Avant Gardening

Avant Gardening & Landscaping

Category: Birds & Wildlife

Get Your $$ Worth at the Garden Expo!

If you have a bad case of spring fever and really want to stretch every last penny this month… a visit to the WPT Garden Expo may be the cure!

wisconsin landscape garden expo 2017

Make plans to join Avant Gardening and Landscaping at the 2016 Wisconsin Public Television Garden Expo February 10th-12th at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. This event is sure to get you ready for all your spring gardening and landscaping adventures and with so many offerings it’s sure to please everyone in the family.

For more information and to pre-purchase tickets visit: www.wigardenexpo.com

A day at the Garden Expo costs $8 (in advance) and the list of fun things to do throughout the weekend is endless. Here’s a quick look at our team’s top 5 reasons to visit:

1. 150+ FREE EDUCATIONAL SEMINARS & DEMONSTRATIONS

If that’s not enough to get your gardening soul excited, we don’t know what will! There’s a huge variety of topics from beekeeping to landscape design. Becky Kielstrup, Avant Gardening’s General Manager/Horticulturalist, will also be presenting! Be sure to check out her seminar, especially if you are interested in reducing or eliminating pesticides and inorganic fertilizers in the landscape. She will discuss organic lawn care, sustainable planting bed methods, native plants, integrated pest management and simple tips on how to begin!

Organic Landscape Maintenance Practices
When: Saturday 11:45am – 12:30pm Location: Waubesa/Kegonsa OR Sunday 12:45pm – 1:30pm

2. EXCITING RAFFLE PRIZES

Need a new outdoor grill, gardening tools or maybe a whole new garden? Try your luck in the Garden Expo Raffle. This year, Avant Gardening & Landscaping has donated a gift certificate towards a Perennial Collection, a great prize whether you’re an established gardener or just starting out.

3. INDOOR FARMER’S MARKET

Back by popular demand, the second annual Farmers’ Market! It will feature farmers, food artisans and local food retailers. Products available include pickles and preserves, artisan cheeses, honey, olive oil, tea, chocolate, greens, coffee, and hand-crafted salami and cured meats. Stop by the expo on Sunday, February 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and visit the Atrium of the Exhibition Hall to do some shopping!

4. BOTANICAL THEMED CRAFT COCKTAILS 

New this year – on Friday from 5-8 p.m. in the central garden there will be botanical-themed craft cocktails offered, developed by mixologists from Graze. A little cost but hey, when in Rome… View the cocktail menu here.Take some time to enjoy the beautiful plant and flower display put together by members of the Wisconsin Nursery and Landscaping Association (WNLA) and enjoy music from jazz pianist Dave Stoler, a featured member of the Tony Castaneda Latin Jazz Sextet.

5. SHARE IDEAS & GET INSPIRATION

Avant Gardening and Landscaping will be one of the hundreds of businesses, contractors, nonprofits, and artists on hand, ready to answer any of your questions throughout the weekend. Get new ideas about gardening, landscaping and local food production. You can even talk directly with experts from UW-Extension Horticulture and many local Botanical Gardens.

If money is really that tight – you can always get in free (and even FREE parking). For Garden Expo volunteer opportunities, visit Wisconsin Public Television’s Volunteer website to browse available positions and shifts. As a thank you for your help, they provide you with a free parking pass and admission to Garden Expo on the day of your volunteer shift.

We hope you venture out for this mid-winter oasis – Spring will be here before we know it!

 

Winter Daydream – Craftsman Small-Space Gardening

Sick of Wisconsin Winters yet? We decided that this week we are feeling the need to dream of summer.

Just pretend it’s a beautiful, warm July day… you’re out on your patio, sipping some lemonade, birds are chirping, flowers are nodding in the warm breeze…. How about we take you back to the 2015 Olbrich Botanical Garden’s Home Garden Tour?

