Today would go down as one of those not so good days in flower farming. I have found from the start that it is a rollercoaster of a ride where one minute every thing is great, happy flowers and therefore happy me. The next day some weather or gardening disaster can have occurred and my stress levels go through the roof! Things have been going pretty well this season so far, my spring flowers have been beautiful and smelled amazing. Today I was planning to do more potting on of my seedlings while Erin was at nursery but I thought first I would have a look at my tulips. For a couple of days now I have been in a bit of denial but this morning on closer inspection I could ignore no longer that I too had the dreaded tulip fire in some of my beds.
Tulip Fire is a tulip disease where a fungus called Botrytis tulipae attacks the growing tulips leaves. The leaves look withered and have brown spots on them, the flowers don’t open properly and may have spots on them too. They can get covered in fungus although I haven’t seen this as the weather has been so dry. Here are some pictures of some of my affected tulips.
The only solution is to dig out all the tulips in those beds and the soil surrounding the roots and give the bed a really good digging over. You then cannot plant tulips back in the same place for the next three years as the fungus can linger that long. It was hard work digging over the beds this morning and just when you think you have all the tulip bulbs up you dig again and find another one! It makes you realise just how many you planted. I did have some friendly garden birds sitting beside me who were very happy I was digging up fresh worms for them to eat!
I have lost 3 beds to tulip fire this year but I do have my largest remaining bed in a different part of the garden with some beautiful tulips flowering now so all is not lost! These beauties will be on the stall this weekend.
So what can you do to prevent tulip fire? It is recommended planting your tulips as late as possible as the fungus spreads less in cold soil. Frustratingly I have made sure each year I did this by not planting tulips until late November or December. The problem is our winters are getting milder and we are not getting the cold spells needed for our tulips. Also you must check the quality of each bulb before planting, they should be nice and firm with no signs of fungus.
It is very disheartening to have to dig up whole beds of tulips you have invested in and it does leave me with the question are tulips worth growing? The advantages are they are beautiful, they provide me with early season flowers and they look lovely in bouquets and bridal flowers. I also really like them and as a flower farmer you should love what you grow! On the other hand they are a massive cost each year and if you cannot sell the flowers it is a big loss to your business. I will have to go away and have a think over the summer about tulips and whether an early, beautiful but risky flower is worth another shot?! What do you think?