When good friends moved into a newly built house in Adel, they faced the same problems that thousands of families around Des Moines deal with: a blank slate lot that looks like EVERY. HOUSE. ON. THE. BLOCK. The only way to set your house apart is to add landscaping, and the sooner the better. It takes time for neighborhoods to mature, and if you want to sell, your established trees and fire pit will make your house stand out against the neighbors’. And in the meantime, you get to enjoy it!
So we worked together to figure out their needs and design a plan that was realistic for them to do most of the work themselves (these guys are handy!) and realistic for them to maintain (they’ve got three young kids!)
With a combination of soft pinks and purples mixed with whites, we created a soothing, pretty color palette that complimented their stone exterior. Our design inspiration was a laid-back, family-friendly setup with an easy vibe. This sweet family dreams of hanging out by their fire pit, inviting neighbors over with their kids, and spending very little time on planting maintenance.
Let’s take a look at the front yard. Here’s the way it looked when they bought it. It’s pretty familiar, right? There are thousands of these homes around Des Moines.
And here’s what the front yard is like after we’re done with it:
Our front yard design is pretty basic. There’s a wide planting bed off the foundation that is realistic for shrubs to mature without being shoved up against the house. We added some stepping stones along the driveway to accommodate guests in a more economical way – ripping up the concrete walkway was not in the budget. These steppers will extend the walkway easily.
We added a shade tree to the front yard as well – the builders had placed the obligatory maple directly in front of the house, so that it would block windows and take up the center of the front yard in time. Plus, it died! Every house on the block had an identical Autumn Blaze maple, and almost every one was either dead or in decline when I did this project. You guys, we’ve got to change our ways!
Here’s a great article from some ISU researchers about alternatives to maples. If you’re interested in adding trees to your yard, make sure you check out our list of underused shade trees.
Here’s the back yard before our design work:
And here’s the back yard with our whole plan in place.
We added the LARGEST shed that city code would allow, and oriented it perfectly to screen neighbors and remain useful. There are large bay doors toward the house that you don’t see in the 3D image, and turf wide enough around the sides of the house to allow for mowers and anything else large to get back into its place.
The fire pit off the house creates a perfect second hangout spot past the existing patio, and The swingset is tucked into the back corner but still in perfect view from the kitchen sliding doors.
We added a shade tree because every yard needs it and a few smaller ornamental trees for shade, color, and scale.
I love this back yard! I got to tuck in great plants and gorgeous hardscape while still leaving lawn for play.
Every project gets a hardscape schedule and information about all the materials we’ll use in the project. This one was pretty simple, with some steppers, some concrete pavers for the fire pit patio, and plenty of excellent mulch to keep the plants healthy. All of this is something that can be DIY or hired out, and Red Fern’s Gardener Coaching services can help with any questions along the way.
I want you to see in the plant list above that there isn’t a big long list for this colorful yard- some perennials, a bunch of shrubs (large and small), and a big tree. Cutting back the perennials is about all the maintenance that will be needed after the landscaping is established.
So there it is! A simple but BEAUTIFUL landscape design that is anything but cookie-cutter. Ready for this young family to enjoy, so that their house can become their home. What do you like the best?
LOVE this design board and plan! You’ve distilled my ever-growing and overwhelming list of plant needs. Thank you! Do those peonies really have dark foliage? If so please share the name?
I hope you share some pics as this vision materializes. 💚
Hey there Lindsay! So sorry we didn’t see this comment back in July. Thanks for your thoughts. This project was installed a few years ago so I need to get updated pictures for you! To answer your question, peony foliage is often a good deep green. I think the lighting in the picture makes it look very dark. It’s really pretty though!