Denny Schrock

tulip time in Holland

I just returned from a press trip to the Netherlands, courtesy of the International Flower Bulb Center. Thanks to the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland, my stay in Europe was nearly extended indefinitely. However, after five days in Holland, I continued on to Barcelona–just before the volcano shut down air travel. This proved to be a fortuitous choice of locations for getting a return flight to the U.S.

Colorful spring landscape

I saw lots of outstanding color from traditional plantings such as these sweeping monochrome beds of tulips paired with flowering cherry trees at Keukenhof Gardens. This theme park of flowers annually dazzles millions of visitors during its display of springtime splendor from late March through late May. The cool temperatures (daytime highs in the 50s F and nighttime lows in the 30s and 40s) during this time in the Netherlands keep the colors vivid for weeks on end. But even with the favorable climate, no spring bulb blooms will last for the entire show. So organizers plant late bloomers in the same beds with early bloomers to take over when the first flowers begin to fade.

One of the trends I saw in the Dutch gardens was interplanting different types of bulbs that bloom at the same time. The photo at right shows a gorgeous combination of crocus ‘Remembrance’ with ‘Heart’s Delight’ kaufmanniana tulip (also sometimes called the waterlily tulip for the shape of its flowers). Who wouldn’t love this burst of color in their own yard?

Another evident trend is combining and interplanting bulbs with later-blooming perennials. Rather than creating a mass of color, this technique evokes a cottage garden look, with splashes of color and texture intertwined in a informal display. The example mixed border at right uses glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa), daffodils (Narcissus), and checkered lilies (Fritillaria meleagris) planted among heuchera, bleeding heart, ferns, and hellebores.

Yet another trend I observed was widespread use of spring bulbs in containers gardens. This is the perfect way for those with limited space to enjoy these spring beauties. By raising the flowers above ground level, they’re easier to see up close. As the bulbs’ blooms fade, replant the pot with colorful summer annuals. The container pictured includes deep purple Triumph tulips, checkered lily, and golden sedge (Carex).

I may not be returning to the Netherlands anytime soon, but I plan to recreate the spirit of those gardens by planting more bulbs in my own garden, using some of the ideas I picked up in Europe.