Many stately 19th century brick homes in the provinces of Friesland and Groningen in the north of the Netherlands have lawns graced with a succession of naturalizing flower bulbs. Known as Stinzenplanten, the February through mid-May bloomers include numerous varieties of heirloom flower bulbs all of which have proven to be sustainable.
It is quite a sight to happen upon one of these flowering lawns for the first time. In early spring, you would see a natural tapestry of Eranthis hyemalis, Galanthus, Crocus and Iris reticulata in bloom with no apparent design or pattern. One modest but stately home (painted pale yellow) had a veritable carpet of bright yellow Eranthis hyemalis (The Winter Aconite) with occasional clumps of Galanthus (Snowdrops or Milk Flowers). Two more elegant in-town manors had shades-of-lavender lawns with intermittent patches of milky-white, green tipped Galanthus and drifts of Iris reticulata and Eranthis hyemalis.
As beautiful as these lawns are, a single, early spring visit is not enough. One must return three to four weeks later when the very same lawn might be adorned with Tulipa sylvestris, Chionodoxa, Scilla, Corydalis and Narcissus Pheasant’s Eye. A third visit several weeks later might reveal the lawn covered with Fritillaria meleagris (Guinea Hen Flowers), Hyacinthoides non-scripta (English Bluebells), and Leucojum aestivum (Summer Snowflakes).
The flower bulbs recommended for Stinze-style lawn gardens multiply underground through the development of baby bulbs, or bulblets, on the sides of the mother bulbs. It is critical to plant the bulbs at least the specified distance apart from one another to avoid unnecessary overcrowding since the plantings will thicken naturally over time. Many varieties may also propagate by self-seeding over time.
Today, this age-old planting custom has come into vogue again. Studio TOOP owner Carrie Preston, an American landscape designer residing in the Netherlands, created a Stinze-style garden display on behalf of the Netherlands as one of the focal points of the 2017 Philadelphia Flower Show. Ms. Preston holds dear these unique plant communities that thrive year after year, decade after decade, and even century after century.
Numerous American horticulturists and landscape designers have re-imagined Stinze-style flower bulb plantings beyond sun-dappled lawns, moving into massive meadow and expansive edge-of-woodland plantings. Additional types of flower bulbs have been added to the progression of these plantings meadows and edge-of-woodland plantings, many of which boast of a bit more height, like Allium aflatunense Purple Sensation, Allium unifolium, Gladiolus communis ssp. byzantinus, Ipheion uniflorum, Leucojum aestivum Gravetye Giant, Ornithogalum ponticum Sochii, Puschkinia scilliodes and Lilium martagon Arabian Knight, Gaybird, Sunny Morning and Claude Shride. Some have added American naturalizers like Camassia cusickii and Camassia quamash, or Brodiaea. In addition to the individual varieties listed below, one may also consider alternate colors of each variety, such as Anemone blanda White Splendour, when we have only listed Anemone blanda Blue Shades.
If you are considering planting a Stinze-Style lawn or meadow, the existing lawn should not be a tightly thatched, aggressive grass that would make bulb planting difficult, even with varieties whose top size is small. Such grass would likely strangle the bulbs and/or push them up, and compete for nutrition and water. A more sparsely seeded lawn with dappled sunlight is most preferable.
To promote the long term viability of the bulbs, their flowers and foliage must be allowed to thrive and die back naturally through June. Don’t even consider mowing before then. It’s only in mid June that the lawns may be mowed after the bulbs have enjoyed the longest period of photosynthesis. It is during this period of photosynthesis that the bulb is nourished for future years of viability, flowering and naturalizing.
In the Netherlands, at the Doktershûs in Stiens, north of Leeuwarden, a massive garden restoration is underway by Willem and Trudy van Riemsdijk. One of their garden volunteers cuts down the foliage and grass with a sickle, doing it the old-fashioned way.
