Imagine, then, knowing you will be planting thousands of bulbs. That’s what the six-person crew of Northeast Harbor’s W.P. Stewart Estate–also known as WatersEdge–faces each fall when they plant the bulb garden for the estate’s annual Spring Bulb Tour.

“I think that going into it (planting the bulbs in the fall) is really difficult,” says Lee Stephens, the estate’s head gardener. “At the end of the season, you’re tired, but the payoff is next season.”

And what a payoff it is.

Tens of thousands of tulips radiate vibrancy within the varying shades of greens and browns of a coastal woodland garden just emerging from its winter repose: Smooth bodies of solid reds, oranges and yellows; pastel purples with fringed petals; bi-colors and striated with green; petals layered like peonies; dainty dancers with narrow bodies flaring to pointy tips.

The Spring Bulb Tour at the Stewart estate has taken place for a decade and it always benefits a local nonprofit organization. This year the beneficiary is Mount Desert Island Community Sailing Center in Southwest Harbor.

The 15-year-old sailing education center offers adult and youth sailing programs and is home to the Mount Desert Island High School Sailing Team. The bulb tour will benefit the center’s endowment campaign, “Rounding the Mark,” says its executive director, Glenn Squires. The campaign has a goal of $1.5 million. So far, $320,000 has been raised.

Staff members and sailing center volunteers are organizing the bulb tour. They’ll be at the front gate and will be stationed throughout the garden to offer guidance and answer questions, Squires says. “Our hopes are that we get as many people as possible to see the gardens-they are so wonderful.

“We’re all ready to see the flowers.”

Published reports say the spring bulb tour boasts more than 45,000 bulbs, but, says the estate’s head gardener, the Stewart family prefers not to specify just how many bulbs are in the garden. “I can tell you, it’s very well-very well-planted,” Stephens says.

He would know. It takes Stephens and his crew two to two-and-a-half weeks to plant about 6,000 square feet of bulbs in four-foot-wide beds along paths meandering through eight-plus acres of gardens overlooking Somes Sound.

In addition to the thousands of tulips, Spring Bulb Tour attendees will see rhododendrons, hyacinths, dogwoods, dainty leucojum looking like fairies dressed for a ball and naturalized daffodils providing a perky border around tall fir trees.

“It’s nice to see people smiling and bending down and taking pictures,” Stephens says of those who attend the bulb tour. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s a great way to start off spring.”

The tours are tentatively scheduled to take place on May 14 and 21. Those dates could change depending on how the spring progresses. If the bulbs bloom early or later, the dates will be changed. Any date changes will be posted on the tour’s website,

During the event, art work created by local artists will be auctioned and sail cloth burgees painted by local artists will be on exhibit and for sale.

The W.P. Stewart Estate is located at 32 Sargeant Drive in Northwest Harbor. The road may become one way during the tour in order for local authorities to better manage people and vehicular traffic. Gates open at 9:30 a.m. and close at 3 p.m. The garden is open until 3:30 p.m. for viewing. The tours will take place rain or shine. Admission is a suggested donation of $10; children age 12 and younger are free.