In the studio | A garden oasis in downtown Ames

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The wonderful couple that approached me about this project was not afraid of hard work OR plants. They bought this house from a plantsman, and they saw how everything had slipped away from its former glory. While they didn’t want to re-create the same exact look that the previous owner had created, they did want to honor the yard and make a beautiful space for their family.

We agreed on removing an existing walkway that cut the yard right in two parts, and instead created this irregular oval space for lawn with luscious gardens around it. I honestly don’t fill many projects with plants like this- clients have to tell me they WANT to work in the yard or otherwise I keep things more simple. These amazing folks were up for the challenge, though!

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For inspiration, I turned to soft textures and year-round color. The yard is in an old part of Ames and totally surrounded by trees- a woodland lot that you don’t really see much except in downtowns. We played up the feeling of seclusion and mystery while still creating an inviting space for neighbors to see and come visit. Adding in a focal point in the long, narrow property was crucial, and I actually ended up adding a few different spots to draw the eye.

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Ames-Iowa-Landscape-Design-Master-Plan-Patio-Garden-Landscaping-Red-Fern-Landscape-Design

In the front yard, we wanted a welcoming, open garden space that would frame the house and finish off the property, making it feel like the 100-year-old home had nestled right into the gardens. We needed to be strategic about parking areas in this downtown lot, and managed to add both a parking space AND a garden area to block it from view. The front yard will be installed in phases, with the foundation plantings going in first and the sidewalk beds added in a few years. We love the idea of giving all the walkers in the neighborhood something pretty to look at and enjoy as they go by. Also, the gardens up front give a hint to what’s waiting in the back yard.

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In the back yard, we wanted to provide space for gathering and dining, but still leave space for the couple’s son and their dog to play. We also wanted access to the back alley that this darling neighborhood boasts. The view below is from the patio - looking out over the flowering shrubs, across the lawn, to the arbor that marks the entrance to the alley. The first “after” picture, taken right after plants were installed, shows the path that leads throughout the garden spaces and the view of lush turf for picnics and playing.

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While there was a patio before, the new design opens it up to include a fire pit. There’s so much room for people to gather, and different spaces to go! Breaking up small yards can actually make them feel bigger, because you can’t see it all at once.

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Ames-Iowa-Landscape-Master-Plan-Backyard-Landscaping-Red-Fern-Landscape-Design
Ames-Iowa-Landscape-Master-Plan-Backyard-Landscaping-Red-Fern-Landscape-Design

The hardscape plan up above shows all the materials take-offs for the landscape design, so that we can calculate how much mulch, how many pavers, what kind and how many rocks and boulders we’ll need. All of that practical information set these clients up for success when they installed the project.

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My very favorite part of this space is the little meditation garden that we tucked around the side of the house. WIth space for really just one person, it’s a great way to turn otherwise wasted space into a special, private, intentional spot.

What’s your favorite area?

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An elegant facelift for an historic downtown beauty

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I was honored to twice create a landscape plan with this amazing family! A few years ago, we completed a master plan for their property, but then they had to move before completing the project! This time around, they needed a smaller design that would still bring beauty and a bit of revival to their landscape. Their historic, elegant Tudor home had been neglected but was full of potential. We started with a foundation planting plan that would complement their house without creating a whole bunch of work for them. Keeping the palette pretty simple, I designed a planting plan that is both approachable and a little bit fancy - much like their house.

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downtown-desmoines-landscaping-landscape-design

With a combination of greens and whites from evergreens, flowering shrubs, and a few perennials, we created a soft, elegant plant palette. Near the front door, we saved a small space for a combination of deep orange and bright pink - a welcoming hotspot that was small enough for the family to maintain.

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des moines landscaping landscape downtown red fern

Overall, the idea was to keep maintenance to a bare minimum for this hard-working mom and dad, since they spend their time at home chasing around their busy preschooler and toddler. This project was all about the planting plan- we kept the original brick edging with all its charm - and it shows how just a few changes can make a big difference.

I can’t wait to see these plantings mature, softening the foundation of this lovely home as this sweet happy family grows along with it.

Prairie-inspired landscape design

This lovely brick home was newly built in Ankeny and the owners were desperate to get some landscaping to soften it.  We worked with them on a landscape design that was inspired by prairie plantings -  and just wild enough to give a nod to their roots - while still able to stand up to all the strong lines and hard surfaces around the home.  We combined a few ornamental trees, many different flowering and evergreen shrubs, grasses, and perennials to give them year-round color and interest.  

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Ankeny-Landscaping-New-Construction
Ankeny-Landscaping-New-Construction

It will be a few seasons before this project comes into its own - the trees will fill out, the shrubs will form sweeps of color, and the perennials will grow in nicely.  Can't wait to see this through the years!

Want to try out your own little wild and wonderful garden area?

These “just after” photos give you an idea of what things look like right after planting. It won’t be long before this fills right in!

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Ankeny-New-Construction-Landscaping-Plantings
Ankeny-New-Construction-Landscaping