The time is now to start planning for this spring’s popular landscaping projects.
Story by Tracy Dickinson
Featured in Winter 2023
Iowa’s often bleak midwinter is the ideal time to begin thinking about spring landscaping projects. When that winter wind is whipping across the plains and the thought of even walking the dog around the block makes you shiver, contemplating the arrival of spring colors might be just the warmth you need.
Keegan Lare of Ted Lare Design + Build says, “Most homeowners start with a long list of things they’d like to do, and that can be overwhelming, financially as well as in scope. So I always advise clients to prioritize their top-three goals.”
By framing that wish list in terms of goals, you can more easily determine which projects and which landscape materials will best achieve those objectives. “You want to think about whether you want to address your front yard or your backyard first. Are you needing privacy and an outdoor space or curb appeal? Are there overgrown or damaged areas that need repaired?” he says.
The answers to those questions will provide the road map for the work ahead. “At Ted Lare, we’ve learned that just listening to the client is the best place to start. Sometimes homeowners don’t know exactly what they want to do. But if we ask the right questions and listen, pretty soon it’s clear where their frustration is, and we can create a plan to help them resolve it.”
Those “problems” can be as simple as a lack of curb appeal or a backyard that’s nothing but an empty expanse of lawn. Or they can be more involved, such as a crumbling patio or overgrown landscaping that’s gotten out of control.
“Once clients prioritize the end goal for their property and we get a sense of how they currently use or would like to use their space, we can put together a long-term plan to accomplish that,” says Lare.
Even the simplest vision should have an overall plan. Grabbing attractive plants at the outdoor store in April is tempting after months of gray and brown. But plopping them in the flower bed willy-nilly can lead to a lot of back-breaking work later if you don’t have a clear plan first.
When you start from a long-term goal and work backward, all the foundational work is done in a more cost-effective way and your property is already prepped for each stage of the project as time and budget allow. “Working with a landscaper can save you time and money in the long run,” Lare says.
Creating that overarching landscape plan now also provides your landscaper with a time frame for scheduling the work. If you wait until spring to start planning, your landscape crew may be booked out weeks or even months, meaning you’ll spend another outdoor season gazing into the void of your backyard instead of relaxing in your own little Garden of Eden.
Maybe you know the problem to be solved but don’t know what that means in practical terms. You want a place to relax with friends but don’t know how to create that space. You want your home to look more appealing from the street but don’t want to be overwhelmed with maintenance. Or you want to eliminate problem areas but don’t want to start from scratch.
Lare says these projects are especially popular right now:
You can pick up temporary firepits at any home improvement store. Lare says incorporating a firepit as part of a larger project creates a truly useful gathering space for family and friends.
“We’re seeing projects that mix stone with metal, such as steel or aluminum, integrating plantings and seating as part of the design.”
“We work with a lot of pool installers to design landscaping around the pool area,” says Lare. “It’s much more cost-effective to create and plan for the landscaping before the pool is installed, and it allows us to design a plan that enhances the pool’s aesthetics as well as your enjoyment of it.
Ted Lare Design + Build has been doing pool projects for quite some time, but Lare says these have become even more popular since COVID restrictions kept more families at home during the summer.
- Ornamental evergreens
Incorporating evergreens in your landscape plan will provide color year-round, but Lare says choosing the right species makes a big difference.
“A lot of the species that used to be common were either too large so that they quickly overwhelmed the space or they weren’t really suited to their location,” he says. “Boxwoods are popular, but choosing a variety that only grows to 3 or 4 feet will keep it from completely taking over the space. There are also varieties of junipers and yews that stay low. They won’t block windows, and they’re sturdy enough to hold the snow.”
Lare says flowering ornamental trees such as redbuds and ornamental crabapples are still popular because of their vibrant spring blooms.
- Vegetable gardens
Another trend Lare says has grown increasingly popular since COVID is small vegetable gardens.
“Most people don’t want a back-breaking vegetable garden,” he says. “But being able to grow their own tomatoes or a few vegetables is a popular trend.”
An easy way to do this is to include raised garden beds as part of your landscape plan, whether around the yard or near the patio or deck, so they are incorporated into the design.
It might be too cold to start digging right now, but January is the perfect month to start nurturing your landscaping plan for spring. The new season will be here before you know it. •
- Keegan Lare Ted Lare Design