A true bulb is formed from fleshy leaves or leaf bases, and often consists of concentric rings of scales attached to a basal plate. True bulbs include the daffodrils, reticulata irises and tulips. If provided with enough nutrients, they will often flower for many years.
There are bulbs for all seasons of the year but their glory is in spring when they epitomise the regrowth of a world that has seemed dead all winter. Among the first are the snowdrops (Galanthus) with snowy-white flowers and trim clumps of leaves.
Daffodils, with their sunny yellows and oranges, can flower over a long period if the varieties are carefully chosen; the bold blue, pink or white heads and heavy scent of hyacinths are another spring delight, and the heavenly blue of swathes of scillas and Anemone blanda look good in flowerbeds or woodland settings.
Spring bulbs can be lifted and stored after flowering if they threaten to get in the way of other plants. Many spring bulbs will spread and increase naturally over the years in many parts of the garden. Crocuses, daffodils, snowdrops and spring-flowering anemones such as A. blanda usually increase rapidly.
Bulbs are particularly useful under deciduous shrubs and trees, where they make use of the light available when the trees are bare and then die down when the trees begin to come into leaf. The bulbs then die down themselves and begin the process of storing and preserving nutrients for the following year.
Scillas under the tree