Avant Gardening

Avant Gardening & Landscaping

Category: Book Review

December Garden To-Do List


“From December to March, there are for many of us three gardens –

the garden outdoors,

the garden of pots and bowls in the house,

and the garden of the mind’s eye.”

– Katherine S. White

1.  Protection & Preparation

If you haven’t already, be sure to wrap special trees and shrubs to protect them against critters during the winter. Also, protect certain species that you know are attractive to voles/rabbits/deer, such as arborvitae, fothergilla, and oakleaf hydrangea.

Besides mentally prepping for snow accumulation, don’t forget to physically prepare. Now is a good time to make sure you have proper snow removal tools – Do you need a new scoop shovel? Did your winter boots leak last year? Where is that ice scraper…

dsci0034Once the snow starts to fly, monitor your garden. It’s peaceful and beautiful when snow piles up, but keep in mind too much can be damaging. Heavy, wet snow accumulations can put stress on the branches, causing them to hang down lower or worse, break! Don your most snow-proof winter clothing and get out there to brush off the snow! Focus on your evergreens, especially arborviate spp. and boxwood spp. are most susceptible. It is best to brush off from the ground up so that you’re not causing more damage batting down at the branches.

2. Winter Pruning

Winter is the perfect time to prune trees and shrubs, especially since all the leaves have dropped it makes it easier to see the structure. Another perk – most pests and diseases that are attracted to open wounds of trees are inactive this time of year, so less chance of infecting your plants!


3. Decorate for the Holidays!

Try making a DIY wreath, reclaimed wood trees, or create some winter container displays this year! Not sure how to make a winter container? Read last week’s blog post here for step-by-step instructions.

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4. Switch to Indoor Gardening Activities

Take an educational class from UW-Extension, they have an excellent 2017 Green Thumb Gardening Series!! There are plenty of workshops and classes to choose from at Olbrich Botanical Gardens too. Lots you can do to keep you active and thinking about your garden all winter long!


5. Choose a New Book!

Bored with your winter surroundings already? Grab a new gardening book and start gathering inspiration for next year! Pinterest is also a fun place to see lots of ideas and pin photos to save for spring. Here a quick list of a few of our favorite gardening books –

  • Growing the Midwest Garden by Edward Lyon (former director of the Allen Centennial Garden, get your copy here)
  • Vintage Wisconsin Gardens: A History of Home Gardening
  • by Lee Somerville (from the WI Historical Society Press)
  • Garden Wisdom: Lessons Learned from 60 Years of Gardening (another good one about vegetable gardening from the WI Historical Society Press)
  • Hot Plants for Cool Climates: Gardening With Tropical Plants in Temperate Zones by Dennis Schrader (pick it up here)



Book Review for Small Space Gardening

“So many plants, so little space” is a lament heard many times over by gardeners who long for more room to get their hands dirty.  It can be very challenging to create an attractive and functional small space, as well as carving out an intimate area that affords some privacy within a larger landscape.

Don’t despair, Melinda Meyers to the rescue! Here’s a great book to put on your holiday wish lists – 

Small Space Gardening guides you through a step-by-step process to help you achieve your little piece of heaven. Melinda starts by explaining how to analyze your space by sketching out the area, evaluating how you want to use the space and identifying what landscape style you’re trying to achieve. Then it’s on to the design process followed by recommendations on how to maintain your completed project. There’s also a chapter on the challenges and opportunities that small space gardeners face.

The last third of the book is devoted to a comprehensive plant directory that includes perennials, grasses, shrubs, vines, and trees (yes, trees!) that are small space favorites. The high resolution plant photographs include a description of plant culture and characteristics, and is an excellent resource for buying decisions.

About the author:

Melinda Meyers has a master’s degree in horticulture, is a certified arborist, started the Master Gardener program in Milwaukee and is a horticulture instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical School. She hosts “Great Lakes Gardening” on PBS, and writes the twice monthly “Gardener’s Questions” columns for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.


Avant Gardening and Landscaping: Why This will Help You get Ready for Spring

We have spring fever. It may still be winter, but after our Avant Gardening and Landscaping team enjoyed a great weekend talking with so many of you at the Garden Expo, we are ready for spring.

Unfortunately, it is still winter, but it can’t stop us from dreaming about getting out into the garden. And sometimes looking at books for ideas can help. I love a beautiful gardening book, and my bookshelf is stocked. But as I recently searched through my choices, I realized I didn’t have the right book to help address our colder Wisconsin climate.

Then I found Annuals for Minnesota and Wisconsin by Don Engebretson and Don Williamson.

This book is actually an incredible guide to species, varieties, hybrids, and cultivars. It is written in an engaging, straightforward manner, and is logically organized for easy reference. The book begins with a Flowers at a Glance pictorial, followed by average last-frost date charts.  The subsequent chapters address:

  • Getting Started
  • Preparing the Garden
  • Selecting Annuals
  • Planting
  • Annuals from Seed
  • Caring for Annuals
  • Problems and Pests

This is followed by a 200+ page comprehensive annuals guide which is organized alphabetically by most familiar common name, with botanical name listed after it. The Quick Reference Chart at the back helps summarize the different features and requirements for various plants, and is a handy guide while shopping. The glossary offers definitions of terms commonly used in gardening.

This book contains just about all the information you may need on annuals, and I would consider it a must-have for those who enjoy these abundant, adaptable, and welcome additions to the garden. Once you read this, you too, will be ready for spring!


Book Review: Annuals for Minnesota and Wisconsin by Don Engebretson and Don Williamson (Lone Pine Publishing)