For a little while, let’s forget about the cold and the snow… Let’s enjoy some lovely summer weather and look at a gorgeous garden.

garden design landscape madison middleton wisconsin  garden design landscape madison middleton wisconsin

Blazing Star (Liatris spicata) and Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) are both examples of native plant species in this bird & butterfly friendly landscape.

garden design landscape madison middleton wisconsin

Meandering natural flagstone stepper pathway entices visitors throughout the garden. A small rain garden with native plantings, catches grey-water from the roof and slowly infiltrates it back into the aquifer.

garden design wisconsin landscape sustainable arbor garden design wisconsin landscape sustainable arbor

This lovely arbor invites visitors to wander throughout the garden. A natural Chilton flagstone pathway provides an informal way to access the perennial garden beds and various intimate garden spaces.

garden design landscape wisconsin madisonFront entrance to this craftsman-style home. Natural stone and abundant plantings create an inviting landscape.

To see more images of this garden, check out our Houzz Project Profile: Craftsman Small-Space Gardening

 

5 Questions Worth Asking Your Potential Landscaper

Local trade shows and expos can be awkward and intimidating! Do you get anxious wandering through a huge exposition hall lined with booth after booth of unfamiliar companies… New expo visitors can be hesitant for numerous reasons. Do any of the following situations below apply to you?

  • Just bought a new house and have no idea where to start…
  • Feel like if you stop and talk you will be pressured into a hard sale…
  • Just not sure what/how to ask questions to get valuable information…

With the Madison Home Show fresh in our memory and the NARI Remodeling Expo coming up this weekend, we decided to create a list of intelligent and important questions for you to ask your local landscaper before you hire them to work at your property.

These questions are not only important to make sure you will be working with a qualified, reputable landscaping company – but will also get the conversation going about your potential project and help you determine if they are the right company for you!

Here are 5 Questions we’d recommend asking – with answers from Tim Stenzel, one of our Landscape Architects at Avant Gardening & Landscaping.

1. What is your background in the field?

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Conservation Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture from SUNY-ESF in Syracuse, NY. After graduate school, I spent several years working in and around Chicago and the North Shore communities.

2. How long has your company been in business?

We are proud to be celebrating our 32nd Year in Business! As our name implies, Avant Gardening and Landscaping has been at the forefront of the gardening and landscaping industry in Madison and Dane County since 1985. We couldn’t do it without our loyal clients and dedicated team.

3. Do you hire Registered Landscape Architects?

Yes! Having a registered landscape architect on staff is very important for the health, safety and welfare of our clients. We have 3 Licensed Landscape Architects, which is quite a few for our small office! Liza Lightfoot, Dan Schmitt & Tim Stenzel are all very talented and have experience working on complicated projects. Read more about them on our staff page.

4. Where does the bulk of your work come from?

Most of our work comes from Loyal Existing Clients coming back to complete another phase of their project or continuing to work with our maintenance team in their gardens. A large majority of brand new clients come from Existing Client Referrals. We also receive quite a few referrals from local businesses and public gardens (such as Allen Centennial Garden and Olbrich Botanical Gardens), our website & Google, and the Wisconsin Public Television Garden Expo. 

If the company answers with Yellow Pages, or doesn’t know where their work comes from, this is a red flag… It tells you that the contractor is either new, inexperienced, a low-baller in the industry or simply doesn’t get many referrals…

5. What are the most unique services your company provides?

  • Avant offers a very successful organic lawn care program using compost topdressing, compost teas, and lawn aerating.
  • We use a lot of natural stone in our patio, wall and walkway installations. This is becoming less common in our industry. We use eco-sensitive practices whenever possible and believe in sourcing local raw materials, such as natural stone, which means there is less processing of materials which ultimately creates more waste water.
  • We make our own soil blends! We recycle whenever possible and take all of the plant debris from jobsites and turn it continually throughout the year, once it breaks down into fine organic matter we mix it into our planting bed mix – the outcome is a very fertile soil mix that is periodically tested by UW Soils lab to ensure high quality.

Bonus question!
6. What is your company’s philosophy?

