2006 report on Tulip Fire

Noni MorrisonApril 28, 2006

Well, folks I have learned some things and come to some conclusions I want to share with you. You will remeber that I lost about 1600 tulips last year that had been set into new ground so technically would not have blight. And that I WAS RUDELY DISMISSED BY THE HORTICULTUIST FROM VAN ENGELEN WHEN I WANTED TO TALK ABOUT IT,



here is what I think is happening. I think that in Holland and the big grower fields, so many chemicals are used that the bulbs have lost their ability to fight off the pathodens and funguses naturally. I also think that the spores grow deep in the heart every of the bulbs too minutely to show up on their forms of testing. Now if those same bulbs are planted here with the fungacides and dusts they use then you will not see the problem, or if you live in a climate that is not comfortable for the funguses. However, I am in an area much like Holland...ocean fogs damp spring mornings, abundant rain and mild warm spring days. And I garden organically..it is part of who we are as a business and yes, I have had customers order parrot tulips to stuff for Easter dinner hour de'vores!

Now my Colorblends still have occassional spots but by removing that single flower or leaf the rest of the flowers have been gorgeous!

Until we stand up to the growers and refuse to buy their chemicaly dependent products they will continue to produce them in the same fashion. So this year they will get a letter from me and Colorblends will get a big order. I will try out some other non asociated specialty bulb companies and see how their flowers do, even if I can only afford some for my personal gardens. And I will probably try Johnny's organic tulips.

My French blends have been spectacular and just as promised from Colorblends. Parrot mix was a bit weak on the red ones but wonderful on the apricot and orange ones. Will be trying more of their blends next year but wuld also like to see more offered individually, including the fringed ones.

Been trying to garden with a horrible virus this week. Cauht it from DH and told on him to Dr. Dr ordered him to come in and found he had been walking around with pneumonia for 2 weeks! Mine had not progressed quite to that point but we are on same meds. Coughing spasms like whooping cough! Not much hard labor done this week.

Must get Jeanne's Highand white dreams Daisies and Poochellas dahlias into pots this week before taking off to youngest daughters college graduation next THurs. (And flower delivery cross state run!)

And yes, I will get better fast because I have to and my garden partner is on vacation last week and this week!

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What exactly does this tulip fire look like? I have just noticed spots on my leaves on the tulips that are in their second year. No spots last year, they were beautiful. This has been a weird spring here, and one of the driest due to not much snow fall from a mild winter, and up until lately, not all that much rain. The buds are smaller on many of the plants, and stems are short with some color starting to show on these puny little things. Nothing like this happened last year. My new tulips, planted last year seem to be doing better, and none of those have spots. I ordered from the same company both years. The spots are elongated ovals, with a dark, pencil thin outline and a light colored center. It seems to be just on the darwins, not the lily type.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2006 at 8:05PM
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Noni Morrison

CHERYL, in my experience almost any kind of spots on tulips or on their leaves is bad news! The flowers will look ok when you pick them in the early stages but by the time you are ready to set them out on the stand they will have broken out in spots on the flowers. Later, the tulips themselves will have little brown pits that spread into ugly spots.
You might just as well pull them now. They don't recover over the winter! I don't know if it really helps any but we spray our cut tulips with a mild ammonia water in hopes that it will stop the fungal spores from developing further.

Did you notice the spots just after it started raining? Not before? How well does your soil drain?

What I discoverd last year that is really important is to have good air movement through the tulip patch, good soil drainage, and buy your bulbs from a different source if you have trouble with them. And good air drainage means weed free...

If it is any comfort, my garden partner has just been to San Francisco and she says she inspected every tulip she could find from here near Seattle to San Francisco, and all of them had some signs of pitting including the artificial ones in the restaurant...Someone had splashed water on them! So I am thinking that perhaps I have the most beautiful tulips on the whole west coast this year, for organically raised ones! It sure was an expensive lesson , but I think getting cleaner bulbs is the start.(And we have been blessed with more cooler weather and lots of wind this year).

