Do you have a large Dogwood, Viburnum or other suckering plant that is outgrowing its space? Dormant pruning maybe your solution!
What is dormant pruning?
Well what does “dormant” mean exactly… with regards to a plant or bud, “dormant” means: alive but not actively growing. Think of it like a hibernation period for plants, their normal functions are suspended or slowed down in the winter time.
Dormant pruning is strategic pruning (or trimming) that is done during a plant’s dormancy period – winter or early spring, before the buds break. The plant is pruned aggressively, reducing its overall size by thinning out the canes, removing dead, diseased and crossing branches.
Why is dormant pruning important?
Dormant pruning is a great practice to increase the overall health of your landscape. Pruning in general helps you control the size of a plant, growth pattern, and helps rejuvenate old overgrown plants.
Although the snow and bitterly cold wind chills might make you just want to hibernate as well… dormant pruning is typically the best time to prune plants. You are able to see the overall branch structure more easily, and the insects and disease-causing organisms are not active during this time of year.
What about trimming large trees?
Mature trees are especially important to ONLY dormant prune to prevent the spread of diseases. Various insects and diseases are attracted to fresh, open ‘bleeding’ cuts on trees. One prime example is with Oak trees. They should only be pruned after October 15th, but if possible it is best if they are dormant pruned when the picnic beetle is definitely not active. Oak Wilt is caused by the fungus Ceratocystis fagacearum. Picnic beetles are attracted to mats of the oak wilt fungus in infected trees, they pick up spores of the fungus on their bodies, and then carry the spores to healthy trees. The beetles are attracted to trees that have been recently wounded poorly timed pruning, and sometimes wind or storm damage.
What cannot be dormant pruned?
Evergreens, however, do not respond well to this type of pruning. Generally evergreens require very little pruning, especially since they are slower growing, but if necessary this should be done later in the spring or summer.
“The wise gardener anticipates June in January.” ~Author Unknown
Most of us in Madison, Wisconsin have already gone into hibernation – the below zero landscape outside and frigid wind chills make us cozy up inside and dream of spring (only venturing out if absolutely necessary!) But there are still plenty of things to keep us gardeners busy!
1. Take Down Your Holiday Tree
This is a task always dreaded in my family – but why not make it a positive experience by recycling it in your garden? Place your dried-out tree next to bird feeders and your feathery friends are sure to appreciate the added shelter and cover.
2. Appreciate Winter Landscape Beauty
You don’t even need to go outside for this one! Just by gazing out your window you can enjoy the twinkle of a fresh snowfall, finely textured plants frozen into lace, and seed heads with snowy caps. Ornamental Grasses (especially Panicum), Echinacea, Echinops, Liatris and Rudbeckia all provide great winter interest.
3. Water The Flowers Birds!
Bird watching can really help Wisconsin gardeners make it through the long winter season. Consider investing in a heated birdbath, even more so than food, birds need clean, open water for bathing and drinking. Now these birdbaths can even be solar powered!
4. Evaluate Your Garden’s “Bones”
The monochromatic setting can help you see the structure of your garden. Now is a good time to take notes and sketch on photographs of your landscape, think about where additional evergreens could be sited or how pretty an arbor and bench might be – perhaps some outdoor lighting accents to make the long nights less dark and depressing!
5. Take a Trip!
If you can’t escape to a tropical paradise, think about visiting a local substitute! Check out a conservatory like the Bolz Conservatory at Olbrich Botanical Gardens – a stroll through the warm, moist air on a sunny day is sure to make you forget about the inches of snow just on the other side of the glass! For more information: http://olbrich.org/gardens/conservatory.cfm
Nothing. Ha- Just kidding! We design of course!
As the temperatures in our Wisconsin landscape get bitterly cold, our skilled team of Landscape Architects and Landscape Designers remain available for design and master planning projects during the winter months. We can help you with that rain garden, retaining wall, outdoor landscape lighting or just some curb appeal that you’ve been putting off.
Beat the rush! It’s best to get started now if you want something done in spring!
We develop creative solutions for residential landscapes and commercial landscape projects in a wide range of aesthetic styles.
Which landscape styles speak to you?
- A woven tapestry of colors and textures of the New American Garden style
- Clean and simple elegance of Contemporary Minimalism
- Informal beauty of Prairie-Inspired Landscapes and Gravel Gardens
- Tranquility of Wisconsin Woodland Gardens
- Asymmetrical balance and harmony of Japanese-Style Landscapes
- Geometric, formal symmetry of Classic Traditional Landscapes
From smaller-scale garden design to landscape master planning, our team can help you visualize the Wisconsin landscape of your dreams. It is our responsive and immediate attention to the needs of our client that sets us apart from our competition.
