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Stinzen plants: naturally vintage bulbs

In the Netherlands, the term stinzenplanten is used to refer to a specific group of hardy bulbs. But what are they, and why are so many people interested in these flower bulbs that became naturalised here over the centuries?

What are stinzen plants?

Stinze is a Frisian word that means ‘brick house’. Long ago, brick was an expensive construction material, so it wasn’t so commonly used. It was used, however, to build abbeys, churches, country estates and farmhouses because their owners had the money to do so. And flower bulbs were planted in the gardens of these stately buildings owned by the wealthy to make them look even grander. These flower bulbs, which became known as stinzen plants, are spring-flowering bulbs that naturalise wherever they are planted. Today, they are all the rage again and can proudly bear the name of ‘vintage bulbs’.

Where did stinzen plants originate?

Stinzen plants did not originate in the Netherlands. Instead, they were discovered by adventurers and botanists who brought them to Western Europe as early as the 16th century. Perhaps the most famous among them were Carolus Clusius, William Robinson and the Tubergen brothers, Cornelis and Marinus. 

The various species of stinzen plants

Stinzen plants originated in woodlands. This means that they can easily tolerate shade and will bloom in the spring before the emergence of leaves on deciduous trees and shrubs. If you would like to know which flower bulbs are ultra-vintage and known as stinzen plants, here they are:

  • Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)
  • Woodland Tulip (Tulipa sylvestris)

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  • Wood Anemone (Anemone nemerosa)
  • Ramsons (Allium ursinum)

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  • Chequered Fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris)
  • Nodding Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum nutans)

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  • Crocus (Crocus)
  • Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis)

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  • Spring Snowflake (Leucojum vernum)
  • Grecian Windflower (Anemone blanda)

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  • Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica)
  • Snowdrops (Galanthus)

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  • Glory-of-the-Snow (Chionodoxa)
  • Fumewort (Corydalis solida)

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  • Poet’s Daffodil (Narcissus poeticus)
  • Winter Aconite (Eranthis)

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  • Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum)

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Planting stinzen plants

One thing is especially important for success with stinzen plants: they prefer a location in the garden where the soil will remain undisturbed. Good examples of this are beneath deciduous trees or shrubs, in lawns and meadows, in among perennials in borders, or in among low plants used as groundcovers. If you plant them in these places, they are sure to thrive. Just plant and enjoy!

Good to know

  • There are places where a castle or country estate has disappeared and its stinzen plants are still flowering centuries later.
  • The best care for stinzen plants is to neglect them. This is because stinzen plants naturalise best when simply left to their own devices.
  • Lawns and meadows, however, should not be mown until six weeks after the last stinzen plants have flowered. This gives the stinzen plants enough time to wither back naturally and to increase in number by seed (naturalise).
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