These blooms, from the genus tulipa, come in a whirlwind of colors. Once planted, the bulbs will produce a flower, year after year. In fact, some countries produce swaths of blossoms every spring. Holland is famous for its multi-colored tulip fields, which are a major tourist draw. Like here.
Although tulips were raised in Persia, much earlier, they aren't mentioned in print until 1559. They gradually gained prominence and interest until their peak in the early 1600s, when tulip-collecting became a frenzy. Tulip bulbs then were literally worth their weight in gold! They were also used as a kind of currency.
Eventually the speculating imploded, and tulip bulbs became affordable for everyday people. They've remained especially popular in the Netherlands, one of the countries most involved in the mania; in fact, many cultivars are known as "Dutch tulips." You can see the world's largest permanent display in Holland at the Keukenhof.
Growing up in Michigan, we often visited Holland in springtime for the tulip festival. Fields of blooms, wheel-turning windmills, and pretty Dutch girls sweeping the streets, wearing klompen (wooden shoes). The song they sang still reverberates:
"Tulips are blooming in Holland -- Michigan..."
Today, a ten-dollar bill will buy a whole basket of tulip bulbs -- most are 50 cents or less a bulb. Although they're easiest to find in the fall, just before the first snowfall, you'll find tulip bulbs now, as well. Dig a shovelful of dirt, then plant them in clumps. Or throw them up in the air, then dig holes and plant them where they fall. You won't see growth until next spring...but it will be worth waiting for.
Even better, plant tulips near hibernating bushes and perennials. They'll be a cheerful show while more warm-weather greenery are growing into place. Then the leaves will gradually fade from sight, while summer flowers start blooming.