Peace and comfort in the country.
Story by Carol McGarvey
Photography by Jack Coyier, courtesy of Ted Lare Design + Build
Featured in July 2020
When first-time visitors follow the winding road to the home of Ted and Jean Lare of Ted Lare Design + Build, they might do a double take.
Have they landed in the foothills? No, no mountains in sight, just acres and acres of natural prairie filled with Indian grass and bluestem. The homestead has a decidedly Western feel, even including a tall metal cactus near the front door.
Ted, who began his landscaping business in 1982 after working for other companies for more than a decade to learn the ropes, purchased this property near Cumming south of Des Moines in 2000. At first, it was the family’s recreational spot without traveling far away. He added a pond, a cabin, even an outhouse and started planting trees—some 2,100 of them. Later, farther into the property, he added the permanent home.
The homesite includes 121 acres; the nearby business area with the design and garden centers covers 90 acres. The business is a family affair. Ted is owner, Jean is landscape designer, Ted’s son Keegan is a landscape architect, and Ted’s daughter Melissa Peterson is garden center manager.
Sense of history
Artifacts that have been added help give a sense of history to the home’s setting. Just off the road to the main house is a small two-story barn that found new life and a new stone foundation after being in southern Iowa, near Corydon. The barn houses a garage on the main level and a sitting area on the second floor. A highlight of the outdoor area is a two-story stone fireplace. The barn offers a restful sanctuary just a walk away from the larger home.
The Lares’ home with its welcoming front porch with deep overhangs to create southern shade is a gathering spot for family and a great entertaining venue for friends.
Jean loves the setting. “It’s expansive and full of shades of green. I’m a farm girl from northeast Iowa. This is where I love to garden, to play with our two dogs, and to hike.” She also loves to mow—the many acres offer that opportunity.
Throughout the areas around the home, huge urns are overflowing with colorful annuals. The urns make a bold statement and add height and scale to the home’s landscape. Filled with colorful clusters of petunias, impatiens, pansies, and other flowers, they send out a happy vibe. “We actually change the flowers in the big pots for spring, summer, and fall,” Jean explains.
The back of the home opens onto a large deck area. Around the deck are perennials, such as Siberian irises, which surround the deck and act as a border for a table with a cantilevered umbrella for shade. More large urns of annuals decorate the scene.
The newest addition to the gathering spot is a pool by Valley Pools. “It measures 15×55 feet,” Ted says, “so it’s actually a lap pool.” At one end of the pool is a pool house, which holds the pool’s mechanicals. It also adds structure and an architectural element to the setting.
Ted designed a berm along the outer long side of the pool’s rectangular shape for dimension and beautiful height and color. As in the front of the home, he used weeping white spruce trees for interest, along with beautiful hydrangeas for color and texture.
The shimmering lap pool is a good drawing card for three young grandchildren and their families, likely to be even more popular as they get older.
Sometimes the couple tries out new plants at home just to get an idea of color and height. Such was the case recently of some new choices of salvia.
Favorite plants? For Jean, it is mandevilla vines; angelonia, spiky plants called summer snapdragons; and SunPatiens, which like both sun and shade. Right now, she’s experimenting with succulents for fun. “People are loving them because they’re interesting and so easy to grow.”
“This place is a paradise for me,” Ted says. “Hey, it’s two minutes from work, and it’s beautiful.”
So, is this Iowa? “Absolutely” is the resounding response from Ted and Jean.
It’s home. •
- Landscaper Ted Lare Design + Build
- Pool Valley Pools