Meet International Garden Designer Jacqueline van der Kloet



International garden designer Jacqueline van der Kloet.For a few more weeks, until the middle of May or so, anyone passing Clinton Avenue in Bridgeport’s Stratfield Historic District will be able to see this season’s grand finale of colorful blooms. The bulb gardens created by international garden designer Jacqueline van der Kloet illustrate the range of bulbs offered by Colorblends. Here, she shares some of her vast gardening expertise.

People often plant bulbs to bloom in big blocks of color. What do you recommend?
When you do that, the flowers all blossom and fade at once, and you have to replace them. I try to mix different kinds of bulbs together and work them in with perennials. When the late ones have flowered, your other perennials and shrubs have started to bloom. So you have a sequence for many weeks of color and flowers.

Why do you have such a propensity for bulbs?
They are there at the time of year when there’s almost nothing else. Even in snow, crocuses and daffodils will grow and perform. After winter, you’re longing for color and spring. They make me happy by showing their colors.

What is a common mistake people make with bulbs?
They choose too many species and varieties in small quantities. By limiting your selection, you can order in large quantities and, for the same money, the effect is much bigger and more obvious. There’s a big difference between 10 and 100 crocuses. You hardly see 10 crocuses, but you will definitely see 100 or 150.

What else should gardeners consider?
People don’t realize there’s such a wide range of spring-flowering bulbs. Many only know crocus, and one or two daffodils and tulips. But there is a whole range of early-, mid- and late-blooming tulips. So if you plant a mix of them, you would have them flowering for weeks.

The Colorblends House & Spring Garden in Bridgeport, CT.How do you successfully mix flowers?
You have to make a mix in such a way that there’s a long flowering period, and you always have to make sure that there isn’t one species that is overpowering. It’s important to have a balance, such as a large amount of daffodils with some tulips in between that are the jewels in that field. Bulb books tell you how tall, the color and what time of the season things will bloom. But that is the reason we made the garden at Colorblends—so people can see what you can do with bulbs.

You worked on the project with Colorblends’ owner Tim Schipper. How is that half-acre garden of 25,000 bulbs a blend of you both?
Tim likes big splashes of color, and I like it to be more natural. People can see both ways in the Colorblends garden.

Is the mansion a good setting for bulbs?
I was very glad it was a beautiful yellow; that’s a very nice background. White is too visible. Gertrude Jekyll recommended blue or green but never white furniture in the garden—it attracts all the attention.

Martha Stewart tells how you showed her to mix the bulbs in a wheelbarrow and then scatter handfuls, planting them wherever they land. What did that achieve?
Some fell close together, then there were some bare areas with two or three bulbs. The effect was wonderful, like a meadow of flowers; it looked very natural. I try to make a garden as much as if nature had designed it herself.

What are a couple of your favorite tulips?
I like White Trumpeter, a white tulip with a green stripe in the petal. It’s a beautiful color, and I like to mix it with blue flowers like forget-me-nots—as if the tulips are dancing in a field of blue flowers. And there’s “Jacqueline,” a beautiful pink, late-flowering tulip.

A version of this article appeared in the May 2016 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Meet the Designer: Jacqueline van der Kloet.

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