Fall is the Season for Stinzen Lawns and Flowering Bulbs
This month should begin the seasonal change known as fall; however, if I wasn’t still experiencing 90’F+ daytime highs I would still think that it’s still summer. In spite of the oppressive daytime heat, there is a scent of falling leaf litter in the morning air that reminds me of Fall, and Fall can be the best time to plant flowering bulbs.
What make flowering bulbs so special, are the way they are able to store their energy in internal layers scientifically known as “fleshy scales”. There are several differing types of storage structures: true bulbs, corms, tubers, tuberous roots and rhizomes. These differing forms can help you determine the planting depth, care, and flowering variety, just by the shape of the bulb.
Flowering bulbs are able then draw on that energy in order to shoot out their weaponized genitalia for the purposes of enticing pollinators into rolling around on their sexy plant pads. This act of pollination leads to seed production, which in turn helps in creating genetic diversity. In addition to the birds and bees, flowering bulbs can reproduce through underground offshoots known as bulblets or clones. When the mother plant clones itself enough times, competition for resources compels the gardener into dividing (separating with a trowel) the clones from the mother. Clones can be planted in a new location or given to friends as gifts or used as a food source (referring to garlic, celery, and Camassia lilies). As the newly planted clones become new mothers, the flowering bulb will again make more offshoots, thus compelling the gardener into creating more seasonal divisions. This cycle of growing, dividing, growing, is what keeps me looking for more bulbs to try out in my yard. Then there’s the flowers~swoon!
When the flowing bulb is not in bloom, it can grow in two directions, or one direction, or no direction. The allocation of energy into growth will depend on temperature, humidity, and light levels. In one direction, the flowering bulb can use their energy reserves (stored in the bulb) to drive their roots deeper into the soil. The deeper the roots dive, the greater chance the flowering bulb has for surviving seasonal influxes of rain or above average ground temperatures. This is one reason why I don’t have a lawn, but I still get to have flowers in the oven baked summers.
The flowering bulb can also take the same energy resources and divert from creating flowers, and use the energy towards creating solar panels (leaves). Seasonal changes can cause flower production and leaf creation to cease, thus initiating seasonal dormancy.
Dormancy is not dead. It’s that rainy-day-reading-by-a-window nap where you drool a little on the book you are reading. (18th century botanical descriptions can be a bit snoozy at times). Dormancy is just a long nap. In fact, just like naps, it’s necessary,! Many bulbs won’t flower if they don’t experience vernal* dormancy. Because the above ground defoliation (leaves turning brown and falling off) can look like rapid onset death, dormancy can look depressing. That being said, you can trick (forcing) some bulbs into coming out of season, in the middle of their nap. That’s why you will see plants like paperwhites and amaryllis blooming in box stores during December, when they should be taking a nap. The key to forcing bulbs is mimicking the right amount of light, moisture, and warmth.
I describe all these amazing qualities of flowering bulbs because I use them a lot when in my own gardens. With flowering bulbs, there are no limbs to trim, nor piles of leaves to rake up. Just seasons of floral surprises. Thats why this fall I am on a one man mission to bring my springtime flower show to your yard.
Picture this: Late one nite, Spring sends you a text: “sup gurl.” But your phone was on silent and you were asleep. In the crispness of the morning light you rise to the sound of selfies and your neighbors heaving in verdant green jealousy. As you look out your window, to see the object of their envy, you notice that your lawn is saturated in streaks and clumps of lustrous radiant hues. With such a chromatic display, you might think that the local unicorn got into the Jack-In-the-Box trash again, but nay, you have experienced the full glory of a Stinzen Lawn.
Let me save you some frantic Urban Dictionary cross referencing. A “Stinzen” or “Stinze” or “Stenzenflora” lawn is Finish.
A stins (Dutch, pl. stinsen; from West Frisian stienhûs [Dutch steenhuis] “stone house”, shortened to stins, pl. stinzen) is a former stronghold or villa in the province of Friesland, the Netherlands.Wikipedia
Essentially, Stinzen Lawns are just regular lawns in front of brick or stone homes, usually crazy rich estate-type homes. What makes the full flowering effect so amazing is the way in which flowering bulbs are interspersed into the lawn. Over time, flowering bulbs are divided and spread across the lawn, forming larger and larger colonies of flowers. For all intensive purposes, Stinze lawns are just a way to flaunt your medieval wealth. In my neighborhood, the seasonal flower show is just my way of making my neighbors cringe in outright jealous of my notable gardening tastes. If you want to make your neighbors jealous too, then read on.
