Avant Gardening

Avant Gardening & Landscaping

Archive: May 2015

Avant Gardening to Partner on Madison Gateway Gardens Civic Project

“I just wanted to find a special way to give back to the community that’s opened its arms to me, and supported my business for more than 30 years.”

-Liza Lightfoot, Owner and President of Avant Gardening and Landscaping

Running a successful local business for 30 years is a pretty big deal. Yet, what may surprise you is one of the ways Avant Gardening & Landscaping Owner and President Liza Lightfoot is planning to celebrate it during the summer of 2015. Liza is choosing to share her talents by helping provide a major makeover for a very public, but almost drab area along a major intersection on the near east side of Madison. The long hoped for re-do of the Gateway Garden, located on the northeast side of the intersection of Blair Street and John Nolen Drive, and in front of the Gateway Mall, is becoming a reality due to Avant partnering with the Blair Street Gardens Committee and Marquette Neighborhood Association.

Future Gateway Gardens site during spring clean up of area Courtesy: Blair Street Gardens

Future Gateway Gardens site during spring clean up of area
Courtesy: Blair Street Gardens

It will be a dramatic re-design for the Gateway Gardens, and will include a reduced need for water, fertilizer, and maintenance; while also creating a destination for bicyclists and pedestrians. Liza got involved in the process while looking for a project to commemorate Avant’s 30 years in business, and will contribute $10,000 of in-kind gardening and landscaping services to it. Liza has always felt strongly about giving back to the community that has supported Avant, and the company already has a long history of contributing time, and design services, as well as financial donations to nonprofit organizations whose goals support the underserved through sustainable environmental landscaping and gardening projects.

Liza Lightfoot during the early days of Avant Landscaping and Gardening

Liza Lightfoot during the early days of Avant Landscaping and Gardening

Liza started her company after moving here from her home in South Africa during the 1970’s. “When I first developed the Avant concept in 1985, I knew I could make a significant contribution to Midwest garden design. Having visited many countries with histories rich in garden design, I came to realize that our region tended to lack the concepts of garden rooms, outdoor niches, vistas, and natural landscapes. Many of the homes and businesses I visited when I started my company had a few shrubs and maybe some yews and arbor vitae as foundation plantings, along with geraniums and daylilies for color. I saw immediately that the Midwest garden was missing an essential element – namely the ground layer of perennial plants to add richness, vibrancy, and year-round interest to the garden,” Liza says.

Fast forward through three decades of steady growth, and the company now boasts a talented team of experienced and licensed landscape architects and horticulturists who are experts in the field of commercial and residential landscape and design, maintenance, and construction. “Having such a talented, hard-working, and committed staff affords us this opportunity to be able to contribute to some special projects. We are honored to be part of the beautiful changes coming to Gateway Gardens.”

Plan for Gateway Gardens at the intersections of Williamson, Blair, and East Wilson. Drawn by Bruce Woods

Plan for Gateway Gardens at the intersections of Williamson, Blair, and East Wilson. Drawn by Bruce Woods

The plan, begun by landscape architect Bruce Woods, includes re-grading the area, creating retaining walls, walkways, and seating spots with benches; removing the ash trees and low evergreens; adding native grasses, perennials, shrubs, and trees. New garden beds will be added and planted with natives and other perennials. There will be several entrances via pathways leading to the seating areas. Work is expected to begin in August 2015.



Your May Gardening Checklist, Add a Memorial to Your Garden


Your Late May Gardening Checklist

It’s show time! We typically think of spring as being the start to several months of beauty with the fresh scent of lilacs in the air, and other flowers bursting into bloom. Even dragging out the patio furniture can be a ritual to get you ready for the summer garden show.

Our last two Avant Gardening & Landscaping blog posts focused on tips to help you get ready to plant, grow, and maintain your flowers and/or vegetable gardens. Now it’s Memorial Day, and for many of us – it’s time to get growing!  Here you’ll find a simple list to stay on track, and enjoy this time of year; while further below, some easy ideas to include a Memorial in your garden.

1.  Enjoy the Springtime Air! Open up your windows and let the fresh air float in – you’re likely to catch some sweet scents from crabapple, catalpa, viburnum, and as we already mentioned, lilacs. The strong scent of lilacs is nostalgic for many, but did you know lilacs are associated with the Midwest because of the 19th-century pioneer practice of planting lilacs near outhouses?

2.  Be Cautious about Cold Weather! There’s still a 50% chance of frost in southern Wisconsin in May, and just in the last week, our high and low temperatures are averaging far below what’s considered the normal high of 69, and low of 47-degrees (according to the readings taken at the Dane County Regional Airport). If a frost or cold weather is in the forecast, protect your tender plants with mulch, newspaper, or by covering with a light cloth overnight.

3.  Consider New Plantings! You aren’t seeing any blooms, or some of your favorites didn’t make it through the winter? Our team suggests adding a few of the following plants for early interest:  Brunnera, Epimedium, Amsonia, Tiarella, Heuchera, Columbines, and Irises.

4.  Mulch, Mulch, Mulch! Add a 2-4” layer of mulch to your planting beds now to help your garden for the long run. It’s also a good time to mulch around your trees, but avoid mounding it against the trunk. Natural mulch will reduce weeds, help retain moisture, and incorporate organic matter into the soil. BONUS:  Don’t miss Olbrich Botanical Gardens leaf mulch sale. There’s still two opportunities this Friday and Saturday, May 22 and 23. You’ll find more information, here: http://www.olbrich.org/events/leafmulch.cfm

5.  Lackluster Landscaping? Contact our team for inspiration! The process starts by identifying your personal needs, and wants – with a thorough evaluation of your current situation. We will design the most efficient, eye-catching, and inspirational ideas to solve your landscaping problems.

Adding a Memorial to Your Garden: Our team feels a permanent tribute in honor of a Veteran or loved one (person or pet!) may be an inspirational idea to consider this Memorial Day weekend. A Memorial garden can be as simple as planting a tree or bush to honor someone special, or displaying flowers blooming in red, white, and blue. Here’s a few more ideas:

Incorporate plants with special meanings. Baby’s breath shares a feeling of innocence and gentleness, while Easter lilies symbolize faith and new life. Amaranth means everlasting beauty, and Rosemary stands for remembrance.

Keep it manageable in a small space. Use just a corner of your yard, a container on your porch or deck, a box on the balcony of your apartment or condo.

Plant using a unique theme. Grow a garden for butterflies, birds, or design around the shape of a heart.

Make it personal. Be sure to include a stepping stone, statue, or bench.