How Does the Process Start?
Our iterative design process begins with a consultation. One of our experienced designers will meet with you to discuss your project. Yes, even when it’s snowing!
Things you may want to consider ahead of time:
- How do you want to use your outdoor space?
- What is your ultimate goal?
- Do you want space for entertaining?
- Would you like a place where children can play?
- Are there views that you want to enhance or screen?
- What is your comfortable level of garden maintenance?
- What is your budget and timeline?
Contact the Avant Design Team today! Send us an email to or give us a call at 608-838-2054. You can also reach out to us via our website’s
Contact Form to schedule a meeting.
PLUS – It’s fun to dream of spring when the it’s SO COLD out!
After the last snowstorm of 7+ inches of snow… some of you might be thinking…
Whyyyy do I still live in this Wisconsin landscape? What is the point of snow? Is this necessary?! Does snow serve any good purpose for my plants?!
- Snow is nature’s way of offering a layer of insulation to plants from the extreme cold or fluctuating temperatures.
- It offers a more stable environment when the temperatures vary greatly in a short period of time. Most damage done to plants is generally in the early fall or late spring if there is not a layer of snow to provide protection.
- In Taylor’s Encyclopedia of Gardening, snow is called “the poor man’s fertilizer.” When it comes through the atmosphere, nitrogen and sulfur attach to the flakes. Then during the melting period in spring, these elements are sent into the soil and absorbed by plants. ANd of course, nitrogen is essential to your plant’s overall health.
- Snowfall lures more birds and animals to the food sources that you’ve set out for them since their natural food sources are more covered. This means that you will see more action at your feeders and birdbaths.
Heavy snow can split columnar shrubs and trees and the added weight can cause branches to break, especially with bitter freezing temperatures and strong winter winds.
How do I protect my plants from the ravages of winter?
Gently remove snow as soon as possible after a snowfall, before it completely freezes to the branches. Use a broom to reach higher branches that may get weighted down.
Hopefully you’ve already watered deeply in the fall to prevent drying out. You can also offer your plants some physical barrier protection from any salt source if they’re more susceptible.
Top 10 Gifts for Gardeners
With the holidays approaching it’s time to check your green-thumbed friend off your list! Shopping can be stressful… whether it’s for a fellow gardener or that aunt that doesn’t want anything. These gift ideas are sure to be perfect for the garden enthusiast in your life and maybe even those other hard-to-buy-for family members!
Every gardener needs one! A garden journal is perfect for keeping track of all those pesky things we forget about! Help your friend stay organized in their garden and remember which plants they want to divide, phenological notes, ideas for next season, which plants the rabbits ate, and any other reminders!
3. Olbrich Botanical Gardens Membership
For the month of December, current members can gift a membership to new members for 1/2 price! It is the gift that keeps on giving all year long with free admission to the Bolz Conservancy, discounts in the Growing Gifts gift shop, discounts on Olbrich classes and trips, access to special members only events and reciprocal benefits to over 300 gardens nationwide!! Check out their website to fill out the application.
5. Magazine Subscription
There are so many fantastic garden magazines that provide inspiration and creative ideas all year long! Avant Gardening & Landscaping’s favorites include: Wisconsin Gardener Magazine, Garden Design Magazine & Horticulture.
7. UW-Arboretum Winter Enrichment Lecture Series Registration
Since 1968, the Arboretum has offered lectures for naturalists in the greater Madison area. This winter program is also open to Arboretum volunteers, friends, and interested public as space allows. Great topics that branch out form birding to geology and everything in between! Check out their website to sign up.
“From December to March, there are for many of us three gardens –
the garden outdoors,
the garden of pots and bowls in the house,
and the garden of the mind’s eye.”
– Katherine S. White
1. Protection & Preparation
If you haven’t already, be sure to wrap special trees and shrubs to protect them against critters during the winter. Also, protect certain species that you know are attractive to voles/rabbits/deer, such as arborvitae, fothergilla, and oakleaf hydrangea.
Besides mentally prepping for snow accumulation, don’t forget to physically prepare. Now is a good time to make sure you have proper snow removal tools – Do you need a new scoop shovel? Did your winter boots leak last year? Where is that ice scraper…
Once the snow starts to fly, monitor your garden. It’s peaceful and beautiful when snow piles up, but keep in mind too much can be damaging. Heavy, wet snow accumulations can put stress on the branches, causing them to hang down lower or worse, break! Don your most snow-proof winter clothing and get out there to brush off the snow! Focus on your evergreens, especially arborviate spp. and boxwood spp. are most susceptible. It is best to brush off from the ground up so that you’re not causing more damage batting down at the branches.
