If you have a bad case of spring fever and really want to stretch every last penny this month… a visit to the WPT Garden Expo may be the cure!
Make plans to join Avant Gardening and Landscaping at the 2016 Wisconsin Public Television Garden Expo February 10th-12th at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. This event is sure to get you ready for all your spring gardening and landscaping adventures and with so many offerings it’s sure to please everyone in the family.
For more information and to pre-purchase tickets visit: www.wigardenexpo.com
A day at the Garden Expo costs $8 (in advance) and the list of fun things to do throughout the weekend is endless. Here’s a quick look at our team’s top 5 reasons to visit:
1. 150+ FREE EDUCATIONAL SEMINARS & DEMONSTRATIONS
If that’s not enough to get your gardening soul excited, we don’t know what will! There’s a huge variety of topics from beekeeping to landscape design. Becky Kielstrup, Avant Gardening’s General Manager/Horticulturalist, will also be presenting! Be sure to check out her seminar, especially if you are interested in reducing or eliminating pesticides and inorganic fertilizers in the landscape. She will discuss organic lawn care, sustainable planting bed methods, native plants, integrated pest management and simple tips on how to begin!
Organic Landscape Maintenance Practices
When: Saturday 11:45am – 12:30pm Location: Waubesa/Kegonsa OR Sunday 12:45pm – 1:30pm
2. EXCITING RAFFLE PRIZES
Need a new outdoor grill, gardening tools or maybe a whole new garden? Try your luck in the Garden Expo Raffle. This year, Avant Gardening & Landscaping has donated a gift certificate towards a Perennial Collection, a great prize whether you’re an established gardener or just starting out.
3. INDOOR FARMER’S MARKET
Back by popular demand, the second annual Farmers’ Market! It will feature farmers, food artisans and local food retailers. Products available include pickles and preserves, artisan cheeses, honey, olive oil, tea, chocolate, greens, coffee, and hand-crafted salami and cured meats. Stop by the expo on Sunday, February 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and visit the Atrium of the Exhibition Hall to do some shopping!
4. BOTANICAL THEMED CRAFT COCKTAILS
New this year – on Friday from 5-8 p.m. in the central garden there will be botanical-themed craft cocktails offered, developed by mixologists from Graze. A little cost but hey, when in Rome… View the cocktail menu here.Take some time to enjoy the beautiful plant and flower display put together by members of the Wisconsin Nursery and Landscaping Association (WNLA) and enjoy music from jazz pianist Dave Stoler, a featured member of the Tony Castaneda Latin Jazz Sextet.
5. SHARE IDEAS & GET INSPIRATION
Avant Gardening and Landscaping will be one of the hundreds of businesses, contractors, nonprofits, and artists on hand, ready to answer any of your questions throughout the weekend. Get new ideas about gardening, landscaping and local food production. You can even talk directly with experts from UW-Extension Horticulture and many local Botanical Gardens.
If money is really that tight – you can always get in free (and even FREE parking). For Garden Expo volunteer opportunities, visit Wisconsin Public Television’s Volunteer website to browse available positions and shifts. As a thank you for your help, they provide you with a free parking pass and admission to Garden Expo on the day of your volunteer shift.
We hope you venture out for this mid-winter oasis – Spring will be here before we know it!
Local trade shows and expos can be awkward and intimidating! Do you get anxious wandering through a huge exposition hall lined with booth after booth of unfamiliar companies… New expo visitors can be hesitant for numerous reasons. Do any of the following situations below apply to you?
- Just bought a new house and have no idea where to start…
- Feel like if you stop and talk you will be pressured into a hard sale…
- Just not sure what/how to ask questions to get valuable information…
With the Madison Home Show fresh in our memory and the NARI Remodeling Expo coming up this weekend, we decided to create a list of intelligent and important questions for you to ask your local landscaper before you hire them to work at your property.
These questions are not only important to make sure you will be working with a qualified, reputable landscaping company – but will also get the conversation going about your potential project and help you determine if they are the right company for you!
Here are 5 Questions we’d recommend asking – with answers from Tim Stenzel, one of our Landscape Architects at Avant Gardening & Landscaping.
