The Bulb Design Notes Project: Allium and Snowball Viburnum

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

Combo: Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ with Viburnum opalus roseum (old-fashioned snowball viburnum).

Location: Guilford, Connecticut, USDA Zone 6b

Notes: These are both heirloom varieties suited to a spare location. Also, both are reasonably priced thus affordable in mass plantings. The viburnum will fill out fairly quickly. The allium will rebloom for 3 or 4 years. I’ll add more allium bulbs every few years.


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.

The Bulb Design Notes Project: Hillside Mix of Bulbs and Perennials

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

Combo: Red-orange species tulips, white Narcissus ‘W.P. Milner’ and yellow Narcissus ‘Baby Boomer’, purple Allium ‘Purple Sensation’, yellow Doronicum oriental (oriental leopard’s bane), white Iberis ‘Kingwood Compact’ (candytuft), blue Campanula poscharskyana (Serbian bellflower) and green Hakonechloa (Hakone grass).

Location: Middletown, Connecticut, USDA Zone 6b

Notes: I like to add small surprises for my clients. When I tuck in spring-blooming bulbs, people are bowled over by the unexpected color. A patch of brilliant-blue Iris reticulata will hook anyone. People fall in love with bulbs. For this sunny site, the surprise was species tulips. These have now naturalized here. No animal problems to date.

For me, pest resistance is always a factor. Eighty percent of my clients in coastal Connecticut have trouble with deer, voles, moles and rabbits. For spring color, pest-proof daffodils are always a top choice. Alliums are very reliable too.

Tulips are tricky. But, what’s spring without tulips? Even small doses make such a difference. I find there’s usually a way to work in tulips—you just need to outfox the foragers. The bulbs are not expensive, so it’s worth experimenting with surprise clusters here and there, to push the envelope, to learn where you’ll have success. Never assume tulips won’t work.

For certain sites, I treat tulip bulbs to keep diggers away. I soak the bulbs in my own mix: 1/4 cup liquid Lysol to 3 gallons water. A quick soak is plenty. Spread the bulbs out to dry before planting.


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.

The Bulb Design Notes Project: White-on-White Color Scheme

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

Combo: Boxwood hedge of Buxus ‘Tide Hill’ and white-flowering, dwarf crabapples. In spring: Narcisuss ‘Thalia’ and mixed white tulips, including: single late ‘Maureen’, double late ‘Mount Tacoma’, lily-flowered ‘White Triumphator’ and fringed ‘Swan Wings’. In summer: Allium ‘Mount Everest’, followed by Scaevola and Euphorbia ‘White Frost’. In fall: Anemone japonica ‘Honorine Jobert’.

Location: Milford, Connecticut, USDA Zone 7a

Notes: This was a project for a longtime client on which I cooperated with David Duncan of Needham Duncan Architecture of Old Lyme, Connecticut. My assignment was to create a new garden adjacent to the garage addition David was designing for the client’s 1909-built home. The resulting structure and garden meld beautifully with the relaxed elegance of the original property.

Boxwood hedging and dwarf crabapple trees anchor the garden beds. In this setting, a white-on-white color scheme is appealing spring through fall. The bloom season opens with diminutive, multi-flowering N. ‘Thalia’. Next up are a mix of white tulips that bloom mid-late to late spring. Right after bloom, we pull the tulips. By then, Allium ‘Mount Everest’ is taking over. In summer the white-on-white scheme continues with a ground-cover-planting of Scaevola and Euphorbia. In fall, the naturalized Japanese anemone comes up.

Each fall, we plant fresh tulip bulbs and additional alliums. Typically we plant here by Thanksgiving.


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.

The Bulb Design Notes Project: Allium, Kniphofia and Grasses

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

Combo: Fall-planted bulb, purple Allium ‘Ambassador’ with perennials, including: orange-and-yellow Kniphofia (red hot poker) and grasses Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ and Pennisetum ‘Hameln’.

Location: Branford, Connecticut, USDA Zone 7a

Notes: The color contrast is wonderful in hazy coastal light and jaw-dropping when backlit by the sun, late afternoon till sunset. The allium and red hot pokers are flanked by perennial grasses, which effectively hide the yellowing allium foliage during its dieback phase. The entire mix provides for a long season of interest with plants that silhouette beautifully against the water. Equally important: these plants are tough nuts that take coastal conditions in stride.