Our philosophy has always been to see ourselves as stewards of the environment. We believe in living by example, Avant’s office grounds are landscaped in a naturalistic style that attracts a diversity of birds, pollinators and butterflies. We’ve recently become an official Monarch Waystation! We also have a small pond that we keep open and functioning through the long winter months because it is an important water source for wildlife.

We hope this blog posts helps you prepare for the next home show or expo you visit! Speaking of… don’t forget to visit us this weekend! Stop by Avant Gardening & Landscaping’s booth #409 at the NARI Madison Remodeling Expo Jan. 20-22. For more information check out http://www.nariexpo.com/

#RemodelWithNARI #NARIMadison #MadisonWI

Top 3 Wisconsin Landscape Plants Attractive All Year Long

Many Wisconsin gardeners believe four-season interest means they’re limited to evergreens, but there are many other options! The three plants listed below are top favorites because they have either unique berries, bark or other interesting element in the winter – and they’re not evergreens!

1. Seven-Son Flower (Heptacodium miconioides) has glossy leaves that emerge and remain attractive all season. Fragrant flowers bloom late in the season, followed by small fruits surrounded by a bright red/magenta calyx produces a late fall display. Light brown exfoliating bark adds winter interest.

Zone: 5 to 9     Height: 15-20 feet     Spread: 8-10 feet     Attracts: Hummingbirds

seven-son flower, heptacodium miconiodies, wisconsin landscape plantsseven-son flower, heptacodium miconiodies, wisconsin landscape plants

2. Vernal Witchhazel (Hamamelis vernalis) is an early-flowering shrub. The orange-red flowers have strap-like petals that curl inward on chilly days (an adaptive mechanism to protect from freezing). The oval-shaped leaves turn a golden yellow/orange in fall and often hang on through winter.

Zone: 4 to 8     Height: 6-10 feet     Spread: 8-15 feet      Tolerate: Deer, Erosion, Clay Soil

vernal witch hazel, hamamelis vernalis, wisconsin landscape plants

3. Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa ‘Autumn Magic’) exhibits white flower clusters in spring and dark green leaves through summer. The astringent berries contain about 3X MORE ANTIOXIDANTS than blueberries! Excellent fall color ranges from bright orange to reddish-purple. Fruit clusters persist into January.

Zone: 3 to 8     Height: 3-6 feet     Spread: 4-7 feet     Suggested Use: Natural, Rain Garden

black chokeberry, aronia melanocarpa 'autumn magic', wisconsin landscape plants

 

Your Wisconsin Landscape & Garden Checklist – January

“The wise gardener anticipates June in January.”  ~Author Unknown

Most of us in Madison, Wisconsin have already gone into hibernation – the below zero landscape outside and frigid wind chills make us cozy up inside and dream of spring (only venturing out if absolutely necessary!) But there are still plenty of things to keep us gardeners busy!

1. Take Down Your Holiday Tree

This is a task always dreaded in my family – but why not make it a positive experience by recycling it in your garden? Place your dried-out tree next to bird feeders and your feathery friends are sure to appreciate the added shelter and cover.

2. Appreciate Winter Landscape Beauty

You don’t even need to go outside for this one! Just by gazing out your window you can enjoy the twinkle of a fresh snowfall, finely textured plants frozen into lace, and seed heads with snowy caps. Ornamental Grasses (especially Panicum), Echinacea, Echinops, Liatris and Rudbeckia all provide great winter interest.Landscaping Madison Wisconsin Winter Landscape Seed Heads

3. Water The Flowers Birds!

Bird watching can really help Wisconsin gardeners make it through the long winter season. Consider investing in a heated birdbath, even more so than food, birds need clean, open water for bathing and drinking. Now these birdbaths can even be solar powered!

Wisconsin Winter Landscape, Madison, Wisconsin, Landscape Water Gardens

To keep water open in your garden pond, add an aerator and heater. Birds will appreciate you!

