Bulbs in the grass? How to turn your lawn into a spring garden feature | PITH + VIGOR by Rochelle Greayer

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Bulbs in the grass? How to turn your lawn into a spring garden feature

Bulb planting and plant re-arranging season are here and the window to get stuff done isn’t long.

The first frost here in New England could be this month (October) and the ground might freeze by the end of next month (November). After that – everything has to wait til spring.
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As bulbs go, I’m installing a Stinzenplanten (among other additions) in the area at the top of my driveway and around my apple tree.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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Stinzen-what?⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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A Stinzenplanten (that’s Dutch) is a lawn that is underplanted with an early spring succession of naturalized flower bulbs. It’s typical of stately 19th-century brick homes in the Netherlands but I’m adapting the idea to my own garden.

A stinzen style garden typically features Crocus, Chionodoxa, Ornithogalum, leucojum or galanthus (snowdrops), Hyacinthoides non-scripta (english bluebells), Tulipa sylvestris and narcissus (daffodils) and other various early blooming bulbs.⠀⠀

Crocuses in grass at the Missouri Botanical Garden
Crocuses in grass at the Missouri Botanical Garden by Jane.

A Stinzen style lawn will improve with time (as the bulbs naturalize – which is to say, they reproduce naturally – making more bulbs and visually filling in gaps over time). And it is great for areas of your garden that may only get sun before the trees leaf out.

That is why I choose to put mine under the apple tree. It gets a bit shady later in the year.

If you want to try the same – here are my tips for planting a bulb lawn:

Choose the right kind of bulbs

Part of the goal is to make your lawn interesting even before it becomes its most interesting.

(Seriously though – do lawns ever really become interesting? They are brown and then they are green – so boring if you think about it)

But if you plant right, you can really jazz up a lawn and instead of the standard (yawn) brown green transformation – you can go from brown, to brown with specs and swaths of very early spring color, to brown-green with specks and swathes of early spring color, to green with specks and swaths of mid spring color. 

This is a solid 6 weeks of fun at a time of year when literally nothing else is really happening and I am personally at my most desperate for the brown winter to fade away.

And <bonus> you can choose your bulbs so that the colors kaleidoscope. 

Mine is going to start with white and yellow, then fade into blue and purple with specks of white and yellow, and then go to new shades of purple punctuated with bell shapes flowers that are literally decorated pink checkerboards.

(Checkerboard. print. plants. – otherwise known as fritillaria – If that isn’t jazzy… then I don’t know what is).

The key is picking a range bulbs that not only work in your area (zone wise) but that bloom over at least three seasons.  Very Early spring. Early spring. And Mid spring. 

I advise sticking to these earliest seasons because if you go later, then you will be more likely to want to cut the grass – and thus the foliage and flowers of the bulbs too soon. 

For my Stizenplanten I have this break down of varieties. 

Very Early spring:

Galanthus woronowii (early snowdrops)

Eranthis cilicica (winter aconite)

galanthus morowenii
Galanthus worowenii – Early spring Snowdrops
eranthis cilicica (winter aconite)
Eranthis cilicica – Winter aconite

Early Spring:

Chiondoxa forbesii – (Snow Glories)

Scilla siberica – (Siberian Squill)

Giant Crocus

Chiondoxa forbesii - (Snow Glories)
Chiondoxa forbesii – (Snow Glories)
Scilla siberica
Scilla siberica – Siberian Squill
giant crocus
Giant Crocus

Early – Mid Spring:

Blue Shades Anemone 

Fritillaria meleagris 

Grape Hyacinth 

Blue Shades Anemone - Greek Windflowers
Blue Shades Anemone – Greek Windflowers
Grape Hyacinth
Grape Hyacinth
Fritillaria meleagris
Fritillaria meleagris

Choose a place where you are going to really enjoy the spring display. 

I briefly considered planting up the hillside on the far side of my lawn.  But in reality, there is a decent chance that I won’t really enjoy it because it will likely require me to trek through snow to see it. 

Instead, I’ve opted for the area at the top of my driveway – where I will see it all the time.  It is a sunny spot – particularly in the spring before the trees leaf out and even better – I will be planting it beneath an apple tree.  Stizeplanted gardens are great for that area under trees.  You can carefully plant the bulbs between the roots and actually grow something interesting in the area where even grass can struggle. 

stinzenplanten garden placement

Add an additional layer of design if you can.  

I love this whimsical idea from @mettebfauerskov.

https://www.instagram.com/p/Bo8oVixlRor

Alternatively – it can be nice to just mix all your bulbs up randomly and plant them throughout your lawn – but I think it will look better if I aim to give it a more cultivated appeal.  

plan for rochelle greayer PITH + Vigor bulb lawn stinzenplanten
detailed plan for rochelle greayer PITH + Vigor bulb lawn stinzenplanten

I’m defining an edge to my planting.  It will be invisible most of the year, but will be obvious when the bulbs are out.  It will be a proper circular shape (you can see in my sketch above). I plan to highlight the circle even further by mowing around the edges – creating a distinct circle of longer grass and bulbs next to a cleaner cut bulb free grass.  

I’m also heeding advice from my friend and fellow designer Carrie Preston.  She created the award winning Stinze Garden for the 2017 Philadelphia flower show (and one of the main concepts of that garden was this same type of naturalized bulb planting)  

She suggested finding a way to group bulbs but not in a way that diminishes from the natural slightly wild look but to heighten it.  So, instead of mixing all the bulbs together, I am splitting the selection in half making sure that each half has at least one variety of bulb that blooms in each season.  

Then, I am going to break my circle into 4 quadrants (with a twist – see above right) and scatter the bulbs within just the quadrants. When I plant, I am going to put at least a half dozen bulbs of the same variety in each hole.  So the bulbs will be scattered, but still planted to give nice clumps and there will be a greater clustered and wave effect of certain colors in certain areas (or at least I hope).

We’ll see how it turns out next spring. 

Bulb group #1 is:

Galanthus woronowii (early snowdrops) – Chiondoxa forbesii – (Snow Glories)- Giant Crocus – Blue Shades Anemone – Fritillaria meleagris 

And bulb group #2 is:

Eranthis cilicica (winter aconite) – Scilla siberica – (Siberian Squill)- Grape Hyacinth 

Most Importantly – Plant the Bulbs Now (before it gets too cold!)

I’ll update this post sometime around March/ April 2022 to share the blooming results – so stay tuned!

This post is sponsored by flowerbulbs.com

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