Avant Gardening

Avant Gardening & Landscaping

Archive: May 2016

Green: The Overlooked Color

P1060601With so many colorful flowering shrubs and perennials available today it’s easy to overlook the simple beauty of the color green. On more than one occasion I’ve actually had a client say to me, “green is not a color”. It seems Kermit the Frog said it best when he crooned, “It’s Not Easy Being Green”. Not only is green a color, it’s a very important one when it comes to garden design. Green is the most ubiquitous color in the landscape and thus it provides the background to which all those colorful flowers and shrubs stand out against. In its purest form green is balanced, neither warm nor cool. It’s a peaceful color that can calm the nerves and sooth the soul. To paraphrase Kermit – green is the color of spring, it can be cool and friendly, big like a mountain or tall like a tree.Clients 2006 075

Green is a natural complement to any color including green itself! Combining different shades and tones of green can produce some striking results. One favorite planting combination of mine is a dense border planting of Green Carpet Pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis ‘Green Carpet’) in front of a row of light green boxwood (Buxus) with a taller back row of Hicks Yew (Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’). The contrasting shades of green, leaf textures and heights make this combination both stately and eye catching. Each of these plants has the added benefit of being evergreen and brings color to the garden when everything else has faded. When designing solely with one color you have a great opportunity to really highlight differences in leaf shape, texture and size. Take for example the tall, airy fronds of the Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda cinnamomea) which stand out dramatically when surrounded by a mass of wide, flat leaf hosta such as Big Daddy or Blue Angel.Shady Garden greens

A landscape filled with diverse, vibrant colors is a wonderful thing. But the next time you look at a garden take special notice of the ever-present color of green. Once you do you will realize that it’s much more varied then first meets the eye. Green is an important, powerful part of the landscape and the world would be a pretty drab place without it.

Unique Landscape Plants at Avant Gardening’s Plant Sale

In case you haven’t heard… Avant Gardening and Landscaping is having a plant sale!

CLICK HERE to download and print off your $5 OFF coupon! 🙂

This post will focus on a few of the more unique shrub choices we have available for purchase – they look excellent in our nursery right now! Come see for yourself this weekend!

Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ (Harry Lauders Walking Stick)

20160510_140020 20160510_141555This twisted shrub has a crazy form and looks like a miniature curly willow tree! It can get 8-10ft tall and wide and would do well in full sun/part-shade conditions. It was discovered growing as a sport in an English hedgerow in the mid-1800s by Victorian gardener Canon Ellacombe. This plant was subsequently given the common name of Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick in the early 1900’s in honor of Scottish entertainer Harry Lauder (1870-1950).

Calycanthus floridus (Sweetshrub or Carolina Allspice)sweetshrub

A medium to large deciduous shrub, it can grow in full sun to quite shady conditions. It has super unique strap-like flowers, it’s best to purchase this plant when in flower (which ours are right now!) because the quality and intensity of the fragrance can vary widely from plant to plant. Commonly called Sweetshrub, in reference to the fragrant blooms which have been described as combining hints of pineapple, strawberry and banana. To read more about Calycanthus – click here.

Deutzia gracilis ‘Nikko’ (Slender Deutzia)

20160510_140339A small mounded deciduous shrub which forms a graceful, spreading clump typically about 2ft tall. With a profusion of tiny, white flowers this shrub is sure to add spring interest to any garden! Supposedly rabbit resistant (we’re testing this… they’ll eat ANYTHING if they are hungry enough) it’s a great choice for sunny or partial shade conditions. Might want to treat this plant as more of a “die-back” shrub since it is Zone 5. It has nice attractive fall foliage that turns a deep burgundy color.

Stay tuned next week for some dainty woodland shade garden plants we’ll have available!


Plantaholics Anonymous – Calycanthus floridus

Welcome fellow plant geeks! Looking for a unique plant that your neighbors probably don’t have?!

Sweetshrub is a great deciduous shrub with a slowly suckering habit that is tolerant of a wide range of soil, water and light conditions.

The common names of this plant come from the fragrant flowers, bark, and leaves that can all be dried for use in potpourri.


Cool Bloom! 

