once a month from April to September. 

Citrus trees need 8-12 hours of bright sunshine every day. They’ll do best near a large sunny south-facing window. In the winter, you’ll need to supplement with strong grow lights. They like consistent temperatures of about 65ºF, and they don’t appreciate drafts.

One way to give your citrus tree a boost is to let it enjoy a summer vacation outdoors! It’s critical to transition your citrus tree outdoors slowly, once overnight temperatures are consistently above 55ºF. The process is similar to hardening off your plants, but it should be a 2-3 week process. Start transitioning back inside when overnight temperatures are dropping below 65ºF; it should take another 2-3 weeks. Keep your eyes peeled for pests when you bring them inside in the fall. If you spot any, make sure to keep your tree isolated from other plants in the home until the pest problem is resolved.

Citrus Leaf Drop

Don’t be too alarmed if you see leaves falling off your citrus tree in the winter. They can go into a semi-dormant state and may defoliate. Any unripe fruit will continue to ripen slowly, even if the plant loses many leaves. Cut back on watering if you notice leaves falling.  

Watering Citrus Trees

All citrus trees like high humidity and evenly moist soil. Water your tree when the top of the soil feels dry to the touch and cut back on watering a bit during the winter months. Humidity is critical, and your citrus tree will need a humidifier to sustain it through the winter.  


Citrus Tree Pollination  

Pollination might be the most important, and most frequently overlooked, part of owning a citrus tree. Indoor trees are self-pollinated, so you don’t need two trees. But, you do need to do the pollination yourself. Run a Q-tip or small paintbrush all over the inside of a flower, especially around the greenish center. Then, repeat the process on each of the other flowers to spread the pollen that will allow them to produce fruit. This is the job that bees do in the wild, so go ahead and treat yourself to some honey once you’ve finished!

If your citrus tree is going to spend the summer outside, the real bees will take care of this process for you. Luckily, they’re always grateful for the work!


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Following these care steps and you will be enjoying Iowa grown citrus no time. Stop by our garden center to pick up a citrus tree of your own today!

 

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How to Grow Brilliant Begonias Indoors: Care 101

begonia leaves-ted-lare

Begonias are as gorgeous as they are versatile. With flowers and foliage that work just as well in hanging baskets, porch pots, or garden beds, they’re a workhorse of the gardening world! Most of us think of their luscious tropical-looking flowers when we imagine Begonias in our minds. However, the kinds that people keep indoors as houseplants are not quite the same as those with the showy flowers that thrive outside. 

Begonias fall into three main types, with many sub-categories, and over 1,000 species worldwide. They are primarily classified based on their root system, either tuberous, fibrous, or rhizomatous. Fibrous and rhizomatous Begonias are usually the easiest to grow indoors. They have showy leaves, but less significant flowers. Tuberous Begonias are the ones with the big showy blossoms that do best outside. 

If you’re eager to enjoy fibrous or rhizomatous Begonia as a houseplant, it’s always best to review the care needs of the specific variety you have your eye on. In general, however, you can follow these rules of thumb for taking care of these colorful, elegant, low-maintenance plants indoors!

Best Location For Begonias in Your Home

All Begonias need bright, indirect light. This means the indoor varieties prefer a spot near a large window with a sheer curtain to protect them from any direct sunlight. Direct sun can burn their leaves. However, the light levels in our homes are drastically reduced compared to outside, so they also won’t do well in a dark corner.

During the winter, you may need to provide extra light from a lamp with a full spectrum bulb for about 14 hours per day.

Begonias like consistent temperatures between 60-70°, so keep them away from drafty doors and windows.

 

Humidity & Water for Begonias

Begonias are native to places where the humidity is high, so they do not push water to the edges of their leaves as well as other plants would. This characteristic makes them ideal for terrariums. The drier prairie air here in Iowa can be a challenge for humidity-loving plants, especially during colder months. Make sure to provide a pebble tray under the pot or a nearby humidifier when the air is dry.

The best way to know when to water your Begonia is to check the soil with your finger every few days. Begonias like evenly moist soil, but they prefer to dry out just a bit between waterings. Stick your finger in the soil up to the first knuckle—if it’s dry, water it. When watering your Begonia, opt for distilled water or rainwater if possible, as the plant can be sensitive to the dissolved salts in tap water. This sensitivity can cause some browning of the leaves, which is typically not fatal to the plant, but can detract from your Begonia’s appearance.


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Make sure your Begonias have ample drainage so that their roots are never sitting in standing water. Soggy roots will cause them to drop leaves and can make them susceptible to root rot, pests, and other diseases. If there is still water in the catch tray 30 minutes after watering, dump it out. 

Provide fertilizer according to package directions when your plant is actively growing, which is typically during the summer months.

 

When to Re-pot Your Begonia

Begonias prefer to be root-bound, so don’t put them in a big pot! If the soil stays damp for several days after watering, you may need to re-pot down a pot size. When you bring a new Begonia home, only put it into a larger pot if it is already root-bound in its nursery pot. If it’s not yet root-bound, put it in a pot the same size as the nursery pot. 

Whichever variety you choose, Begonias are excellent houseplants with an incredible ability to bounce back from the brink of death. We’ve been shocked many times by how tough and adaptable these delicate-looking plants truly are! With a little bit of care and a good location, your Begonia will thrive for many years.