Traditional Values meets “ooh look at that!”
In the northern area of the Netherlands, primarily in the provinces of Friesland and Groningen, centuries-old stately homes often feature front lawns under deciduous trees carpeted with a succession of blooming flower bulbs. Those most commonly seen include Galanthus, Eranthis hyemalis, Iris reticulata, Species or Botanical Crocus, Dutch Large Flowering Crocus, miniature Narcissi, Species Tulips, Scilla and Fritillaria meleagris. These Stinze lawn gardens have naturalized over the centuries: the grass is not mowed until July some time, if at all.Vanengelen.com
I want to reiterate that the bulbs that were traditionally used in Stinze were not native. They were brought into the Netherlands from the botanical exploration trips into exotic destinations such as the Mediterranean and Central Europe. Nonetheless, I think, the full traditional effect is really amazing.
There’s something amazing about the way different cultures show off wealth. Expansive plantings are a really great way to flaunt your green-knowledge while also providing nectar sources to opportunistic pollinators. Inorder, to achieve this full effect, as pictured above, you can expect to take many years of joyful gardening fraught with many trials and errors. But the effort is all worth it, if you can make your neighbors thrash in covetous rage.
Problems & Solutions
I don’t think that mimicking the effect of a Stinze Lawn on your home is a valid case for cultural appropriation, but i do think that the challenge with mimicking traditional culture-specific aesthetics, are understanding the contexts of the conditions that it took to create that culture-specific look. This brings me to the next section on my criticism of this beautiful flower effect.
Problem 1: The flowering bulbs that are used in traditional Stinzen lawns, were collected and grown in environments that are the exact opposite to my climate in North Texas. This may not be the case for every yard that reads this article, but in my growing climate, its hot and dry most of the year. Finland and other northern parts of Europe are neither hot nor dry, so the traditional bulbs wont grow year after year in my yard.
Solution: Grab a cup of tea and start looking up flowering bulbs bulbs for your region. I’m a zone 8a, with heavy clay soil that is rich in calcium, with seasonal deludges, then very long dry spells. This means that Peonies, most Tulips varieties, Crocus, and Fritillaria won’t be anything more than annuals in my yard.
Problem 2: Linda and Asymmetrical Becky hate my out-of-the-box store gardening tastes. So the moment my “weeds” get above 12 inches, they call 311 (code compliance) to try and get the city to issue me a ticket.
(Section 18-13(a) High Weeds / (a) A person commits an offense if he is an owner, occupant, or person in control of occupied or unoccupied premises in the city and: (1) permits weeds or grass located on the premises to grow to a height greater than 12 inches.City of Dallas
Little do those weed witches know that I’ve been dropping the buttons on my button-up garden shirt, down two buttons when ever I see a city vehicle creeping around my neighborhood. So far no tickets. This means that either the code compliance officer, likes nerds with glistening vanilla pudding skin or a house finally fell on those two. Now I can’t expect every code compliance officer to like nerds or tolerate my exotic gardening practices, as a result I’ve had to search for bulbs that flowered and grew under 12 inches.
Problem 3: I like my lawn to look like a green carpet fresh from the box store. Why would I dig it up to plant a bunch of bulbs that are gonna make it hard for me to grow my carpet lawn in a nice even patch the way it looks in the commercials.?
Solution: While I resist the urge to rub your face in your carpet fresh lawn while screaming “how does it taste!?” I would like you to look up the history of lawns in America. Now I’m sure you have some deep longing for the perfect look of a wide flat and even lawn, but I would like to open your mind up to the idea of adding flowers to save lives. With the falling numbers of birds in North America and efforts that other media companies are going to talk about the decline of bees #beesexual. It would behoove you to put down your lawn’s weed-and-feed and pick up a bag of bulbs and a trowel.
Getting the Dirt under your nails
I’ve curated a list of bulbs for my lawn. If you are also living in a zone 8a heavy clay soil that is also calcium rich, then keep reading. If you live elsewhere, please feel free to send me an email and I’ll gladly help you look for some suggestions in your own Stinze Lawn. e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
As for the list, I’ve curated a group of bulbs that I’ve personally grown in my yard. Within each of these plants are large families and many colors that you too could hunt down and try in your lawn. I’ve tried to find plants that stay under the city’s 12 inch weed height, so that seed pods can develop, which will allow you to make more flowering bulbs. Seeds are the best way to get more bulbs, next to dividing the bulblets clones from the mother plant. But To be honest, if patches of your lawn are in full bloom, I’m pretty sure that city will overlook the excessive flowers. If still complaining, let them know that you are not growing weeds, but saving lives by feeding pollinators!