1. What is your background in the field?
I have a Bachelor’s degree in Conservation Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture from SUNY-ESF in Syracuse, NY. After graduate school, I spent several years working in and around Chicago and the North Shore communities.
2. How long has your company been in business?
We are proud to be celebrating our 32nd Year in Business! As our name implies, Avant Gardening and Landscaping has been at the forefront of the gardening and landscaping industry in Madison and Dane County since 1985. We couldn’t do it without our loyal clients and dedicated team.
3. Do you hire Registered Landscape Architects?
Yes! Having a registered landscape architect on staff is very important for the health, safety and welfare of our clients. We have 3 Licensed Landscape Architects, which is quite a few for our small office! Liza Lightfoot, Dan Schmitt & Tim Stenzel are all very talented and have experience working on complicated projects. Read more about them on our staff page.
4. Where does the bulk of your work come from?
Most of our work comes from Loyal Existing Clients coming back to complete another phase of their project or continuing to work with our maintenance team in their gardens. A large majority of brand new clients come from Existing Client Referrals. We also receive quite a few referrals from local businesses and public gardens (such as Allen Centennial Garden and Olbrich Botanical Gardens), our website & Google, and the Wisconsin Public Television Garden Expo.
If the company answers with Yellow Pages, or doesn’t know where their work comes from, this is a red flag… It tells you that the contractor is either new, inexperienced, a low-baller in the industry or simply doesn’t get many referrals…
5. What are the most unique services your company provides?
- Avant offers a very successful organic lawn care program using compost topdressing, compost teas, and lawn aerating.
- We use a lot of natural stone in our patio, wall and walkway installations. This is becoming less common in our industry. We use eco-sensitive practices whenever possible and believe in sourcing local raw materials, such as natural stone, which means there is less processing of materials which ultimately creates more waste water.
- We make our own soil blends! We recycle whenever possible and take all of the plant debris from jobsites and turn it continually throughout the year, once it breaks down into fine organic matter we mix it into our planting bed mix – the outcome is a very fertile soil mix that is periodically tested by UW Soils lab to ensure high quality.
6. What is your company’s philosophy?
Our philosophy has always been to see ourselves as stewards of the environment. We believe in living by example, Avant’s office grounds are landscaped in a naturalistic style that attracts a diversity of birds, pollinators and butterflies. We’ve recently become an official Monarch Waystation! We also have a small pond that we keep open and functioning through the long winter months because it is an important water source for wildlife.
We hope this blog posts helps you prepare for the next home show or expo you visit! Speaking of… don’t forget to visit us this weekend! Stop by Avant Gardening & Landscaping’s booth #409 at the NARI Madison Remodeling Expo Jan. 20-22. For more information check out http://www.nariexpo.com/
Many Wisconsin gardeners believe four-season interest means they’re limited to evergreens, but there are many other options! The three plants listed below are top favorites because they have either unique berries, bark or other interesting element in the winter – and they’re not evergreens!
1. Seven-Son Flower (Heptacodium miconioides) has glossy leaves that emerge and remain attractive all season. Fragrant flowers bloom late in the season, followed by small fruits surrounded by a bright red/magenta calyx produces a late fall display. Light brown exfoliating bark adds winter interest.
Zone: 5 to 9 Height: 15-20 feet Spread: 8-10 feet Attracts: Hummingbirds
2. Vernal Witchhazel (Hamamelis vernalis) is an early-flowering shrub. The orange-red flowers have strap-like petals that curl inward on chilly days (an adaptive mechanism to protect from freezing). The oval-shaped leaves turn a golden yellow/orange in fall and often hang on through winter.
Zone: 4 to 8 Height: 6-10 feet Spread: 8-15 feet Tolerate: Deer, Erosion, Clay Soil
3. Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa ‘Autumn Magic’) exhibits white flower clusters in spring and dark green leaves through summer. The astringent berries contain about 3X MORE ANTIOXIDANTS than blueberries! Excellent fall color ranges from bright orange to reddish-purple. Fruit clusters persist into January.
Zone: 3 to 8 Height: 3-6 feet Spread: 4-7 feet Suggested Use: Natural, Rain Garden
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.
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.