Yellow spider daylilies provide a striking contrast to native purple coneflower next to Lisa Hinzman Howard’s home in Cedar Rapids. The delicate foliage of Baptisia, at front, intersperses with the other perennials. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

By Cindy Hadish/for Iowa Gardener

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Looks can be deceiving. Lisa Hinzman Howard’s landscaping appears lush and luxurious, but it didn’t cost a fortune.

In fact, Lisa, a Linn County Master Gardener who moonlights as a gardening consultant, called Midwest Garden Gal, espouses “cheap tricks” to keep gardening costs down, while maintaining a lavish look.

Lisa Hinzman Howard transformed this bird bath into a container garden for succulents. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

A vintage bird bath has been upcycled into a container garden for succulents, large stones found on her uncle’s farm provide exquisite garden edging and a three-bin, family-built compost station serves double-duty with a pergola for hanging planters.

Lisa began transforming a mostly bare landscape shortly after moving into her Cedar Rapids home in 2005.

“There was nothing here,” she said. “No flower beds, no fencing.”

Gradually, she designed her own garden spaces, vegetable gardens and pollinator beds, creating a backyard haven with perennials, herbs and other plants, interspersed with a series of arbors, garden art, birdhouses and curving pathways.

Lisa Hinzman Howard stands next to the combination compost station/pergola in her backyard. A swath of native plants behind her include goldenrod, cup plant, and the purple-flowered Joe pye weed. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Her gardens attract a wide variety of birds, including hummingbirds and wrens; butterflies, such as monarchs and swallowtails; toads, bees and more.

Swaths of asters, goldenrod, purple coneflower (Echinacea) and sunflower-like cup plants (Silphium perfoliatum) are among areas that serve as pollinator beds, with her gardens designated as a Monarch Waystation, providing milkweed (Asclepias,) nectar sources and shelter needed to sustain monarchs as they migrate through North America.

Previously, she concentrated on plants such as iris and daylillies, but has increasingly gravitated toward natives, including Joe pye weed, and avoids the use of pesticides that could harm beneficial insects.

“If it has a flower, a pollinator likes it,” Lisa said. “I really love the things that support habitats.”

See more of this story, including some of Lisa’s “cheap tricks,” and photos in the spring 2019 edition of the Iowa Gardener magazine. Find extensive information on gardening in Iowa by subscribing to the Iowa Gardener.

Learn about other great Iowa gardens:

Water garden in Cedar Rapids

Hosta heaven

Historic South Amana garden

Wanda Lunn grows new and old in harmony

Daylily gardens in Central City

Secret shade garden

Rustic acres in southeastern Iowa

Inner-city haven in Cedar Rapids

Paradise for pollinators

Solon acreage transformed into nature-friendly habitat

A black swallowtail caterpillar munches its way through a dill plant (Anethum graveolens) in the backyard. The annual plant is a favorite of the caterpillar. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

A metal owl sculpture adorns the backyard of Lisa Hinzman Howard, while a series of stones serve as edging. She also uses flea market finds to add whimsy to her landscape. (photo/Cindy Hadish)