2. Winter Pruning
Winter is the perfect time to prune trees and shrubs, especially since all the leaves have dropped it makes it easier to see the structure. Another perk – most pests and diseases that are attracted to open wounds of trees are inactive this time of year, so less chance of infecting your plants!
3. Decorate for the Holidays!
Try making a DIY wreath, reclaimed wood trees, or create some winter container displays this year! Not sure how to make a winter container? Read last week’s blog post here for step-by-step instructions.
4. Switch to Indoor Gardening Activities
Take an educational class from UW-Extension, they have an excellent 2017 Green Thumb Gardening Series!! There are plenty of workshops and classes to choose from at Olbrich Botanical Gardens too. Lots you can do to keep you active and thinking about your garden all winter long!
5. Choose a New Book!
Bored with your winter surroundings already? Grab a new gardening book and start gathering inspiration for next year! Pinterest is also a fun place to see lots of ideas and pin photos to save for spring. Here a quick list of a few of our favorite gardening books –
- Growing the Midwest Garden by Edward Lyon (former director of the Allen Centennial Garden, get your copy here)
- Vintage Wisconsin Gardens: A History of Home Gardening
- by Lee Somerville (from the WI Historical Society Press)
- Garden Wisdom: Lessons Learned from 60 Years of Gardening (another good one about vegetable gardening from the WI Historical Society Press)
- Hot Plants for Cool Climates: Gardening With Tropical Plants in Temperate Zones by Dennis Schrader (pick it up here)
Annual container displays aren’t just for the warmer months! Just think of all the possibilities – instead of the traditional wreath this year, why not an ice skate filled with bright berries or an antique children’s sled propped up with birch branches? Make your front entry unique this holiday season.
This blog post will provide step-by-step instructions for creating a simple, yet elegant winter evergreen display in a container for your front porch or patio area.
1. Empty Your Container – It’s important to start fresh, be sure to remove and compost any old annual material from summer/fall before starting your winter display. We don’t want any unsightly material poking through. Now is a good time to gather all of the materials you need , so you’re not running around wasting time during the creation of your holiday display.
2. Base Layer of Evergreens – This layer won’t be very noticeable later on so we suggest using more of your “filler” evergreen material (aka less expensive), possibly a good layer of balsam or frasier fir. There are multiple ways to assemble your evergreen boughs but I think it is easiest with a small container to start in the middle and work your way out, sticking in bough ends into the soil ~4″ in different directions. Remember that both sides of the bough can be used, rotating them can add extra interest. Depending on the size of your container you may want to cut the bough down to the next node, for the appropriate size and scale. You want them just poking out over the edge of your container ~4-6″, you can hang over more if you’re going for a more draping effect though, or if it’s not in a high traffic area.
3. Add Diversity – Displays can be filled with an wide assortment of evergreens that will hold their color during our long winter months. Types of evergreens include: balsam, scotch, red & white pine, frasier & concolor fir, junipers, arborvitae, boxwood, blue & Norway spruce, etc. If you’re not sure about a certain type, test it out! Just use a little of it sparingly the first year and if it holds up well and you like the look, go ahead and use more the following year!
4. Create Height – Now we’re getting into the fun part! Start in the center of your container and add stems. Just like the evergreen options, there is a wide variety of natural materials you can use. Consider curly willow, pussy willow, kerria, ninebark, birch branches, and of course any kind of dogwood twigs – red, yellow, coral. There’s even a Dogwood cultivar called ‘Arctic Sun’ with stems that change from yellow to red!
5. A Little Something Special… the final touches! These are the cute details that really make it your own creation. Think about tucking in small splashes of extra accent material. Possibly some dried flowers (hydrangeas and allium work well), preserved ruscus, eucalyptus, pine cones, and winter berries… Really whatever your heart desires! Don’t forget about the more traditional holiday decorations too, such as: twinkling lights, shiny ornaments (we’d recommend the shatter-proof ones!!), glittery floral picks, silky bows and ribbon. The sky is the limit! Just make sure it will hold up to our harsh winter climate.
Our Avant Gardening & Landscaping team has created seasonal displays for many years. Nothing welcomes guests and visitors to your home or business better than a cheerful holiday display. If you need help designing and installing your winter container displays, just give us a call or email us!
“So many plants, so little space” is a lament heard many times over by gardeners who long for more room to get their hands dirty. It can be very challenging to create an attractive and functional small space, as well as carving out an intimate area that affords some privacy within a larger landscape.
