During the winter months gardeners page through catalogs, design new flower beds, sharpen and clean their gardening tools and basically wait for that first spring bulb to sprout and say winter is on the way out. Spring bulbs encompass a broad range of flowers, colors and blooming times. Most should be planted in fall when the weather is cool, but the ground hasn't frozen yet. Some bulbs like narcissus thrive in pots and can be forced to bloom early inside the house for a preview of spring.
Crocus are one of the earliest spring bulbs--often blooming while there is still snow on the ground. The leaves are narrow and no more than 3 or 4 inches long. The flowers are cup-shaped and are about an inch long. Colors include white, yellow and purple. Some crocus are striped purple and white.
Daffodils are probably the most recognizable spring bulb flower; they have that unmistakable trumpet-shaped center surrounded by longer oval petals. Most plants are from 12 to 15 inches high with narrow sword-shaped leaves. There are some miniature types, growing only 6 to 8 inches high with smaller blooms. Daffodils multiply easily. Plant 20 daffodils and in a few years under the right conditions you can end up with 100 daffodils. Daffodil varieties include early, mid- and late-spring blooming. The most common color is bright yellow. There are very pale yellow flowers, almost cream colored and a pale pink variety. Some varieties have a contrasting colored trumpet. There are double daffodils, but they lose their distinctive daffodil shape.
There are 15 categories of tulips. They have broad leaves pointed at the end and are from 6 to 18 inches long, depending on the variety. Varieties of tulips include those that bloom in early spring, mid spring and late spring. They come in every color (except true blue) and may be variegated, patterned or striped. The flowers are cup-shaped with six petals: three on the outside and three on the inside. Petals may be fringed, doubled or long and narrow. Tulips, despite their delicate appearance, are good cut flowers. Oddly, tulip stems continue to grow when cut and placed in water.
Freesias are most noted for their intense floral perfume. They bloom mid to late spring. The plants have long strap-like leaves. The flower stems carry from 10 to 15 blossoms, which bloom nearly all at once.
Ranunculus aren't true bulbs--they're corms. However, they are thought of when spring bulbs come to mind. The flowers are 3 to 4 inches across with many petals surrounding the center, much like roses or peonies. The plants grow to 24 inches high and bloom in late spring. One plant from one corm may have a series of 10 to 15 flowers blooming.