For many gardeners, bulbs are a limited repertoire of daffodils, tulips and hyacinths that brighten the garden for a few weeks in the spring before the "proper" plants get going. There is a reluctance to experiment with other bulbs because of the long wait to see the results and a resultant tendency to stick to the few familiar varieties.
Brian Matthew's book seeks to encourage a more adventurous approach with this compact and informative guide to selecting and growing bulbs all year round. There is much to inspire--carpets of Cyclamen coum, snowdrops and winter aconites show just how colourful the garden can be even in midwinter; many varieties of fragrant lily are recommended for the summer garden and there are suggestions for brightening the autumn garden, including the beautiful deep blue Crocus sativus the true saffron crocus. Tender bulbs for indoors and conservatories are also featured.
Each bulb has a useful section on "Associations"--to help the gardener choose suitable companion plants which will show off the bulbs to best effect. The one slight weakness of this book is the brevity of the information on pest control--with pests like the lily beetle spreading rapidly it would be useful to have more guidance. Nonetheless this is an excellent guide to the world of bulbs and would make good gift at any time of year, especially if accompanied by some choice bulbs. --Stephanie Donaldson