The unique, 2-inch flowers are deep maroon to brown in red in color and last a month or more. Especially in the morning, the flowers have been described to smell of pineapple, banana and strawberry – plant this near a door or patio where it can be enjoyed!

Did you know… 

The aromatic bark can be dried and used as a cinnamon substitute. The leaves contain small quantities of camphor and can be used as an insect repellent, perfume and disinfectant.

Scientific Name: Calycanthus floridus

Common Name: Sweetshrub, Carolina Allspice

Zone: 4-9

Height & Spread: 6-10’

Bloom Time: April-July

Sun Requirements: Full Sun to Part Shade (grows taller in shade than in sun)


Look What We Found!! Morel Mushroom Sighting at Avant Gardening & Landscaping

Hooray, spring is here! While it’s time for flowers and showers, it’s also time for Morels!

These little, golden beauties are a favorite of mushroom eaters and mushroom hunters everywhere. Each spring hundreds of people take to the woods to look for these delicious little treasures. 20160502_113534_croppedIf there is one thing I remember from my forest ecology course it’s never to eat a wild mushroom unless you are absolutely, 100% certain you know what it is. This statement is not to be taken lightly considering there are over 10,000 species of mushroom in North America alone and only about 25% of those are edible.

Fortunately for us the Morel is relatively easy to identify. It has a distinct appearance and only one real look alike, which also fortunately enough is not toxic but can make you sick. Across the country, hunting Morels is a spring time tradition for many. There is even a website, www.morelhunters.com that contains updated soil temperatures, message boards and a Morels sightings map. People who hunt for Morels will tell you it is addicting. There is something about finding that hidden jewel in the forest, and then another, and another and hopefully just one more… They typically grow on the edge of a forest especially at the base of dead elm, ash and oak trees. However, we recently found some growing right out Avant Gardening & Landscaping‘s back door next to our bluestone patio!

The small town of Muscoda, WI devotes an entire weekend each year to the Morel. This year the 34th annual Morel Mushroom Festival will be May 14th-15th. It features arts and crafts, music, helicopter rides, a parade, and of course all the Morel related food and drink you could want.

While there are several ways to prepare Morels perhaps most popular is simply to sauté them in butter. Given that they are tasty, rather elusive and frequently drenched in butter is it any wonder these funky fungi are so popular?20160502_101135

Wondering what else you can do with these weird little mushrooms? Try this awesome recipe from Muscoda’s Morel Website!

Pasta With Morel Mushroom Cream Sauce


  • 1 lb. homemade pasta or ½ lb. Capellini or thin Linguine (Linguine Fina)
  • 2-3 tablespoons butter (or your favorite substitute)
  • As many morels as you can find or substitute 6 ounces dry morels or porchini mushrooms* or one pound of fresh white button mushrooms, Cremini mushrooms or Portabello mushrooms.
  • ½ cup of cream or half and half (you can substitute any soup stock or the water from reconstituting dry mushrooms instead of cream if you want to go low cal.)
  • 1 Tbsp chopped wild leeks or garlic
  • 2 Tbsp fresh coarsely chopped parsley
  • Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese (to taste)
  • Pinch of salt and pepper (to taste)


Slice mushrooms into bite size slices. *If using dried mushrooms reconstitute them in a bowl by covering them in warm water for half an hour. Then, lift them from the water and squeeze out most of the liquid. Reserve the liquid.

Melt butter in a large sauté pan. Add sliced mushrooms and sauté on medium heat. As the mushrooms begin to release their juices, stir in the wild leeks or garlic, the chopped parsley and a pinch of salt.

While the mushrooms are cooking, cook and drain the pasta so it will be ready as soon as the mushroom sauce is done. If the mushrooms begin to dry out, add a little water (use the mushroom water if using dry mushrooms). Cook the mushrooms until they begin to brown in spots. Stir in the cream.

Heat through until the mixture thickens a little (you can add more cream if you are serving 4 or more people). Stir in a tablespoon or two of grated cheese and add some black pepper. In a large serving bowl mix pasta with the cream sauce a little at a time. if you add too much pasta it will be dry. Serve with fresh ground black pepper and grated cheese. Garnish with fresh parsley sprigs. This should serve from 4 to 6 people, depending on appetites…

For more great morel recipes, visit: Muscoda Morel Mushroom Recipes