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 Flowers for Container Gardens

By Deborah Hornblow, Hartford Magazine

Many gardeners and homeowners decorate their porches and patios with pots full of plants in summer, but springtime offers an opportunity to welcome the new season with container plantings created especially for this time of year.

“After a cold, gray winter, the sight of a colorful planter at a front door makes the entrance all the more inviting,” says M.J. McCabe, garden designer and owner of M.J. McCabe Garden Design of Northford.

Click here to read the full article.

Above: This window box designed by M.J. McCabe, is planted with osteospermum, Daffodil ‘Tete a Tete,’ white-flowering angelonia, Iceland poppies, pansies and cascading ivy, and will withstand a light frost. (M. J. McCABE)

Bulbs Glorious Bulbs!

Many layered and multicolored spring bulbs brighten a pathway.

Mad about pink tulips!

Native American bulb blue Camassia in a bed of daffodils.

Peony-flowering tulips.

Scilla is very inexpensive and will spread quickly over the years to bring you waves of blue under trees and in your lawn–these are tiny easy to plant bulbs that bloom in April.

Stop the car colors!

Grouping differing bulbs in terms of form and height provides beautiful color in May

For late spring color in June go with alliums, they dry nicely in the garden to add texture and interest mixed with your perennials.

Janie McCabe Selected for Colorblends Spotlight

Janie McCabe, owner of M.J. McCabe Garden Design and popular shoreline landscape and garden designer, has recently been selected for a Colorblends spotlight on the website Bulb Design Notes.

“We reached out to three designers whose work we admire and asked if they’d be willing to share the thinking behind some of their successful spring bulb and perennial combinations. All three generously agreed,” says Tim Schipper of Colorblends, a national flower bulb wholesaler.

As part of Bulb Design Notes, each designer chose five or more photos of spring bulb and perennial combinations they’d designed and provided design notes on each. Their photos and observations are assembled into personal galleries. Combined, the galleries present images of 20 garden scenarios. All scenes are annotated with plant IDs, location, hardiness zone and design notes.

CLICK HERE to visit the website.

Finding Beauty in Imperfection

Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese aesthetic that reflects the very core of Zen philosophy. Age, imperfection and impermanence are the underlying qualities inherent in Wabi-Sabi. This cultivated and refined approach in all art forms suggests the sublime transient beauty in all living things.

It is a significant concept in Japanese culture, and one that can be appreciated in many art forms such as pottery, painting, as well as gardening.

In applying this concept to gardens, it is important to honor and respect what is inherent in the natural, unaltered landscape. Nature is abundant with random imperfections. An ancient tree, enduring years of turbulent weather appears sadly leaning while the roots remain surprisingly anchored to the earth. Random patterns of wild plants echo the innate flow and of nature; this is certainly apparent in the abundance of the often disdained “invasive plants.” Applying the simple principles of a Asian inspired garden provides a place for contemplation, calmness and simplicity.

What remains is the very essence of the pure, natural world—its imperfections and inherent flaws remain constant; it is the acceptance of such flaws that opens us up to the raw, unaltered beauty of nature.


“Wabi-sabi is the art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in earthiness, of revering authenticity above all.” — Robyn Griggs Lawrence, author, The Wabi Sabi House Finding Beauty in Imperfection


Our Constant Sentinels of the Garden

Multi-layered use of many varied evergreens — creates an intimate and private garden in an otherwise open suburban landscape

A tightly pruned yew hedge creates the walls in this autumn garden defining a nice sense of enclosure

Elegant Chamaecyparis trees delineate the property line and look their best in the Winter covered with snow and ice

Contrasting, colorful evergreens add year round interest, volume and depth to the home landscape

A massive Alaskan weeping cedar is well placed against the end of this house — it also provides nice screening from the other houses in the busy neighborhood

Replacement Cherry Laurels are fuller and taller which provides good screening and privacy for this home

Delineating a property line is important to both the homeowner as well as your neighbor; this hemlock hedge is a more appealing way of defining a border than a fence

A low growing hedge of Ilex crenata defines the driveway, but does not provide sufficient screening from a busy road

Abies pinsapo ‘Glauca’-a unique form of spruce that adds a lot of interest to an evergreen collection

Picea orientalis ‘Skylands’ — a slow growing golden colored spruce

Pinus flexilis ‘Extra Blue’ — -Vivid blue needled pine — beautiful contrast with golden evergreens

Magically dusted with frost — spiny bluish-green leaves — yellow flowers in early spring

Early spring growth depicts different varieties of boxwood that gives this garden an interesting tapestry look

A narrow passageway is enhanced with an upright thin boxwood that is anchored by a contrasting yellow-toned coralbells — making this entrance more interesting and appealing

A multicolored evergreen hedge delineates a property line creating a lovely backdrop for a grassy play area

Evergreens Will Add a New Order to Your Garden

We all know that evergreens provide year-round color and consistency in our gardens, but it is vital to remember they also provide a strong sense of order that lends permanence and stability to the overall landscape. In Winter, when the trees become barren and the perennial borders are totally devoid of color, it’s the broadleaf and needled evergreens that provide the visual interest that we all crave during the long months of Winter.

I like to think of evergreens as the real bones that form the overall character and backdrop of a beautiful home landscape. They are always formidable — remaining the constant sentinels of the garden. A well thought out landscape using evergreens can provide the initial structure for an inviting outdoor room that can be further embellished with flowering shrubs and perennials.

For this reason, evergreens as well as significant deciduous trees need to be the first considerations when planning a new landscape.

Not only do they add stability and balance, but their solidity unifies and provides an underlying structure that makes the garden come alive — holding the eye throughout the entire year.

A New Garden for the Summer Cottage

Madison drawing with walkway–the first step in creating a cohesive design and to make the overall design come alive and visually inspiring.

The beginning stages of a garden design–the first step is to define and layout the hardscape–we decided on a 4′ wide bluestone walkway that makes the house more inviting–the existing concrete front walk to be removed.

The old concrete walkway is removed and replaced with a 4′ wide bluestone walk that leads from the mailbox to the front steps as well as incorporating a new entrance on the left side from the driveway.

New bluestone walk to be installed –area regraded allowing generous space for planting beds –An update on a 1920s shoreline cottage.

Fresh top soil and compost is added to the new garden beds –plants are placed prior to final planting–a lovely combination of hydrangeas, shrubs rose, phlox, and lavender make up the core of the plantings-later bloomers such as crepe myrtle and caryopteris will carry the color into late September and October.

The planting scheme shares a nice affinity with the bluestone walkway–enhancing and defining the entrance to this shoreline house.