Sandra Sigman spends her days immersed in flowers. On any given morning, you will find her juggling blooms with the greatest of ease for arrangements at Les Fleurs, her destination flower shop in Andover, Massachusetts. Even so, Sandra felt lightheaded when she rounded the bend at the nearby Stevens-Coolidge Place to behold 30,000 tulips in full splendor.
“When I turned the corner and walked into the garden, I literally gasped,” she says. “I guess I was starved for color, but I felt that even Holland would have been in awe.”
The Stevens-Coolidge Place is stewarded by The Trustees of Reservations to preserve the 20th-century North Andover, Massachusetts, estate of Helen Stevens Coolidge and her husband, John Gardner Coolidge, a descendent of Thomas Jefferson’s. The staff at the historic estate was full of hope when crates of tulip bulbs arrived in autumn of 2019. But plans for sharing the 2020 Tulip Festival fizzled with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Because the public was not permitted to come in person, the staff pulled together a Plan B that included virtual tours, videos, and demonstrations, enlisting volunteers to make tulip bouquets for local hospitals and senior housing. Sandra was on their speed dial as well; her contribution was to spread the joy via sumptuous arrangements to be featured in a virtual festival. And that’s how the designer spent a few weeks bonding with a flower that is the quintessential ambassador of color.
Even before Sandra selected her vases, tulips had already spoken to her. What she saw in that field was a burst of sunshine. “I’m not usually drawn to yellow as a theme,” she says, “but the yellow tulips in that field were so bright and cheery, they sparked my creativity.”
No wonder Sandra was ignited. What she saw was not your standard spring display. Rather than planting blocks of just one color in the typical tulip presentation, the horticultural team for The Trustees of Reservations had ordered bulbs from Colorblends, a purveyor known for artistic and carefully calibrated combinations. For Stevens-Coolidge, the team chose a blend that featured sherbet and lemon hues.
That scene served as the starting gate for Sandra’s ingenuity. Inspired by her connections to Paris—she lived there in her 20s—Sandra slipped easily into a celebration of tulips’ color range. In some arrangements, she coupled them with complementary hues for a spunky, smiling display. But she also found them to be perfect collaborators for what she calls “the soft landing” of building color echoes. “In the French flower shops, it’s all about bringing tones together for a nuanced story,” she explains. She also nestled different forms together to gain depth. Even within the tulip realm, by pairing double, French, and lily-petaled tulips, Sandra achieved arrangements with dimension and intrigue beyond the color factor.
“Tulips are all about levity and rebirth. Their flowers are like ballerinas—they dance” — Sandra Sigman
The resounding outburst of appreciation was so deep, The Stevens-Coolidge Place plans to stage a vastly expanded celebration of color in spring 2021. With 150,000 bulbs planted throughout their grounds for the Spring Spectacular, flowers will shine and inspire once again.
The Stevens-Coolidge Place’s Spring Spectacular will be held April 24–May 16, 2021. Pre-registration is required. For more information, visit thetrustees.org
Tulips at the Stevens-Coolidge Place
By Tovah Martin | Photography by Kindra Clineff