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

Getting Ready for the Holidays

Magnolia leaves with gold and ivory accents in an antique pot

Framing a front entrance with roping that is wrapped in white lights — pots are more dramatic when the lighting is hidden at the base of the evergreens, soft illumination glows at night

Two Topiary trees flank the steps to a bluestone patio

Boxwood topiary is embellished around the base of a large pot with multicolored evergreens and red sparkleberry

Creating a large wreath with many different evergreens, accented with sparkleberry NE native holly

A concrete container with sparkleberry/gold chamaecyparis and holly

These containers with tall evergreens provide privacy — they will work nicely for enclosing this patio all winter.

Spring Bulbs: A Quick How-To

Make it simple – combine tulips, dwarf daffodils and alliums for a 3 month display of color this spring.

To create an interesting color scheme, mark off different areas with spray chalk prior to planting bulbs.

Be generous with bulb planting – stingy planting won’t give you the show your garden deserves.

Pretreat tulilps with spray detterents such as deer repellents and “Plantskydd.”

To deter critters from eating your bulbs, sprinkle the tulip and crocus beds with cayenne pepper and garlic flakes.

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.

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.)

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


Walk This Way

When designing walkways for your home think of them as being generous in size, well-defined and most importantly very inviting — aim for them to be at least 4-6’ wide to give maximum appeal. Walkways that are lavish in size and possess a natural kinship to the site feel well organized and inviting to visitors. One of the best ways to preview the shape and flow of the walkway is to lay out a temporary path with draping a garden hose or use a brightly colored can of spray chalk. This makes the potential design more visual and fluid and it can be reshaped and altered several times before the actual construction of the walkway begins. It also always you to visualize the potential walkway from different vantage points both from the outside as well as from the interior of your home. Try framing your walkway from an upstairs bedroom as this will provide a whole different perspective.

Consider how the walkway curves and frames not only the planting bed but the architectural lines of the house and surrounding natural terrain. To define the transition from driveway to the actual walkway, allow for a larger entrance pad or generous flair that might be detailed in a different stone pattern from the main walk.

There are a number of different materials to choose from when selecting stone for your home walkway. Some popular options include cut bluestone, brick, or pavers—all should be laid in a well-prepared base that has been heavily compacted and extremely well leveled.

Selecting the right material for your project will lend a sense of safety, permanence and long-term durability. Avoid inexpensive alternatives such as crushed stone or randomly placed stone as they will be difficult to maintain and cause uncertainty when underfoot. These types of materials require a lot of weeding and ongoing upkeep and will not provide much stability and long-lasting endurance.

As you layout your walk, allow for a wide, gracious planting bed that will frame the enhance the front of your home as well as enhance the overall landscape. If space allows, create garden beds that are 7-10 feet wide to accommodate groupings of shrubs and perennials that are massed together and layered in graduated heights and differing textures. Mass planting a particular shrub has high impact in a foundation planting. Imagine the effect of large clusters of hydrangeas, shrub rose and lavender in full bloom as opposed to a single hydrangea in a narrow bed of low juniper.

Consider how the beds will look throughout the garden year, a balanced combination of dwarf evergreens and compact flowering shrubs underplanted with appropriate perennials and ground covers will anchor the walkway as well as lend a sense of permanence and elegance to your home. The addition of spring bulbs will infuse early color and fragrance after the doldrums of winter — long blooming shrubs and perennials will provide color and texture as the changing seasons unfold. Well-designed borders always have something in bloom and provide interesting texture and color throughout the yearl

Finally, the final configuration of the walkway and plantings should always be in unity and in accordance with the style of your home and its natural surroundings. Above all, it should invite family and friends to savor and linger along the walkway and provide a sense of welcome and harmony to your home.

A very narrow brick walk with tightly clustered boxwood hedges makes this entrance look claustrophobic and uninviting.

The walkway is widened with a mixture of bluestone and the brick is reused to edge and define the walkway–plantings are lower and work to enhance and make the walkway more inviting.

The new walkway flows seamlessly into a generous patio.