4. Evaluate Your Garden’s “Bones”

The monochromatic setting can help you see the structure of your garden. Now is a good time to take notes and sketch on photographs of your landscape, think about where additional evergreens could be sited or how pretty an arbor and bench might be – perhaps some outdoor lighting accents to make the long nights less dark and depressing!

5. Take a Trip!

If you can’t escape to a tropical paradise, think about visiting a local substitute! Check out a conservatory like the Bolz Conservatory at Olbrich Botanical Gardens – a stroll through the warm, moist air on a sunny day is sure to make you forget about the inches of snow just on the other side of the glass! For more information: http://olbrich.org/gardens/conservatory.cfm

 

The Wonders of Wisconsin’s Winter Landscape

After the last snowstorm of 7+ inches of snow… some of you might be thinking…

Whyyyy do I still live in this Wisconsin landscape? What is the point of snow? Is this necessary?! Does snow serve any good purpose for my plants?!

  • Snow is nature’s way of offering a layer of insulation to plants from the extreme cold or fluctuating temperatures.
  • It offers a more stable environment when the temperatures vary greatly in a short period of time. Most damage done to plants is generally in the early fall or late spring if there is not a layer of snow to provide protection.
  • In Taylor’s Encyclopedia of Gardening, snow is called “the poor man’s fertilizer.”  When it comes through the atmosphere, nitrogen and sulfur attach to the flakes. Then during the melting period in spring, these elements are sent into the soil and absorbed by plants. ANd of course, nitrogen is essential to your plant’s overall health.
  • Snowfall lures more birds and animals to the food sources that you’ve set out for them since their natural food sources are more covered. This means that you will see more action at your feeders and birdbaths.

Okay, however…

Heavy snow can split columnar shrubs and trees and the added weight can cause branches to break, especially with bitter freezing temperatures and strong winter winds.

How do I protect my plants from the ravages of winter?

Gently remove snow as soon as  possible after a snowfall, before it completely freezes to the branches. Use a broom to reach higher branches that may get weighted down.

Hopefully you’ve already watered deeply in the fall to prevent drying out. You can also offer your plants some physical barrier protection from any salt source if they’re more susceptible.

 

Partnership with Village of Shorewood Hills – Educational Signage

The Village of Shorewood Hills received a Dane County Environmental Community Partner grant ($1,000) in 2015.  The grant funded public education and awareness of stormwater management and bio-retention sites in the community. Because Avant Gardening & Landscaping was involved in the design and planting, Shorewood Hills partnered with us to create educational signage at a highly visible bio-retention area near the Shorewood Hills Elementary School.

Photo courtesy of: Corey George, Village of Shorewood Hills Forester

The project idea was suggested by a local parent who walks by this bio-retention garden twice a day with their child, to and from school. The parent was very supportive of the work being done, but desired more information so they could educate their ever-questioning child. The goal of the signage is to provide informal educational opportunities and “teaching moments” for both the parents and students, as well as raise awareness of rain gardens and encourage environmental stewardship.

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The signage was installed at the corner of Amherst Drive and Bowdoin Road in Shorewood Hills (east of the tennis courts) near the Shorewood Hills Elementary School. Six signs (1 large and 5 small) were placed in the bio-retention area. The large sign (24”x36”) exhibits a map of Shorewood Hills with the locations of all the community bio-retention sites, defines a bio-retention area, and gives an overview of Shorewood Hills’ stormwater management program. The 5 smaller signs (8.5”x11”) are plant identification markers and highlight specific native plants in the rain gardens.

Click here to see the digital copies of the smaller plant identification signs – They each have fun facts and a “Did You Know?” section for quick learning!

The Village of Shorewood Hills is a leading example of integrating bio-retention areas throughout their neighborhood. In 2008, they adopted a more stringent erosion control and stormwater management ordinance than the county and state, because the standards did not regulate small-scale land disturbing activities or redevelopment projects that were commonly occurring in the Village. The Village residents expressed their environmental concerns which were fortified by the fact that the Village is surrounded by development pressure on all sides and an extremely valuable natural resource, Lake Mendota, to the north and northwest. The new regulations, coupled with the creation of multiple bio-retention areas, are designed to reduce the amount of sediment washed from the Village into Lake Mendota, thus improving the overall water quality for fish and wildlife.

