Avant Gardening

Avant Gardening & Landscaping

Archive: October 2016


Happy Halloween everyone! As you’re prepping for trick-or-treaters tonight, costume parties and haunted houses… (Or maybe you’re just recovering from all the excitement of the festive weekend)…

Take a quick break and read about some devilish, sinister plants that you could creep into your ghostly gardens next year to scare the pants of some innocent passerby.

Bahwahaha (insert bloodcurdling scream here)!!

img_20151015_095921256Common Witchhazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

The name of this plant, Common WITCH hazel, conjures up some spooky images of witches and bubbling cauldrons… But the flowers are the real nightmare-makers! Blooming this time of year, the flowers induce images of some creepy crawly creatures… SPIDERS! These alarming, bright yellow flowers have strap-like petals that curl outwards like the crooked legs of some small arachnids. In autumn, the leaves turn golden yellow and begin to fall off while the flowers hold on tight, giving it the look of multiple spiders scurrying up the branches.


summer1-090Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia compressa)

Did you know Wisconsin has a native cactus? Hopefully you don’t stumble onto this spikey fellow without knowing or you’re in for a SCREAM! They are very prickly (hence their name) the pads contain large spines as well as tiny tufts of barbed spines which are extremely fine and hard to see – called glochids. There are actually many medicinal uses for prickly pear cactus, both the fruit and the pads are edible (if you are brave enough to try it!)


img_20151015_095733098Castor Bean (Ricinus communis)

This plant gets the #1 spot of our top three list because it can literally kill you – no punny jokes here! The seeds of this deadly plant contain Ricin, which is one of the most poisonous naturally occurring substances known to man. It has been said that one seed can kill a child. This plant is not to be messed with! Castor bean plant is grown as an annual in our climate and has a very attractive, tropical look with interesting large serrated leaves. It is often used in seasonal annual displays for these aesthetic qualities.



5 Signs from Nature to Plant Bulbs for Spring

Plant now for an eye-catching display in Spring! Are you always jealous of the beautiful tulips, crocus, allium or daffodils popping up in your neighbor’s yard? It could be your garden with just a little bit of planning and effort now.

narcissus-xYou can plant bulbs any time before the ground freezes or when soil temperatures are approaching 55°F. Here are some fun indicators from nature about when to plant:

  • When birds start flocking together
  • Fall foliage is just past its peak
  • Squirrels are digging in acorns as fast as they physically can
  • The sound of crickets has died down
  • Your family dog starts laying out in the sun

When choosing a site for your bulbs think about two things: Sunlight & Drainage. Most bulbs require sunlight to store energy and bloom come spring, so plant them in a location that receives at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. Never plant bulbs where water pools or damp areas in your landscape, the bulbs will essentially rot before they have a chance to grow. Ideally, the soil is well-drained, rich in organic matter, such as compost or peat moss, but sandy. Plant your bulbs approximately 6-8” deep (varies slightly depending on type).


Also at this time of year critters (such as squirrels, rodents, chipmunks, etc.) are attracted to any sign of disturbed soil. We recommend covering the area that you’ve planted bulbs with a heavy-handed sprinkle of Milorganite.

What the heck is Milorganite you ask? It is a slow-release granular fertilizer comprised of heat-dried biosolids that is produced by the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District… but don’t worry, it’s not poop… The sewage treatment plant collects wastewater and treats it with microbes that digest the organic matter in the wastewater. The microbes drop to the bottom of the tank where they are then kiln dried into small pellets. The strange odor typically drives away most of the critters that are interested in your bulbs!

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You can find a wide selection of bulbs at your local nursery or garden center. If you’re not sure what combination would look best or are you just feeling overwhelmed with how to get started?

Feel free to contact Avant Gardening for some guidance, either fill out our contact form or call us at 608-838-2054.

We do bulb planting and layout design for many of our existing residential clients as well as commercial and municipal sites – we’d be happy to help you too!


Preparing Your Garden for Winter!

It’s that time of year again to put the garden to bed! You’ve worked hard all season to keep your landscape looking fantastic and it is almost time to call it quits… BUT before you trade out your trowel for your snow shovel try to complete a few more things to make our Wisconsin winters a little easier!

Below is a list of activities that we recommend doing to prep for winter:

Perennials – Cut most back to ground, but consider leaving Coneflowers, Rudbeckia and other plants that have seed heads that the birds will feed on throughout the winter. Why not keep some life in your winter garden with fluttering birds?!


Grasses – Leave for winter interest, many also have vital seeds for our birds. Leave Carex spp. as is, although they are not an upright grass that will provide additional interest, the little bit of decaying grass cover on the crown of the plant will help it survive through winter better.

Leaves – Clean up as much as possible, especially in areas where you know you have disease issues. Also remove them from hardscape surfaces (such as patios, walkways, landings) depending on the type of tree the leaves can sometimes leave stains on these surfaces.

Annual Flowers – It is best to remove and dispose of to make things easier in spring (Yes – even those mums you feel like you just planted…) plus, this gives you the opportunity to create a winter annual display!

Winter Displays – Using a diversity of evergreen boughs, Dogwood branches and Curly Willow you can make great arrangements in your planters over the winter. Do this as late as possible but before everything freezes, typically around Thanksgiving.


Roses – Protect the sensitive ones with mulch and remember to prune back in Spring.

Turf – Winterization fertilizer can be applied any time. Clear your lawn of leaves and mow shorter to reduce disease activity over the winter (as well as first thing in the spring) Don’t forget to core aerate your lawn as well!

Evergreen Trees & Shrubs – No more pruning until Spring.

Deciduous Trees & Shrubs – Most can be pruned at any time this time of year. We like to wait until the leaves have fallen off and then work on structural pruning.

Driveway & Sidewalks – Prune back all plant material hanging over to make that dreading snow removal a little easier! Speaking of snow removal… Are you just sick of doing it this year? Contact Avant for a quote by clicking here!

Ponds & Water Features – Pull the pump out and clean out any leaves or other debris. If you have fish and plan to keep them in pond, install an aerator and heater to keep the pond from completely freezing over. The open water will draw more birds to your garden as well.

Spring Blooming Bulbs – Install now until spring, as long as you can get them in the ground, you can plant them!

By completing these tasks, your landscape will be well winterized and will get you off to a great start in the spring. Happy Winter-izing!