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.

Make It Tulips!

French Tulips

French Tulips

Tulips are truly a breath of fresh air — like taking in the fragrance of sheets off the clothesline. For early spring color and sheer garden abundance, nothing beats a bed of willowy tulips in full bloom. A undulating sea of tulips will certainly lift your spirits after any lingering grey of winter.

Generally, tulip varieties are divided into 15 different groups, which categorizes them by bloom time and overall shape and form. Very early blooming and low growing, the greigii and kaufmanniana varieties are a great addition to your garden. Species or “wild” tulips are smaller and more delicate in form—often the colors are quite vivid in hues of red or yellows. They tend to be easier to establish in the garden, multiplying and reblooming each spring. Some other reliable establishing varieties are: sylvestris, clusiana, humilis, saxatilis and dasystemon. These are perfect for planting near doorways or rock gardens as they are the first to bloom every year.

There are other varieties, too:

  • Triumph tulips bloom in late April and come in a multitude of colors. They are also good for forcing in pots.
  • The Darwin category contains some of the largest and sturdy growing varieties. They are truly impressive when grown en masse.
  • Peony-flowering tulips are highly scented looking like luscious peonies or bowls of ice cream in the garden. Their strong, thick stems lend support to the massive flowers.
  • Parrot tulips contain some of the most dramatic colors with flamboyant and frilled shapes— a magical addition to any garden.
  • Viridiflora or green tulips have subdued green markings, which contrast with the muted tones of pinks and purples of the petals making the whole flower appear feathered and elegant.
  • Lily Flowering have tall, elongated and flared stems that create a beautiful vertical line. They bloom later in the season, which makes them the perfect addition to the back of the border fully extending the long season of blooming tulips.

(Click on an  image below to see a slideshow.)

Mass planting tulips in drifts creates an alluring and voluptuous feeling to the spring garden. Bold plantings are sure to inspire and lift spirits, and provide an abundance of color before spring perennials even start to bloom.

Tulips can be incorporated into shrub and evergreen borders to fill in gaps and provide wonderful color in the early spring. The later blooming shrubs will camouflage the waning foliage of the bulbs.

By staging different varieties of tulips in graduated layers the garden will unfurl in a succession of blooms providing wonderful color and fragrance for many weeks. Enjoy!

Getting Ready for Spring!


When the first warm days of this long awaited spring arrive, it will be pure joy to go outside and work in our gardens! With the continuous snow melt and warmer temperatures it will be important to check the status of your plants — gradually uncover the winter debris to reveal emerging growth. The abundant mounds of snow that covered our gardens all winter may prove to be the best insulation for plants during those bitter cold days in February.

Things to Remember

  • Avoid working in the garden too early as stepping on the soil may compact it, causing structural damage to the soil particles.
  • It is important to let the ground thaw and dry out for a week or so before venturing out — the sun along with good spring air circulation will provide the perfect medium to get your plants stimulated and revived after this winter.

Perennial Garden Care
When the final snows melt and the ground does not have standing water, you can start to gently rake away the winter debris — avoid using heavy metal rakes that may damage emerging plants. A small hand rake works best in early spring, along with hand removal of leaves and debris. Once the crowns of your perennials about 2″ high, you can cut away the dead stems from last season.

When the plants are all up a few inches and the garden starts to look more defined, you can apply an organic slow release fertilizer that should be topped off with a generous handful of good compost around the base of each perennial.

Plants thrive and respond quickly to the addition of this combination. Spring rains will gradually wash these beneficial amendments into the roots of the plants right where they are needed.

Compost is the perfect addition to your existing soil. Not only does it provide food for plants but it also enlivens your soil with macro and micro-nutrients that may be missing. Compost helps to neutralize both acid and alkaline soils. By elevating the pH of your soil to an optimum range, plants are able to take up beneficial nutrients. Boosting the nutrient content in the soil increases fertility. Rich, fertile soil means strong healthy plants with greater water retention ability, which means less watering this summer. Compost reduces the need for synthetic fertilizers as it naturally feeds the plants. Maintaining and enriching your soil with compost is the best way to provide for a healthy, disease free garden.

Spring Maintenance Steps


Gently rake dead debris away from the base of perennials


Cut back old foliage to new emerging green growth


Scatter an organic slow-release fertilizer around the crown of each plant


Top dress with several handfuls of compost

A Concert of Summer Perennials


Stand-alone perennials can be pleasing to look at, but to make a garden sing, it’s the interplay of colors, textures and forms that create grand crescendos!

Perennial combinations create visual symphonies, and the pure serendipity can seem wonderful, especially when plants entwine and the colors vibrate and echo each other. But, it takes real planning and a willingness to think about staging, spacing and bloom sequence to get the tempo and flow of the garden to really come alive.

When summer is in full swing, our gardens can be abundant. To keep a nice rhythm of flowers and color throughout the season, remember these tips:

  • Think about selecting plants to bloom at different times in the summer, so as one group passes the next takes center stage.
  • As you plan your summer garden, the initial layout of plants is important. You want them spaced so that one flows into another one. Interweaving foliage and flowers lends a fluidity and cadence.
  • Flowers may be fleeting, blooming only 2-3 weeks, but their lush, green foliage remains consistent. Choose plants that have nice strong leaves, or vertical interest along with good color and texture to hold interest in the garden until the very last notes of the season.