Photo courtesy of: Corey George, Village of Shorewood Hills Forester

Photo courtesy of: Corey George, Village of Shorewood Hills Forester

The bio-retention areas are stormwater treatment systems that consist of a slight depression which is integrated into the surrounding landscape. They capture stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces and allow the water to infiltrate through the soil media slowly. As the water infiltrates, pollutants are removed from through a variety of mechanisms including: plant uptake, microbial activity, sedimentation, and filtration.

In order to foster creative learning, promote awareness and inspire residents to install their own bio-retention areas/rain gardens at home – we need to provide interesting, informative and useful signage about the overall bio-retention areas and specific plant identification for Village citizens.

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Do you need help designing educational plant signage? We can help – contact us here!

Does your non-profit organization, city and/or school districts have an environmental project in mind?

For more information on application process for this grant, visit: Dane County Environmental Council

To learn about projects that received grants in 2016, click here!

 

5 Signs from Nature to Plant Bulbs for Spring

Plant now for an eye-catching display in Spring! Are you always jealous of the beautiful tulips, crocus, allium or daffodils popping up in your neighbor’s yard? It could be your garden with just a little bit of planning and effort now.

narcissus-xYou can plant bulbs any time before the ground freezes or when soil temperatures are approaching 55°F. Here are some fun indicators from nature about when to plant:

  • When birds start flocking together
  • Fall foliage is just past its peak
  • Squirrels are digging in acorns as fast as they physically can
  • The sound of crickets has died down
  • Your family dog starts laying out in the sun

When choosing a site for your bulbs think about two things: Sunlight & Drainage. Most bulbs require sunlight to store energy and bloom come spring, so plant them in a location that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. Never plant bulbs where water pools or damp areas in your landscape, the bulbs will essentially rot before they have a chance to grow. Ideally, the soil is well-drained, rich in organic matter, such as compost or peat moss, but sandy. Plant your bulbs approximately 6-8” deep (varies slightly depending on type).

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Also at this time of year critters (such as squirrels, rodents, chipmunks, etc.) are attracted to any sign of disturbed soil. We recommend covering the area that you’ve planted bulbs with a heavy-handed sprinkle of Milorganite.

What the heck is Milorganite you ask? It is a slow-release granular fertilizer comprised of heat-dried biosolids that is produced by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District… but don’t worry, it’s not poop… The sewage treatment plant collects wastewater and treats it with microbes that digest the organic matter in the wastewater. The microbes drop to the bottom of the tank where they are then kiln dried into small pellets. The strange odor typically drives away most of the critters that are interested in your bulbs!

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You can find a wide selection of bulbs at your local nursery or garden center. If you’re not sure what combination would look best or are you just feeling overwhelmed with how to get started?

Feel free to contact Avant Gardening for some guidance, either fill out our contact form or call us at 608-838-2054.

We do bulb planting and layout design for many of our existing residential clients as well as commercial and municipal sites – we’d be happy to help you too!

 

Preparing Your Garden for Winter!

It’s that time of year again to put the garden to bed! You’ve worked hard all season to keep your landscape looking fantastic and it is almost time to call it quits… BUT before you trade out your trowel for your snow shovel try to complete a few more things to make our Wisconsin winters a little easier!

Below is a list of activities that we recommend doing to prep for winter:

Perennials – Cut most back to ground, but consider leaving Coneflowers, Rudbeckia and other plants that have seed heads that the birds will feed on throughout the winter. Why not keep some life in your winter garden with fluttering birds?!

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Grasses – Leave for winter interest, many also have vital seeds for our birds. Leave Carex spp. as is, although they are not an upright grass that will provide additional interest, the little bit of decaying grass cover on the crown of the plant will help it survive through winter better.

