Avant Gardening

Avant Gardening & Landscaping

Category: Community Service

Partnership with Village of Shorewood Hills – Educational Signage

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.

Photo courtesy of: Corey George, Village of Shorewood Hills Forester

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.

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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.

Photo courtesy of: Corey George, Village of Shorewood Hills Forester

Photo courtesy of: Corey George, Village of Shorewood Hills Forester

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!


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.