I’ve broken the flowering bulb list up into plants for shade lawns and plants for sunny lawns. As far as what to get, You could get a small sample of bulbs from each group and plant each group in tiny clusters. Or you could try only one variety of bulb, and order as many as you can afford in order to make a really nice patch of color. The choice is yours!
Here are some bulbs that I have tried on my lawn
For shady spots:
Spring Star Flowers, Ipheion uniflorum syn. Triteleia uniflora – I really think any of this family will work in a lawn. This variety only gets about 6” tall. The patch I started in my yard last year, has started to double. Best of all they are super affordable. (BUY HERE)
Zephyr Lilies or Rain lilies, Habranthus robustus syn. Zephyranthes robusta – I have fallen in love with this family of plants. I’ve seen the bulbs that I have in my yard survive this summer’s drought. Mostly because they spend a majority of their time underground. They get their common name from their habit of popping out after a rainstorm. They aren’t limited to spring showers either. Every good rain, sends these up a show of really colorful petals. The only down side is their slow growing nature, which makes the bulbs rather pricey. (BUY HERE) (I’m currently doing some trial plantings with Habranthus texanus which is a lovely yellow and sometimes orange striped variety)
Wood Sorrel or False Shamrock, Oxalis sp. – Although the members of this family don’t have the grass like foliage that is desired for a Stinzen lawn plantings, they fulfill my height requirements and they are a bulb. Also off all the plants that make me feel at home, its sorrells. (not confusee these plants with clovers) (BUY HERE) and (HERE)
For Sunny Lawns:
Celestial Lily, Nemastylis geminiflora – NATIVE. In fact, I usually see it on hikes in semi-shady areas near trees. Sometimes I steal colonies from my witchy neighbor’s yard when they start pouring herbicides on everything. (BUY HERE)
Syn Cooperia pedunculata, Hill Country Rain Lily – NATIVE. This fragrant Texas native, loves sun more than its cousins the Zephyr lilies. I didn’t plant these in my yard, but after a good rain, a few go into bloom. I usually encounter these in the open prairies near Cedar Hill. (BUY HERE) & (HERE)
*Do not confuse the Hill Country Rain lily with Nothoscordum bivalve (common name, Crow Poison)
Prairie nymph, Herbertia lahue – Although these are not native to my growing area. So it can be a hot or a miss with their long term survivability, but their seeds are cheap enough to sow in a few spots that will be sheltered from the wind and intense summer burn. (BUY HERE)
Feathershank or Green Lily, Schoenocaulon texanum – Truth be told, I haven’t tried this in my yard, yet. But all internet reports on this plant, tell me that it will grow in my yard. But I would mix this bulb in a garden bed or a bright sunny strip with other native flowers. (BUY HERE)
Campernelli Daffodil, Narcissus x odorus Linnaeus – Rumor says that this variety of Daffodil will take to the Texas soil and naturalize. Plus the are fragrant. (BUY HERE)
Flowering Garlic, Allium sp. – Although most of the garlic family blooms at a height that is taller than 12 inches, their orb-like flowers clusters are really eye catching. If you want a hardy family that is pretty and durable, then plant Allium. These flowering bulbs that are rabbit, rodent, and deer-resistant too. Unlike some of the other bulbs, Alliums are not poisonous to humans and are seldom affected by disease. You can even try growing your own garlic to eat (Extra Hardy German Garlic) Plus the family is hugely diverse with centuries of cultivation and wild varieties that come in all kinds of colors and forms. When in doubt, plant allium. (BUY HERE) & (HERE)
Spider or Magic Lilies, Lycoris sp. – I always forget that I planted these. They seem to only pop out in the fall when the air gets crisp. They come from Jaan, but they do really well under my trees and garden beds. But they don’t produce a leaf, just a flower head. And as quickly as they appear, they also seem to disappear. A mass planting of these would be spectacular. (BUY HERE)
Now these bulbs are not the end-all of bulbs to try out on your stinzen lawn. If you live outside North Texas, then consult the links at the bottom of this article to find a bulb that is more native and more in-tune with your glowing climate.