Avant Gardening

Avant Gardening & Landscaping

Archive: September 2016

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