Avant Gardening

Avant Gardening & Landscaping

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Celebrate With Avant Gardening & Landscaping!

Please join us and the Blair Street Gardens committee for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new Gateway Garden on Wednesday, September 28 from 3-4 p.m. We are celebrating this area’s transformation into an urban park and thanking the many donors and volunteers who made it possible!

Please see photos below for a snapshot of the construction process – Before & After Photos really show the huge transformation!

dsc_0034BEFORE – Lots of grass to mow and a large annual bed to take care of every season.

img_1965DURING CONSTRUCTION – Avant’s crew hard at work regrading the area and setting natural limestone outcropping stones for the retaining walls.

img_5420AFTER – A beautiful garden and large gathering area with gravel and flagstone pathways that lead you into this outdoor space. 

Please check out more photos of the gardens below!img_5441 img_5442 img_5421img_5430

The Garden is located in downtown Madison on the 600 block of Williamson Street at the intersection with John Nolen Drive. Parking is available on nearby city streets.

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


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)

Extending Your Vegetable Garden Harvest

All of us here at Avant Gardening & Landscaping hope that you have had a rewarding and successful summer in the garden! As the days are getting shorter and the temperatures are getting cooler, you may want to extend the use of your garden.

Did you know you can plant the same type of vegetables that flourished in spring during late summer-early fall?

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The following plants should have adequate time to ripen:

  • Radish
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Swiss Chard
  • Collards
  • Early Cabbage

All are frost-hardy vegetables. Most of them live and thrive with our cool night-time temperatures and extend our productive gardening season with lots more produce.


This photo was taken at Olbrich Botanical Gardens Herb Garden in Spring, but these vibrant lettuces could be planted this time of year too!

Feeling overwhelmed with too much produce?

If you have surplus fruits and vegetables from a very successful summer’s work and you are starting to harvest more produce from your garden than you can use, preserve, or give to your friends, you might consider giving it to one of the many food pantries in the area. Many continue to report increased difficulty meeting the growing need for assistance. Donating your extra produce helps to eliminate food waste, hunger and malnutrition in your own community.

Not sure who to contact to donate extra harvest?

Visit Ample Harvest to find a local food pantry eager for your excess produce. Please share this information and urge your local pantry to register so others may do the same.

In the Madison, Wisconsin area, Second Harvest Food Bank will accept fresh food donations. Click the link for more information on who to contact and where you can drop off food!

Seasonal Recipe: Tomato Tart

Take advantage of the season before it’s completely over (always too soon!!). Nothing says “summer” like a fresh, juicy, just-picked tomato. If you’re fortunate to have plants of your own, or can find your way to the bounty of a local farmer’s market, go ahead and try a new recipe like this one.

For more information on the Dane County Farmer’s Market, click here.



  • Prepared unsweetened pie dough for an 8-inch tart pan or 4-by-13-inch rectangular tart pan
  • 2 ½ tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 2 yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup goat cheese
  • 1 pound tomatoes (any combination of red, yellow, heirloom, cherry), sliced if large or halved if small
  • ½ cup crumbled feta or Stilton cheese
  • 8 sliced basil leaves
  • ¼ cup pitted kalamata olives (optional)


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line the pan with parchment paper, fill with pie weights or dried beans. Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick and line the tart pan with it, pressing excess dough against the sides to make a thicker edge. Prick bottom and sides with a fork. Bake for 20 minutes, remove weights and parchment and bake another 7 or 8 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Let cool.

Heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the onions are lightly browned.

Spread the onions over bottom of the crust and dot with goat cheese. Arrange tomatoes on top in a mosaic pattern. Dot with the feta or Stilton cheese and push olives into the top. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil.

Preheat broiler. Cover the edge of the crust with foil to protect it from burning and broil until tart is lightly browned and bubbly, 4 to 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and garnish with basil.

For more delicious, seasonal recipes – click here!

Incorporating Art Into Your Landscape

IMG_4274 IMG_4284Beautiful, healthy plants usually define a garden, but sometimes adding something unexpected (and not necessarily green!) helps re-define the space and reflects something of our personalities and creativity. This can make your garden grab visitors attention more than just a display of lovely plants.

