The Bulb Design Notes Project: Designing for Deer Resistance

The Bulb Design Notes Project features work by Janie McCabe of M.J. McCabe Garden Design.

Combo: In spring: hellebores, dwarf daffodils, Pulmonaria, Epimedium (barrenwort or bishop’s hat), Viola ‘Lemon Sorbet’ and Tulipa ‘Apricot Impression’ (Darwin hybrid tulip, apricot with pink, blooms midseason). Late spring into summer: Hakonechloa (Japanese forest grass) with ferns and Linum (flax). Joined in late summer/fall by Kirengeshoma palmata (yellow wax bells) plus naturalized Colchicum.

Location: Janie’s garden in Northford, Connecticut, USDA Zone 6b

Notes: An old apple tree is a prized feature in this area of my garden. The surrounding perennial bed changes throughout the year. With two exceptions, every plant in this setting is deer resistant. The exceptions are tulips and violas. Happily, though both are vulnerable to deer, typically neither is bothered here thanks to their unpalatable neighbors. In spring, there’s plenty of sunlight so the daffodils come back year after year. Every year, I plant fresh tulips. For the fun of it, I change the color scheme each year, planting all of one kind. Perennial spring color is provided by naturalized miniature daffodils, purple-flowered Epimedium, purple-flowered Helleborus and brilliant-blue Pulmonaria. I also add yellow violas in spring, which reseed nicely so they rebloom in fall. By late spring, I pull the tulips.

In summer and fall the bed is partially shaded and stays fairly moist, though not overly damp. Lush foliage dominates, with color unfolding in waves. First the underplanting of grassy Hakonechloa fills in, then is joined by the ferns, the foliage of Linum and Kirengeshoma pallata. In late spring, a long-lasting wave of blue kicks in, as the bee-loving Linum flowers come into bloom. By August, the waxy yellow flowers of Kirengeshoma have taken over, lasting into fall. By October, a pink carpet of naturalized Colchicum is the big show, now rejoined by the yellow violas.


The bulb experts at Colorblends thought it would be interesting to explore how some accomplished garden design professionals approach their projects. “We reached out to several designers whose work we admire and asked if they’d share the thinking behind some of their successful spring bulb and perennial combinations. Their generous responses are presented in The Bulb Design Notes Project,” says Tim Schipper of Colorblends, a national flower bulb resource. Click here to read more.

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