Photography & Text: © Anna Rubingh
Trudy and Willem's historical garden in the middle of the Frisian village of Stiens has something fairy-like about it, with its beautiful, colourful spring flowers that meander throughout the garden and that bloom from early spring onwards. A large Caucasian Wingnut, which fell over in the 1970s, is a monumental eye-catcher at the centre of the garden. "It just keeps on growing," says Trudy.
When Trudy and Willem's love of stinzenplanten led them to stumble across the house they now live in, it didn't take them long to plan to restore the garden to its original glory.
"We came to Stiens in early spring to look at stinzenplanten," says Willem. "When we parked our car, we saw a number of beautifully flowering stinzenplanten in a garden adjacent to the car park and, as true stinzenplant enthousiasts, this aroused our curiosity." When the house to which the garden belonged turned out to be for sale, they could soon call themselves the proud new owners of the historic house and its historic garden.
Stinzenplanten, spring plants with a Frisian story
In the northern provinces of the Netherlands, Friesland and Groningen, you find a special type of flora, called stinzenplanten. Those stinzenplanten are mainly spring plants, bulbs and tubers that were imported to the Netherlands from the 16th century onwards. You find them growing around old manor houses, which were called stinzen in Frisian, the native language of Friesland, but they can also be found in older country gardens, like Trudy and Willem’s garden. These plants were originally imported to impress, planted in gardens of people who could afford them and wanted to show off their wealth. The plants naturalized so well that they are nowadays thought of as natives. They are cherished plants and part of Friesland’s cultural history.
The historic garden in Stiens now owned by Trudy & Willem was commissioned in 1868 by the then occupant and designed by the well-known Frisian garden architect Gerrit Vlaskamp. "He is known for his gardens where paths meander naturally through pretty flowerbeds," says Trudy. The garden was completely overgrown when Trudy and Willem bought the house; "It was a lot of work, bringing the beautiful historic garden back to its former glory but it was really worth it.” Trudy and Willem made the garden walkable again and restored the old meandering garden paths. And because of their great love for stinzenplanten, the plants that made them discover their new Frisian home and its bewildered garden, these plants were given a prominent role in the restored historic garden.
"Stinzenplanten" are plants that grow wild in nature, spring bulbs and tubers that were brought to the garden in the past and that could easily turn wild. They were found at country estates, at stinzen in Frisian, beautiful parks and gardens were created around them where these plants were planted" says Willem. "Some species are really old", says Trudy, pointing to a daffodil, "this one dates from the 17th century, for example".
"In spring, the garden looks different every time,” says Trudy. "February is the time of snowdrops and bright crocuses; in March, the hollowroot and various sorts of daffodils and lungwort start flowering; and in April is the time for the beautiful yellow wild tulip and snake's head fritillary. It's like an endless spring.”