Incorporating art and other elements into the landscape can be incredibly inspiring and enjoyable. But if your creative juices need a little stimulating, consider these suggestions for refreshing your garden:


Adding landscaping rocks and boulders, fountains, statues, containers, benches, and sculptural pieces that can withstand the elements will add interest and sometimes needed balance. Consider size, shape and color when making buying decisions. One tasteful sculpture can be much more effective than 17 different cheap, flashy trinkets.IMG_3967 IMG_3931SITE LOCATION

Just plopping something into the middle of the garden is too obvious and doesn’t usually add much to your space. Look at your overall design layout and determine where there are some “holes” or twists and turns that would benefit from placing something unexpected. “Conceal and reveal” to add an element of surprise and makes the garden that much more interesting to explore.9-1-15 001ARCHITECTURAL PLANTS

Large or unusual plants can make a bold statement in the garden. Consider Seven-Son Flower, a tree-form Hydrangea or a large Hosta such as the impressive ‘Empress Wu’.


Illuminating a large plant, shrub or tree can have a dramatic effect at night – creating mystery with layers of light and shadows. Stringing small lights on a trellis or rails of a deck add a festive element to the landscape all season long for a more minimal approach.Avant-533

Wisconsin’s Blooming Roadside

Ever Wonder What’s Blooming Along Your Road?

July has been such a colorful month with a huge assortment of perennials now in bloom – keep an eye out in August as well! While you might enjoy the beautiful blooms of plants, such as: Blue Mallow (Malva sylvestris), Foxglove (Digitalis Purpurea), Shasta Daisy (Chrysanthemum x superbum), Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa columbaria), Delphinium, Lavender (Lavandula), Coreopsis, Soapwort, Sedums and Oriental Lilies in the confines of your garden, there are many others to be seen along the sides of Wisconsin’s rural roads.


The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has a great website about all of Rustic Roads you can explore – Click Here for more specific maps and information. When you are traveling around the state, look for the beauty and colors offered by these on the way to your destination!


American Black Elderberry (Sambucus nigra L. ssp. Canadensis), Fleabane (Erigeron spp.), Bouncingbet (Saponaria officinalis), Common Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) and Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota).



Oxeye Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides), Black-eyed Susan (Rubeckia hirta var. pulcherrima) and the bright yellow Yarrow (Achillea millefolium). Be cautious around the invasive Wild Parsnip (Pastinaca sativa) which looks similar to Dill flowers but when sap contacts skin in the presence of sunlight, it can cause severe rashes and blisters. For more information, visit Wisconsin DNR Invasive Species.


Chicory (Cichorium intybus) is the most common plant and can be seen along almost every rural road this time of year.



Common Vetch (Vicia sativa subsp. Nigra) or Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa L. subsp. fistulosa), the Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca L.) and the invasive crown vetch (coronilla varia L.).

Nature provides her own garden for us to view along the ditches and roadways if we only take the time to look!







July Garden Checklist from Avant Gardening


“I drifted into a summer-nap under the hot shade of July, serenaded by a cicadae lullaby, to drowsy-warm dreams of distant thunder.” – Terri Guillemets

Now that summer is in full swing, you may be tempted by that hammock in the shade, swaying gently in the breeze… Now should be the time to comfortably sit back for a moment and enjoy the fruits of your labor. But remember, there are still plenty of things to do in your garden – Don’t snooze for too long!

1. Harvest Your Garden Bounty

Many fruits and vegetables ripen up this month! Be sure to get in your garden to start picking and preserving your harvest – try making some salsa or pasta sauce to use up multiple different kinds of veggies. You can also plant a second round of vegetables to harvest in fall, consider: arugula, broccoli, chard, kale, lettuce, spinach, radish, carrots or green beans. If you have too much for your family to eat, consider donating extras to the Second Harvest Food Bank.


2. Don’t Forget Deadheading!

If you take some time to remove and prune off spent blooms, the plant can use that energy for more flower production versus seed. Deadheading encourages your perennials to re-bloom, extending their bloom time and providing a more attractive display overall.

3. Take Garden Walks

We are so lucky in Madison and Dane County to have gorgeous gardens overflowing with inspiration at our fingertips! Bring your sketchbook or camera along and document plant combinations that work, interesting cultivars that you may find, cool wildlife sightings, etc. The UW Arboretum, Allen Centennial Garden and Olbrich Botanical Gardens are all great places to find a huge variety of unique gardens that you could create in your home landscape.

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4. Remember the Basics

July brings with it some of the hottest days of summer don’t forget to thoroughly water your container and vegetable gardens. If you have travel plans, ask a friend to water for you – the worst feeling is coming back from a great trip to find your beloved plants have all wilted due to neglect.

