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.

Witch Hazel: A Winter Blooming Goddess for Your Garden

Witch Hazels ‘Hamamelis x intermedia’ is one of the first shrubs to bloom in the late winter. They boldly push through snow and chilly nights to send out exquisite and unexpected blooms when you least expect it.

Growers are producing beautiful new cultivars like this that dazzle the garden color palette in late winter. The added feature of having an alluring fragrance makes them even more enticing. Site selection is important as these shrubs can get quite large. Witch hazels are impressive when backlit by the western sun surrounded by a grove of evergreens.


Witch hazel ‘Ruby Glow’ — bewitching vivid red color makes a dramatic statement in the late winter garden


Witch hazel ‘Sweet sunshine’ — soft and pale yellow with delicately fragrant flowers


A new Japanese selection ‘Shibamichi Red’ — a real standout against the grey light in late winter


Witch hazel ‘Barmstedt Gold’ — bold golden flowers that really stand out in the winter garden


Witch hazel ‘Birgit’ — strong purple-red colors with feathery flowers that cascade downward


No garden should be without Witch hazel. It blooms so early and continues to flower for 4-6 weeks in very late winter.


‘Arnold’s Promise’ an easy to find variety of witch hazel, planting along a woodland border makes it really stand out


‘Amethyst’ a totally mesmerizing color in the world of witch hazels, delicately unforgettable

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.

Bold and Bright Drought Tolerant Plants for Late Summer

August weather can be a challenge—it’s too hot, humid—and rain is not dependable. Needless to say, who wants to drag a hose around everyday sometimes morning and evenings too. So don’t despair, I am including some perennials that can stand up to some pretty difficult conditions and still make your garden seem alive and thriving. Late Summer perennials have bold and intense colorings that will provide a nice infusion of energy into your garden. (Click on the photos below for more details.)

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.

Creating a New Front Entrance

An outdated front entrance that needs some inspiration.

Creating a new front entrance with stone and new plantings.

New bluestone steps and generous bluestone walkway and nicely proportioned foundation plantings make this house very inviting .

The house in spring with an inviting spring bulb planting -a perfectly placed red Japanese maple frames the corners of the house.

Enhancing an Existing Border

Adding to an existing border to make it more interesting around a pool.

An existing border is enhanced with the removal of grass to allow for new long blooming perennials that will extend the overall interest in the garden around this swimming pool.

Metal edging creates a nice crisp line that defines the new perennial border–the existing soil has been enhanced with as additional layer of rich compost prior to any new plantings.

A differing array of shrubs and perennials are added to provide a long season of color that carries the border into Autumn –a Spring bulb design will be added in late Fall for wonderful color in early Spring .