Leaves – Clean up as much as possible, especially in areas where you know you have disease issues. Also remove them from hardscape surfaces (such as patios, walkways, landings) depending on the type of tree the leaves can sometimes leave stains on these surfaces.

Annual Flowers – It is best to remove and dispose of to make things easier in spring (Yes – even those mums you feel like you just planted…) plus, this gives you the opportunity to create a winter annual display!

Winter Displays – Using a diversity of evergreen boughs, Dogwood branches and Curly Willow you can make great arrangements in your planters over the winter. Do this as late as possible but before everything freezes, typically around Thanksgiving.

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Roses – Protect the sensitive ones with mulch and remember to prune back in Spring.

Turf – Winterization fertilizer can be applied any time. Clear your lawn of leaves and mow shorter to reduce disease activity over the winter (as well as first thing in the spring) Don’t forget to core aerate your lawn as well!

Evergreen Trees & Shrubs – No more pruning until Spring.

Deciduous Trees & Shrubs – Most can be pruned at any time this time of year. We like to wait until the leaves have fallen off and then work on structural pruning.

Driveway & Sidewalks – Prune back all plant material hanging over to make that dreading snow removal a little easier! Speaking of snow removal… Are you just sick of doing it this year? Contact Avant for a quote by clicking here!

Ponds & Water Features – Pull the pump out and clean out any leaves or other debris. If you have fish and plan to keep them in pond, install an aerator and heater to keep the pond from completely freezing over. The open water will draw more birds to your garden as well.

Spring Blooming Bulbs – Install now until spring, as long as you can get them in the ground, you can plant them!

By completing these tasks, your landscape will be well winterized and will get you off to a great start in the spring. Happy Winter-izing!

 

Late Fall Interest in Your Garden – Plant Highlight from Avant Gardening

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As if the flowers weren’t exceptional enough on their own, the most stunning trait of Heptacodium are the small pink fruits that turn a bright red/magenta color that result in another eye-catching display late in the season and last another 4 to 5 weeks into late fall.

One of our favorite seasons of the year here at Avant Gardening & Landscaping is fall! In this post we highlight a very interesting, uncommon ornamental tree that will bring fragrance and late-season blooms to your backyard!

COMMON NAME: Seven-Son Flower

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Heptacodium miconioides

Hepta means “seven” and –codium refers to the flower head.

Heptacodium is a unique, multi-stemmed specimen plant which can be grown as a small tree or large shrub. It was first collected by E.H. Wilson during an expedition to China in 1907, but was unrecognized and forgotten for nearly 65 years. Until in 1980, another expedition to China resulted in the collection of viable seeds of this rare genus. Seeds and cuttings were then distributed by the Arnold Arboretum and the U.S. National Arboretum to several nurseries and botanical institutions.

Since that time, it has become increasingly popular among the landscape industry because of its distinct (and fragrant!) creamy white flowers that bloom late in the summer/early fall when few other woody ornamentals are blooming. The flowers have a jasmine-like scent, attract butterflies and persist for several weeks. The inconspicuous pink fruits are surrounded by a persistent calyx (ring of petal-like leaves that form the outer layer of a flower). The bright red/magenta color last another 4 to 5 weeks into late fall and look like flowers! A great plant to extend the late-season interest in your garden!

dsc_0051Even during our long winters, this plant looks great! It has an interesting, multi-stemmed branching form with light brown exfoliating bark, which is reminiscent of a river birch. One of our designers even witnessed a robin borrowing these long strips of exfoliating bark to create its nest!! A true multi-seasonal plant that will have your neighbors talking!

ZONE: 5-9

HEIGHT: 15-25’

SPREAD: 10-15’

BLOOM TIME: Late Summer – Early Fall

SUNLIGHT: Full Sun to Part Shade

if you’d like to check this plant out in person, there are fantastic examples located at:

  • Olbrich Botanical Gardens (on the path between the Rose Garden and the Perennial Garden)
  • Allen Centennial Gardens (on the south of the gazebo by the Rock Garden)

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