THE BULB ISSUE
A thousand tulips shine among the emergent foliage of spring in the garden of bulb enthusiast Joke Cijsouw
I’m always late ordering in my tulips,” says Joke Cijsouw. “So late in fact, that they are sometimes sold out by the time I start buying them on the internet. That often means a last-minute dash to the local garden centre to get some more.” Given that Joke has been adding some 1,000 bulbs to her garden every autumn for the past 30 years, you have to wonder can she really forget? “No, it is just that I find it difficult deciding what the garden should look like in April, when it is not even November.”
Set back from a country lane in the Dutch province of Zeeland, the cottage where Joke lives with her husband Henk, is at the end of a plane tree-lined drive that also takes you past lines of Turkey oaks, poplars and a paddock containing an old chestnut to a neat front lawn. Separating the lawn from a terrace by the house are two mixed borders speckled throughout with tulips: ‘Black Parrot’, ‘Glasnost’, ‘Orange Favourite’ and ‘Apricot Beauty’.
“I use the planting method advocated by Dutch bulb expert Jacqueline van der Kloet,” explains Joke. “Mix your bulbs up in a bucket, throw them around and plant where they land, usually some 20 bulbs per square metre.” Perennials, such as Euphorbia characias and Heuchera villosa ‘Palace Purple’, and the snowy white of Amelanchier lamarckii provide interesting contrast. “I opt for tulips that f lower in April, May,” says Joke. “By that time, you will have fresh foliage as a backdrop, but at a height that still allows the tulips to shine.”
Near the side entrance to the cottage, a cobbled yard is decorated with accessories from Joke’s vintage shop, Interieur ‘t Hofje, which is based in the cottage’s old barn. A pergola, which in summer is awash with Rosa Westerland (= ‘Korwest’) and Rubus phoenicolasius, screens the yard from the rest of the garden, with a traditional brick path linking the two areas. Although the cottage looks old, it was built just 40 years ago by the previous owners, using materials from the dilapidated farmhouse that first occupied this site. “They also laid the paths and built the fences,” says Joke. “But their garden was all trees, elderberries and hazels. Some we kept, some succumbed to old age, and some we felled to make room for a more floriferous garden.”
To achieve that vision, Joke and Henk first had to tackle the northwesterly winds that blow in from the North Sea. They started by planting a privet hedge along the northern boundary of the east-west oriented plot. Joke then had some of the local clay removed, replacing it with better draining forest soil bought from nearby Domburg. Over the years the couple have added more hedges for practical and aesthetic purposes. When they moved in, a hornbeam hedge parallel to the house separated the garden from a pony paddock. Once the ponies had gone, this too became part of the ornamental garden, and the eastern boundary was pushed back towards a low Lonicera hedge that keeps a couple of Zwartbles sheep in check. A wrought-iron gate in this hedge, opens out views across the sheep meadow to the countryside beyond – the perfect sightline from the conservatory and brick-paved terrace.
To the left of the terrace, tulips grow among Ajuga and Helleborus niger in a box parterre, to the right is a vegetable garden and bergenia-edged border, where the pink, red and magenta of tulips ‘Rosalie’, ‘Red Hat’ and ‘Doll’s Minuet’ are followed by similarly coloured Lupinus ‘My Castle’, cosmos and dahlias. “Come November, I’ll try to decide on seven tulip cultivars,” says Joke. “One strong colour, supported by a few softer pastels. I like whites and yellows, but I love reds, purples and pinks. And I get the occasional survivor from previous years. Tulipa ‘Purissima’ always comes back.”
In a circle of box around a gnarly old Pyrus communis, tulips, including ‘Purple Rain’, ‘Blue Diamond’, ‘Louvre’ and ‘Renown’, rise up between Scilla and Galium odoratum. “Once they finish flowering, I take my hedge trimmer to the box and simply swoosh it across the soil as well,” says Joke. “There’s no use planting anything here for summer, because the tree’s leaves will keep out all the light.”
Elsewhere in the garden planting becomes more relaxed. A meandering path along the northern boundary, back to the front lawn, has a distinctly forest feel, with Lunaria annua, daffodils, primulas, and white and yellow tulips, such as ‘Purissima’, ‘Maja’ and ‘Creme Upstar’. It is the perfect hideaway for the pheasants, mice and voles that feast on Joke’s bulbs. Joke, however, shrugs off any worries she might have about the havoc such wildlife could wreak on her tulip displays – having put in 30,000 bulbs over the years, she can afford to lose a couple. USEFUL INFORMATION Address Noordweg 4, Biggekerke, the Netherlands. Tel +31 (0)118 552114. Website tuinthofje.nl Open Every Thursday, 10am-4pm, or at other times by appointment.
Turn to page 60 for ten of Joke’s favourite tulips.
“I USE THE PLANTING METHOD, ADVOCATED BY DUTCH EXPERT JACQUELINE VAN DER KLOE – MIX YOUR BULBS UP IN A BUCKET, THROW THEM AROUND AND PLANT WHERE THEY LAND, USUALLY 20 BULBS PER SQUARE METRE”