“A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken.” – James Dent


How-To Build A Rain Garden – Ask Avant Gardening

rain garden 5

What is a Rain Garden?

A rain garden is a shallow depression in the landscape designed to temporarily hold runoff water in order to allow it time to infiltrate through the soil instead of rushing into storm drains and ultimately surface water, e.g., lakes, rivers, and streams. When designed and installed correctly, rain gardens can help solve an urban problem of water pollution, provide food and habitat for important birds and insects, and provide aesthetic pleasure with (in the long run) minimal maintenance.

I heard Rain Gardens look weedy… Who wants that in their yard?!

Many poorly designed rain gardens have given the concept a bad name, arguably, due to poor plant choices and improper installation.  But they really can look beautiful and blend well with the rest of your landscape.

In this article we will highlight some important features to consider when building a rain garden.  Admittedly, there are many more components to a rain garden to consider than these highlighted few – Please refer to this WI DNR Rain Garden Manual for more information, it is a great resource.  For further assistance, please do not hesitate to Contact Avant Gardening in help designing, installing, and/or maintaining your rain garden.

1. Location

  • At least 10 feet away from any foundation
  • In an area that allows runoff water to flow towards it
  • Often in an area that water naturally flows towards
  • Or route water towards it with drainage lines
  • Not in the area where existing tree roots will be disturbed
  • Not on overly steep slopes (unless you want help building a retaining wall)
  • Not in an area subject to erosion

rain garden 2 rain garden 1

2. Soil Test

It is important to know your percolation rate to determine your rain garden specifics. Soil texture will provide information on suitable plants for your area.

  • Soil samples can be tested at UW Madison for $15
  • A Ribbon Test can approximate your percentage clay
  • Perform a Utility Locate
  • You can perform your own percolation test by digging two 1.5’ deep holes in the center of the proposed site on the uphill and downhill sides. Fill the holes with 12” of water and observe the drainage rate. After 12-24 hours the holes should drain. Repeat the process after a day. If the holes drain in 12 hours your percolation is rate 1”/hour, if in 24 hours .5”/hour. If it takes longer than that you should move locations or consider amending the location. If the rain garden does not drain properly the soil and plants will be damaged and you are providing mosquito habitat.

3. Sizing

  • Calculate the surface area of runoff water you will be managing (e.g., roof, patio, and/or driveway)
  • Use your percolation rate:
    • At 1”/hr multiply area by 10% for a 6” deep raingarden or 7% for 9” deep
    • At .5”/hr multiply by 20% for a 6” deep raingarden or 14% for 9” deep
  • Be sure to provide an overflow away from your foundation, rain gardens will fill up in torrential rains
  • Consider keeping your rain garden narrow and thin so that maintenance can be performed from outside of it minimizing soil compaction
  • If you cannot fit the calculated size rain garden in your property know that any properly functioning rain garden is beautiful and still helping
  • Design can match your existing landscape or provide a unique accent. Have fun!

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4. Installation

  • Kill existing lawn to ease in maintenance later
  • Layout your shape with marking devices (paint, hose, flags, etc.)
  • Site grade stakes on the uphill and downhill sides, the raingarden will be level from side to side and front to back
  • Dig to your calculated depth making sure your bottom is level
  • If through your soil analysis amendments were suggested add them now. Often the addition of organic matter and/or sand is suggested. If 3” OM and sand is suggested than dig your rain garden 3” deeper and rototill the amendments into your rain garden.
  • Use excavated soil to build a berm on the downhill side compacting in 2” lifts
  • Place the overflow area along the compacted berm flowing away from your house
  • Route runoff water towards rain garden either with surface or subsurface drainage

IMG_20150729_1016380645. Plants

  • Generally plants that can withstand long periods of drought but still survive temporary inundation of waters work the best. i.e., native species and cultivars thereof (aka nativars)
  • Herbaceous perennials are most common (a combination of grasses and flowers) but many trees and shrubs will work in larger raingardens
  • Know your soil texture and light requirements
  • Consult the DNR Information for ideas or contact our office for further assistance
  • Know your plant spacing (most perennials will be planted about 1’-2’ on center)
  • Mulch the area in shredded hardwood mulch for water conservation at 2”-3” deep

IMG_20140924_114048_0326. Maintenance

  • Water as needed due to seasonal requirements for the first year or two while roots are established
  • Vigorously weed your garden to keep competition down and not allow weeds to get established
  • Make sure your raingarden is draining properly
  • Note any erosion from your overflow spot and reestablish vegetation

If you carefully select an area and plan accordingly a rain garden will not only add beauty to your property but also help your larger community by providing many ecological services.  Once established, rain gardens are minimal maintenance.  With thriving plants, weeds have a harder time taking hold.  You will enjoy watching from year to year as the look of your rain garden moves around to match each year’s differences in precipitation and temperature. Enjoy!

