Having been cultivated for thousands of years, bulbs have a long, rich history. Art, literature, philosophy, and botany from ancient Crete, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and biblical times are replete with bulb motifs and references.
History’s first recorded horticultural craze was “tulipomania” in the early 17th century, when tulips originating in Turkey made their way to the Netherlands where they became wildly popular; their possession became the ultimate status symbol, and stock-market-like trading and speculation reached a frenzy before it crashed. Fortunately, Holland’s bulb industry not only survived but thrived; it has given us thousands of outstanding hybrids, and continues to supply a major part of the world demand.
Botanically, bulbs are actually modified stems surrounded by fleshy leaves. Therefore, what most of us refer to collectively as bulbs may be true bulbs, corms, tubers, rhizomes, or tuberous roots. All have one thing in common: They are highly efficient food storage bins in which a plant gathers and holds nutrients, then draws on the stored food to start active growth after its season of dormancy. A perfect spring flower is already nestled within the sleek brown jacket of each tulip or daffodil you plant this fall.
In addition to being fascinating and not a little magical, bulbs are easy for even inexperienced gardeners to grow successfully. By following a few simple rules, you can grow a spectacular display of spring blooming bulbs.