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.

The Bulb Design Notes Project: Impressive Color Echoing

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

Combo: Tulipa ‘Formosa’ (viridiflora tulip, soft yellow with spring-green blush, blooms late) with Hosta ‘Ivory Coast’ (medium large, the yellow margins turn creamy in summer).

Location: Fairfield, Connecticut, USDA Zone 7a

Notes: Here’s another found treasure, this time at Oliver’s Nursery in Fairfield, Connecticut. This is an impressive plant combination that shows the power of color echoing at its best. There’s unusual balance in this pairing, where the same shades of “tulip green” and soft yellow link the tulip and hosta, while their respective color configurations are nearly opposite. To this composition, I envision adding blue Brunnera and yellow, daisy-like Doronicum to enhance and extend the bloom.


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.

The Bulb Design Notes Project: Flawless Transitional Combo

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

Combo: Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ (blooms late spring/early summer); Gladiolus communis ssp byzantinus (magenta flowers, blooms late spring/early summer); Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’ (Japanese forest grass, mounded, cascading golden grass); Aruncus ‘Horatio’ (goat’s beard, tiny white flowers, blooms early to midsummer); Salvia x sylvestris ‘Blue Hill’; Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ (deep-magenta foliage in spring, red in fall).

Location: Conservatory Garden in Central Park, New York, New York, USDA Zone 7b

Notes: I spotted this gorgeous plant partnership at the Conservatory Garden in Manhattan’s Central Park. I love how it maximizes the transition from late spring into summer, with a layering of texture and color that feels flawless to me. Note how the reddish-purple Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ and Gladiolus byzantinus are framed by the glowing Hakonechloa and the fresh green foliage and tiny, creamy-white flowers of the Aruncus, while the brilliant-blue Salvia in the foreground adds the right dollop of punctuation. To the rear, the smoke tree’s dark foliage creates a backdrop that sets off the whole scene.


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.

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.

Victory Gardens abound in 2020!

In 1944, about 40% of the food grown in the US came from national victory gardens. Today we are seeing a resurgence of that long lost era. Growing some of your own food is a positive step toward personal food security—knowing that you planted the seed, nurtured it, and then harvested the yield for your dinner table is a great way to keep your family food independent. According to The National Gardening Association, “Gardening gets you out in the fresh air, adds positive energy into your life, gives you something fun to do and give a new activity that the whole family can participate in.”

CLICK HERE for more information on home gardening.


Container growing — packing various lettuces into pots — lets you pick your own salad


When carefully laid out, the edible garden is a joy to work in


Raised vegetable beds allow for easy maintenanc, crops can be rotated easily throughout the season


Even a small patch of earth provides space for abundant produce

GARDENING with KIDS

I recently found this image from so many years ago — it’s me with my wonderful Dad in a garden. I don’t remember this picture, it just fell out of an old box of pictures last week, but it made me remember how he instilled a love of gardening in me.

I think it’s genetic. I hope, because it’s so rewarding to involve your kids in creating a family garden. Laying out a garden, planting seeds and watching their daily growth gives kids a sense of excitement and wonder—knowing that they can grow their own food.

According to PBS Children programing, gardening with children is truly beneficial and educational. “For parents struggling to find ways to encourage their kids to eat a healthy and balanced diet, gardening can be an important tool. There is a myriad of scientific concepts you can discuss with your kids when planting and tending to a garden. One study showed that children who participated in gardening projects scored higher in science achievement than those who did not. The wonder of seeing a garden grow may spark your kids to ask questions like: Why do the plants need sun? How does the plant “drink” water? Why are worms good for the plants? Soon you will be talking about soil composition, photosynthesis and more! Add a little math while gardening by measuring how much plants are growing from week to week or counting the flowers on each plant.”

Gardening with kids gets them out in the fresh air adding positive energy while introducing a new activity that the whole family can be part of!

Spring Comes!

Sending my best thoughts and good health to everyone. Since things have really shifted in our everyday world, it is important to get out and enjoy your own personal garden as the wonder of spring gradually unfolds. Sending some bulb images from my garden to provide some inspiration and lightness to your day!