Janie's Design Notes
About Janie

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Allium ‘Ambassador’, Kniphofia and Grasses. A dramatic shoreline planting on the Long Island Sound, by Connecticut landscape designer Janie McCabe makes powerful use of color, texture, shape and height. Says McCabe, "I love the interplay between the purple ball-shaped umbels of Allium 'Ambassador' and the bottlebrush spikes of orange-and-yellow Kniphofia.” Credit: MJ McCabe Garden Design/Colorblends.com

Allium ‘Ambassador’, Kniphofia and Grasses

Combo: Fall-planted, purple bulb flower 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 poker plants are flanked by perennial grasses, which effectively hide the alliums' yellowing foliage during its die-back 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.

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White-on-White Color Scheme MJ McCabe Garden Design created a white garden adjacent to the new garage added to an elegant 1909-built home. It features a latticed wall, fountain and cobbled paving. Boxwood hedging and dwarf crabapple trees anchor the garden beds. The white-on-white color scheme is appealing spring through fall. In spring, tulips and dwarf daffodils set the tone. After they fade, alliums bloom, followed by groundcover plantings of summer-blooming scaevola and euphorbia. In fall, naturalized Japanese anemone joins in.

White-on-White Color Scheme

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: In this project for a longtime client I coordinated with David Duncan of Needham Duncan Architecture of Old Lyme, Connecticut to create a new garden adjacent to the garage addition he designed for the 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, A. 'Mount Everest' is taking over. Over summer the white-on-white scheme continues with a groundcover 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.

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Hillside Mix of Spring Bulbs and Perennials. In a new garden tucked along a wooded hillside facing her client’s house, Connecticut landscape designer Janie McCabe added stone walls and steps, then filled in with many yards of local compost. By fall, she was ready to plant and focused on perennials, tucking in surprise clusters of flower bulbs, too. The next spring, her client was thrilled. “After a long gray winter, he hadn’t realized how much spring color would mean to him,” she says. Credit: MJ McCabe Garden Design/Colorblends.com

Hillside Mix of Spring Bulbs and Perennials

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), Campanula poscharskyana (Serbian bellflower) and 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.

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Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ and Snowball Viburnum. For a sloped site with rocky outcrops, Connecticut landscape designer Janie McCable paired Allium 'Purple Sensation' with Viburnum opalus roseum (old-fashioned snowball viburnum). Both bloom in late spring and carry dense, ball-shaped flowers on long stems. Says McCabe, "Repetition of shape plus the rich color contrast makes the combo sing."" Credit: MJ McCabe Garden Design/Colorblends.com

Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ and Snowball Viburnum

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," says McCabe. 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.

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Entrance Garden in Spring. A flower bulb planting creates a bright carpet of spring color in this Connecticut garden designed by garden designer Janie McCabe. White tulips, cobalt blue grape hyacinths and yellow dwarf daffodils are planted among white candytuft and pink-and-green hellebore. Later, emerging perennials will camouflage the declining bulb foliage after bloom. In the background are hydrangea bushes, soon to leaf out. Credit: MJ McCabe Garden Design/Colorblends.com

Entrance Garden in Spring

Combo: Tulips, Muscari armeniacum (grape hyacinths), miniature Narcissus (daffodils). Perennials include candytuft, hellebore and bleeding heart.

Location: Madison, Connecticut, USDA Zone 6b

Notes: In this entrance bed, we’ll pull the white tulips after bloom and and plant new tulip bulbs in fall. The homeowner enjoys switching things up and, I admit, so do I. Next fall, we’ll plant ‘Apricot Parrot’ to play off the reddish stems of the bleeding heart. Credit: MJ McCabe Garden Design/Colorblends.com

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Alliums, Shrub Roses and Perennials. In early summer, an entry garden by Connecticut landscape designer Janie McCabe features silvery purple Allium christophii, pink shrub roses, deep blue lavender, periwinkle geranium, and chartreuse lady's mantle. Credit: MJ McCabe Garden Design/Colorblends.com

Alliums, Shrub Roses and Perennials

Combo: Allium christophii, pink shrub rose 'Mystic Marvel', Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote Blue' (English lavender), Geranium 'Rozanne', Alchemilla mollis (lady's mantle) and Leucanthemum x superbum (Shasta daisy).