Native Plants Available at Avant’s Summer Plant Sale

Native Plants in the Landscape

More gardeners are becoming aware of the benefits of using native plants in their landscape. In addition to providing a nurturing and healthy ecosystem for birds, insects and other wildlife, it helps eliminates the need for pesticides, fertilizes, excessive watering, as well as use of air polluting landscape maintenance equipment.


Earlier this week our team was given a private tour of the UW Arboretum’s Native Plant Gardens, we were so impressed by the diversity and interconnected ecosystems on display.

If you’re interested in “going native” here is a partial list of great plants. Any with an asterisk* will be available for purchase during our SUMMER PLANT SALE! Saturday, June 25th from 9AM – 4PM!  

CLICK HERE to download and print your $5 OFF coupon! 🙂 Anyone who visits our nursery will also receive a FREE native prairie seed packet! 

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Perennials and Grasses:

*White Baneberry (Actaea pachypoda)

*Lead Plant (Amorpha canescens)

*Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

*Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

*False Indigio (Baptisia australis)

*Common Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina)

*Pennsylvania Sedge (Carex pensylvanica)

*Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

*Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium)

*Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium)

Cranesbill/Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)

*Avens/Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum)

Woodland Sunflower (Helianthus strumosus)

*Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

*Beebalm (Monarda fistulosa)

Common Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis)

*Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)

*Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)

*Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia spp.)

*Little Bluestem Grass (Schizachyrium scoparium)

*Showy Goldenrod (Solidago speciosa)

*Culver’s Root (Veronicastrum virginicum)


Trees & Shrubs: *We have the ability to order any native trees or shrubs that you’re interested in, just ask one of our nurserymen 🙂

River Birch (Betula nigra)

American Hornbeam or Musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana)

*Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea)

Kentucky Coffee Tree (Gymnocladus dioicus)

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

Creeping Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis)

*Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)

Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis)

Celebrate Dane Buy Local’s Independents Week!

From June 24 – July 4, Dane Buy Local is participating in the annual Independents Week campaign. Independents Week is a national buy local campaign that engages local businesses and citizens in celebrating the unique entrepreneurial spirit and freedoms that our independent businesses embody. Avant Gardening & Landscaping will be participating by hosting a…

SUMMER PLANT SALE! Saturday, June 25th from 9AM – 4PM
CLICK HERE to download and print your $5 OFF coupon! 🙂

20160214_125114We have high quality and unique plants available, many of which are grown in our propagation beds. A large diversity of Perennials, Trees, Shrubs & Evergreens are all available!

Anyone who visits our nursery will also receive a FREE native prairie seed packet!
Coverage ~100 sq. ft. Full Sun. Medium-Dry Soils.

Below are a few of the nice looking plants we have available for purchase – they look excellent in our nursery right now! Come see for yourself next weekend!

Diervilla sessifolia ‘LPDC Podaras’ (Cool Splash Dwarf Bush Honeysuckle)

This compact, deciduous shrub brightens up shady landscapes with its variegated foliage. Summer clusters of fragrant, trumpet-shaped yellow blooms often attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden.


OKAY so it’s not quite a bloom… BUT our Hostas look amazing again this year!

Tried and True! Hostas are still a staple in our landscapes because of their durability and interesting leaf patterns. They make a great groundcover planting and can add interest to those shady settings – mix together lime green and big blues for some excellent contrast. We have so many cultivars available, including: Blue Mouse Ears, Abiqua Drinking Gourd, Blue Ivory, Grand Tiara, Halycon and more!


Philadelphus ‘Snow White’ (Dwarf Mockorange)

Such an old-fashioned favorite shrub, it’s snow white blooms have the sweetest fragrance this time of year. This medium sized shrub would be a great addition near your patio, the 2” double-flower clusters bloom in spring and then again in summer. 


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