Don’t despair, Melinda Meyers to the rescue! Here’s a great book to put on your holiday wish lists –
Small Space Gardening guides you through a step-by-step process to help you achieve your little piece of heaven. Melinda starts by explaining how to analyze your space by sketching out the area, evaluating how you want to use the space and identifying what landscape style you’re trying to achieve. Then it’s on to the design process followed by recommendations on how to maintain your completed project. There’s also a chapter on the challenges and opportunities that small space gardeners face.
The last third of the book is devoted to a comprehensive plant directory that includes perennials, grasses, shrubs, vines, and trees (yes, trees!) that are small space favorites. The high resolution plant photographs include a description of plant culture and characteristics, and is an excellent resource for buying decisions.
About the author:
Melinda Meyers has a master’s degree in horticulture, is a certified arborist, started the Master Gardener program in Milwaukee and is a horticulture instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical School. She hosts “Great Lakes Gardening” on PBS, and writes the twice monthly “Gardener’s Questions” columns for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Recipe courtesy of the Kielstrup’s Kitchen (Thanks Becky!!)
Start with 4# apples, quartered – do not peel
Put in large saucepan with 2 cups water and 1 cup apple cider vinegar, cook until apples are soft. Then put the mix through food mill to make apple sauce like consistency. Transfer puree mix back to pot, add ½ cup of sugar for every 1 cup of puree.
Then add spices:
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- Zest of ½ of lemon
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp allspice
- ¼ tsp ground clove
- Dash of salt
- ¼ tsp nutmeg, if desired
Cook on stove top for 1-2 hours stirring consistently or cook on low in crock pot for 4-6 hours – but keep an eye on it! You are done when mix is reduced in half. It will thicken as it cools. Refrigerate final product or can for storage. Water bath can for 10 minutes.
For more seasonal recipes, click here!
The Village of Shorewood Hills received a Dane County Environmental Community Partner grant ($1,000) in 2015. The grant funded public education and awareness of stormwater management and bio-retention sites in the community. Because Avant Gardening & Landscaping was involved in the design and planting, Shorewood Hills partnered with us to create educational signage at a highly visible bio-retention area near the Shorewood Hills Elementary School.
The project idea was suggested by a local parent who walks by this bio-retention garden twice a day with their child, to and from school. The parent was very supportive of the work being done, but desired more information so they could educate their ever-questioning child. The goal of the signage is to provide informal educational opportunities and “teaching moments” for both the parents and students, as well as raise awareness of rain gardens and encourage environmental stewardship.
The signage was installed at the corner of Amherst Drive and Bowdoin Road in Shorewood Hills (east of the tennis courts) near the Shorewood Hills Elementary School. Six signs (1 large and 5 small) were placed in the bio-retention area. The large sign (24”x36”) exhibits a map of Shorewood Hills with the locations of all the community bio-retention sites, defines a bio-retention area, and gives an overview of Shorewood Hills’ stormwater management program. The 5 smaller signs (8.5”x11”) are plant identification markers and highlight specific native plants in the rain gardens.
Click here to see the digital copies of the smaller plant identification signs – They each have fun facts and a “Did You Know?” section for quick learning!
The Village of Shorewood Hills is a leading example of integrating bio-retention areas throughout their neighborhood. In 2008, they adopted a more stringent erosion control and stormwater management ordinance than the county and state, because the standards did not regulate small-scale land disturbing activities or redevelopment projects that were commonly occurring in the Village. The Village residents expressed their environmental concerns which were fortified by the fact that the Village is surrounded by development pressure on all sides and an extremely valuable natural resource, Lake Mendota, to the north and northwest. The new regulations, coupled with the creation of multiple bio-retention areas, are designed to reduce the amount of sediment washed from the Village into Lake Mendota, thus improving the overall water quality for fish and wildlife.
The bio-retention areas are stormwater treatment systems that consist of a slight depression which is integrated into the surrounding landscape. They capture stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces and allow the water to infiltrate through the soil media slowly. As the water infiltrates, pollutants are removed from through a variety of mechanisms including: plant uptake, microbial activity, sedimentation, and filtration.
In order to foster creative learning, promote awareness and inspire residents to install their own bio-retention areas/rain gardens at home – we need to provide interesting, informative and useful signage about the overall bio-retention areas and specific plant identification for Village citizens.
Do you need help designing educational plant signage? We can help – contact us here!
Does your non-profit organization, city and/or school districts have an environmental project in mind?
For more information on application process for this grant, visit: Dane County Environmental Council
To learn about projects that received grants in 2016, click here!