Location: Madison, Connecticut, USDA Zone 6b

Notes: This bed, positioned just steps from the front door of a beautiful waterside home, is designed for long-lasting seasonal color and easy maintenance. In summer, the perennials and pink, repeat-blooming shrub roses carry the ball. An unexpected layer of interest is provided by the large, airy umbels of the Allium christophii. In spring, tulips are the star attraction -- each year a different color. I pick tulip varieties or a blend in that color to provide sequential bloom, April till mid-May. After bloom, we pull the tulips here. In fall, we choose a new color and replant. This particular year, we chose orange.

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Narcissus, Muscari and Variegated Euphorbia. A colorful spring garden blooms alongside a Connecticut home. In early spring, the site receives abundant sunshine. By early summer, nearby deciduous trees shade the area. Landscape designer Janie McCabe’s design features sun-loving spring bulb flowers that naturalize, followed by shade-loving summer perennials. In mid-spring, clusters of white Narcissus 'Thalia' and cobalt blue Muscari armeniacum bloom between early-emerging, Euphorbia characias 'Glacier Blue'. Credit: MJ McCabe Garden Design/Colorblends.com

Narcissus, Muscari and
Variegated Euphorbia

Combo: white Narcissus 'Thalia', cobalt blue Muscari armeniacum and variegated Euphorbia characias 'Glacier Blue'.

Location: Madison, Connecticut, USDA Zone 6b

Notes: Here a crisp blue and white color scheme brightens a west-facing spot with plenty of sunshine in spring. The daffodil and Muscari bulbs naturalize here and come back to bloom each spring. The variegated euphorbia is less reliable, being rated for USDA Zones 7-10. So I'm prepared to replace it each April, if needed.

By late spring, the daffodils and Muscari decline and the euphorbia, hostas and ferns fill out, masking the fading bulb foliage. During this stretch, the bulb plants get enough sun to recharge their bulbs with energy for next year's bloom.

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Alliums and Double Tulips with Emerging Perennials. In a residential garden, Connecticut garden designer Janie McCabe planted a long line of dwarf crabapples to define the space year-round. In spring, the trees create a scented canopy of white and pink blossoms. Closer to the house, flower beds provide equally romantic splashes of color. In late spring, Allium ‘Purple Sensation' adds dramatic height to an understory of soft pink, white and lavender double-flowered tulips. Following bloom, the declining bulb plants will be camouflaged by the foliage of the fast-growing peonies, phlox and delphiniums. Credit: MJ McCabe Garden Design/Colorblends.com

Alliums and Double Tulips with Emerging Perennials

Combo: Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ with Double Late Tulips ‘Angelique’, ‘Mount Tacoma’ and ‘Blue Spectacle’. Also: boxwood, phlox, delphiniums and peonies (including Paeonia ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ and P. ‘Festiva Maxima’).

Location: Old Saybrook, Connecticut, USDAZone 6b

Notes: The alliums here are dramatic and reliable. In this setting, I like Allium ‘Purple Sensation’ which are inexpensive so you can plant lots and play with them. ‘Purple Sensation’ is a particularly rich purple color and gives you the vertical interest and vitality of alliums, but with an umbel that’s more reserved in scale, just 4-inches across. By the time the allium foliage here begins to look shabby, the perennials are big enough to hide it.

Typically, the alliums here come back to rebloom for three or more years. Often, they'll multiply, too. If I plant 100 bulbs, it's not unusual to end up with 130. Every few years, l plant more.

Nearby is a compact hedge of strongly-scented Calamintha nepeta alba (white catmint) that serves as a buffer to discourage rabbits.