Tulips and the ever-so-famous gardens of Holland go hand in hand. But did you know that the flower is said to have originated closer home in the Hindu Kush mountains?
In Srinagar, Asia’s largest Tulip garden was opened to the public on March 31 this year. Since 2008, the Spring Festival of Kashmir, Bahaar-e-Kashmir, kick starts with the opening of this garden. Though the Tulip festival is supposed to be for only 15 days, the flowers in the garden are in bloom for a much longer time as early flowering varieties, as well as late-flowering varieties, are planted in alternate plots to keep the flowering season extended.
Almost every year, the Tulips in this garden are in bloom right through the month of April and into the first few days of May. The garden is spread over 76 hectares which boasts 48 varieties of Tulips growing from over 1.5 million bulbs.
Siraj Baug, was once famous for only its Hazelnuts and Apple orchards, now hosts a colourful ensemble of tulips too, which have been planted in the vacant plots.
In the garden, the Tulips are spread over 7 terraces and bear quirky names like Laptop, Blushing Lady, Blushing Apeldoorn, Kung Fu, Ilede France, Jan Seignette, Hocus Pocus, Largo, Cape Holland, Margaritta, Avignon and Charade, to name a few. Most of the hybrid varieties and the genetic material have been procured from Holland.
Using the process of vernalization, the bulbs of these beautiful temperate, mountainous flowering plants are transported across the world. Every year, the Department of Tourism comes up with interesting ideas to increase tourist footfall. The entry fee to the Tulip Garden is a minimal Rs 50. To woo visitors, Tulip bulbs have also been planted in popular destinations like Pahalgam and Gurez.
For centuries now, all the gardens in Kashmir, and particularly in Srinagar, have had Tulips. These flowers grow wild in the mountains and the Mughals are said to have had an eye for beautiful flowers. However, the exclusive garden for Tulips was only set up when the need for improving tourism in this belt became imperative.