Nothing signals the retreat of winter and the arrival of the much anticipated spring season more so than flushes of delicate snowdrops. Snowdrops are members of the bulb family and happen to be one of the first flowers of the year to push up from the soil - often times while snow is still on the ground. Soon to follow are crocuses, daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths, to name only a few of our many splendid early spring bulbs. As these early flowerers begin to fade, they are replaced by iris and blooming onions.
Most often people do think of spring when they think of bulbs, however, there is quite an array of summer bulbs as well. Lilies, dahlias, gladioluses, begonias, and elephant ears are some of the staples of the summer garden that grow from bulbs. Now, you may be thinking, “some of these plants grow from tubers or corms...” That's right, but a bulb plant is any plant that stores energy for its seasonal cycles in an underground storage organ. These storage organs include: true bulbs, corms, tubers, rhizomes, and tuberous roots.
From its outward appearance, one would never imagine the treasure contained within a flower bulb. The seemingly dead, brown nuggets are made up of layers of scales (in true bulbs)
or nutrient storing tissue surrounding the next season's flower, which is forming inside. The scales or tissues contain the food necessary to sustain the bulb during dormancy and early growth.
When buying bulbs, you are simply looking for healthy specimens. They should feel solid when you pick them up. Avoid bulbs that have bruises or soft spots. If you see a label that says, "top size" this means that the bulbs are the largest commercially available size. Top size bulbs will give you the most spectacular blooms in the first year, but the smaller sized bulbs will catch up in a season or two. Be sure to plant your bulbs within a month or two of purchase.
Bulbs are extremely easy to grow. Once planted, most will survive quite well of their own accord. In addition, bulbs actually multiply from one year to the next! If you are pleased with this spring's show, just imagine the next year, and the next year, and so on. What's more, when the clumps become large enough, they can be divided and you can begin to place bulbs throughout your property!