    Bookmark   May 4, 2006 at 1:02AM
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My guess is you have botrytis on your tulips. It looks like a little tan spot on the outside of the petal. If you look at the tulip after it opens, you'll see it is only on the outer petals, not the three petals that were inside the bud. This would indicate that it's environmental (read: not the fault of the bulb), such as high humidity and wet that effects only the outside of the bud. If the inner petals are spotted too, then you have something else. Rainy, humid weather is perfect for all types of botrytis, including the gray moldy kind.

According to Jeff denBreejen of Ednie Bulb, "While there may be problems with the bulbs, there can be many other things wrong as well. Sometimes there are things that happen inside a bulb that nobody knows about, until they start to grow. Usually this will only happen occasionally though."

We grow our tulips in one of our hightunnels. We always pull the bulb when harvesting. This is a good thing because this year we needed that extra 2" we get doing this. And, frankly I'd like to not think about our tulips this season. If it's any consolation, last year a grower lost 16,000 tulips. Not one bloomed.


    Bookmark   May 4, 2006 at 7:38AM
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Trish, does botrytis effect the leaves as well?
I agree, it is NOT a good tulip year. The location of these tulips is where they did wonderful last year, and are in good draining soil with plenty of air circulation because we get lots of wind coming acoss the field. I will admit there are more weeds than there should be, but not so bad that I would even consider that being a problem. The buds are smaller, the stems shorter, and then some varieties have the spots. Even the new ones I planted last fall are very stunted. I atribute that to the DRY spring. And I think that happened at a crucial time for bud formation and growth. Then we did get rain, and yes, that's when I noticed the spots, and after the porcupine feasted on them. Yep, a bad tulip year. If all these problems had not occurred, I would have had nice tulips for mothers day. I'm not getting upset about it though, it's just one of those things. If tulips become too big of a pain in the butt, I won't grow them, but I would like to find out what this disease is that they have. If I can figure out how to post a pic, maybe I'll do that.Trish, when you grow your tulips in tunnels, do you plant in the ground, or use your crates, and how deep do you plant them?

    Bookmark   May 5, 2006 at 8:24PM
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Yes, botrytis affects the leaves as well.
We don't have tulips for Mother's Day either because they all came on too soon. We could have held them for 3 to 4 weeks in the cooler -- BUT the cooler was doubling as storage for the crates of dahlia tubers this winter. Unfortunate planning on our part. So, anyway, we had to scramble and find outlets for our tulips since our markets don't start until May and June. Live and learn. If we're lucky, we'll have lilies for Mother's Day. We do have lilacs!!!! Very good year for the lilacs. And, we did get all the dahlia tubers planted. So, we have our cooler back! Which is a very good thing because I'm not all that certain the projected bloom dates on the lilies is going to work as well as last year which was pretty much a lark and absolutely no credit to my planning. To be perfectly honest it is looking downright scary in the lily department.

Anyway, when we grow tulips in the hightunnel, we dig out the beds. I'm guessing it's around 4-5" deep. We plant the tulips really close like eggs in a carton, and almost touching. So, no, we didn't use the crates. If we grew in crates, we would use prechilled bulbs. In a normal year, they would receive enough chilling in the unheated hightunnel. Notice how I say normal year. Not sure what actually is considered a normal year anymore.

For field grown tulips, I've heard the first year is considered pretty much break even.


    Bookmark   May 7, 2006 at 8:21PM
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Hi I gave up on planting tulips because they don't perform well for me but recently I listened to a man speak about tulips,sorry I have forgotten his name. His family has been growing tulips in Holland for generations. He said we do not plant tulips deep enough. Tulip bulbs want to remain cool in the summer while they are dormant. If they are not planted deeply they get warm and are then more subject to desease. He said they should be planted a foot deep. Not everyone wants to dig a foot deep hole so in order to make planting easier and more appealing it became common practice to plant them at a depth similar to narcissus. This year I intend to buy some and try planting them down a foot and see if they stay healthy for more than a couple years. Species tulips are also more resistant to deseases although not as spectacular. One more thing he said don't worry about pointing them up down or sideways, they have done experiments in Holland and it barely makes a days difference in bloom time.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2011 at 10:31AM
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