An important benefit of Stinze-style flower bulb plantings is that most all of the varieties incorporated are adored by bees! Bees need the protein-rich pollen and nectar from flower bulbs, especially the early-bloomers, to survive and thrive: it’s their first fresh food after the long winter. Beekeepers often recommend planting bulbs to help feed the bees until wildflowers and spring perennials bloom.
Bees are most attracted to flowers that are blue, purple, white and yellow. (Butterflies are attracted to purple, red, pink, yellow and orange.) The best bulbs for bees include: Allium, Anemone blanda, Camassia, Chionodoxa, Corydalis solida, Crocus, Eranthis hyemalis, Eremurus, Fritillaria meleagris, Galanthus, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, Muscari, Ornithogalum, Peonies (single varieties), Scilla and Tulipa sylvestris.
Although the website is in Dutch, you may want to visit www.stinze-stiens.nl for more information and photographs. Or, like Stinze Steins on Facebook to receive their garden updates (you can hit the “See Translation” button on their postings). They share beautiful photographs of Stinzenplanten from their Doktershûs garden restoration as well as other Stinze-style gardens in the north of the Netherlands.
Here is a listing of the flower bulbs often included in traditional Stinze-style gardens in the Netherlands. Although there is overlap depending on spring temperatures, these varieties are organized by early, mid and late blooming seasons. As you can see, most of these varieties make a smaller, top-size bulb for easier digging and planting. Specification of bloom time is based on horticultural zone 5 in “normal” spring conditions.
Early Blooming Season
Crocus tommasinianus Barr’s Purple: Snow, Species or Botanical Crocus. This particular early blooming Species Crocus is amethyst-violet with a gray exterior. Bulb size: 5 cm/up. March/April. 4”. Horticultural zones 4-8. (3170)
Crocus tommasinianus Ruby Giant: Snow, Species or Botanical Crocus. This early bloomer is spectrum-violet with a paler base and paler petal margins. Bulb size: 5 cm/up. March/April. 4”. Horticultural zones 4-8. (3174)
Crocus flavus Golden Yellow: From among The Wild Crocus of the Alps or Dutch Crocus, this larger rich buttercup-yellow heirloom dates back to the 17th century. Bulb size: 9 cm/up. April. 5”. Horticultural zones 4-8. (3110)
Eranthis hyemalis: The early blooming, naturalizing Winter Aconite yields bright lemon-yellow flowers atop recurved collars of spiky green foliage. This 1570 heirloom prefers rich, moist humus soil in partial shade. Bulb size: 3.5/4 cm. March/April. 4”. Horticultural zones 5-8. (3209)
Galanthus elwesii: The Giant Snowdrop, known to be the best naturalizer for American gardens, is a large flowering Greek native dating back to 1874. It has broad creamy-white flowers with inner green markings. Bulb size: 7 cm/up. March/April. 5” to 8”. Horticultural zones 3-8. (3500)
Iris reticulata Harmony: While the original species is no longer cultivated commercially, we find that Harmony is among the best of the naturalizing varieties of Iris reticulata. Its standards (the inner upright petals) are bluebird-blue and the falls are royal-blue with white-rimmed, yellow blotches. Bulb size: 6 cm/up. Early April. 4” to 6”. Horticultural zones 5-9. (3670)
Mid Blooming Season
Anemone blanda Blue Shades: Circa 1854, The Grecian Windflower makes an attractive shades-of-hyacinth-blue ground cover with daisy-like flowers and fern-like foliage. You could also plant Anemone blanda Pink Star or White Splendour. Bulb size: 5 cm/up. April/May. 4”. Horticultural zones 5-9. (2105)
Corydalis solida: Fumewort, also known as Bird in a Bush, is a 1930s Scandinavian naturalizer with tubular, light pink-purple flowers. Moisture-tolerant, it needs rich, well-draining soil in partial shade. Bulb size: 5 cm/up. April. 6”. Horticultural zones 5-8. (3096)
Chionodoxa luciliae: This 1878 Turkish native, referred to as Glory of the Snow, yields star-shaped, lavender-blue flowers with white centers. Bulb size: 5 cm/up. April. 5” to 6”. Horticultural zones 3-8. (3074)
Fritillaria meleagris: The Guinea Hen Flower, also known as The Checkered Lily, is a 1575 naturalizer with pendant, bell-shaped, checkered, maroon-purple and white flowers. It prefers cool, moist soil. Bulb size: 6 cm/up. April/May. 10” to 12”. Horticultural zones 3-8. (3435)
Narcissus Pheasant’s Eye: Botanically known as Narcissus poeticus var. recurvuus, this scented, 1850 naturalizer has windswept, reflexed bright white petals and a small, red-edged yellow cup with a green eye. Bulb size: 14/16 cm. April/May. 14” to 16”. Horticultural zones 3-7. (8391)
Narcissus pseudo-narcissus ssp. obvallaris: Technically classified as a Trumpet Daffodil, the 17th century Tenby Daffodil is a prized, early-blooming, golden-yellow naturalizer with a large, flared trumpet and short petals. Bulb size: 10 cm/up. April. 8”. Horticultural zones 4-8. (8344)
Ornithogalum umbellatum: Circa 1593, the prolific, naturalizing Star of Bethlehem has up to 20, star-shaped, bright white flowers per bulb with green-stripes on their reverses. It prefers adequate moisture and well-draining soil. It is known to self-sow readily over time. Bulb size: 6 cm/up. April/May. 8”. Horticultural zones 5-8. (3776)
Scilla siberica Spring Beauty: Circa 1796, The Siberian Squill bears up to six vivid sky-blue flowers on strong stems. It too naturalizes readily in areas of filtered sunlight. Bulb size: 8 cm/up. April 5”. Horticultural zones 3-8. (3974)
Tulipa sylvestris: A 16th century heirloom, The Florentine Tulip, also known as The Woodland Tulip, is sweetly fragrant with elliptical, bright yellow flowers that open with distinctive green exterior petals that pale to chartreuse as the flowers mature. You could also select from among other Species Tulips such as Tulipa clusiana Lady Jane, dasystemon, kolpakowskiana or turkestanica. Bulb size: 5/6 cm. April. HZ: 5-8. 8” to 12”. Horticultural zones 6-9. (5795)
Late Blooming Season
Geranium tuberosum: Circa 1596, this tuberous woodland naturalizer yields an attractive ground cover with clusters of large, rose-purple flowers on wiry stems above sculpted foliage. Bulb size: 6 cm/up. May/June. 16” to 24”. Horticultural zones 5-9. (3514)
Hyacinthoides hispanica Excelsior: Dating back to the 17th century, The Spanish Bluebell, also known as The Wood Hyacinth, produces 15 to 20 pendant, bell-shaped blue-violet flowers with marine-blue midveins on all sides of their strong, upright stems. You could also use Hyacinthoides hispanica Dainty Maid and/or Hyacinthoides hispanica White City. Bulb size: 8 cm/up. May. 12” to 15”. Horticultural zones 3-8. (3929)
Hyacinthoïdes non-scripta: Scilla nutans is the variety commercially cultivated in the Netherlands as The English Bluebell. Dating back to 1580, this scented woodlands naturalizer has pendant, dark violet-blue flowers on just one side of its 18” spikes that arch as if they were bending over (they are zygomorphic). Bulb size: 8 cm/up. May. 18”. Horticultural zones 5-7. (3954)
Leucojum aestivum: The Summer Snowflake is a moisture-tolerant English native dating back to 1594. It yields dainty milk-white flowers tipped pale green. Bulb size: 10 cm/up. May/June. 12” to 15”. Horticultural zones 4-9. (3695)
Ornithogalum nutans Silver Bells: This fragrant, semi-shade naturalizer, known as The Drooping Star of Bethlehem circa 1629, has 3 to 12 bell-shaped greenish-white flowers with darker midveins per upright stem. Bulb size: 6 cm/up. May. 12”. Horticultural zones 6-9. (3768)