Exclusive Interview With Floriculture Officer Tulip Garden Mr. Shayiq Rasool
Hailed as Asia’s largest, Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip garden, located on the foothills of Zabarwan mountain range has over the years turned out to be a major tourist attraction eclipsing all other tourist destinations in the Valley. The garden spanning over an area of 30 hectares (74 acres) has on a year-to-year basis pulling record number of visitors from all across be it the local, the national or the international enthusiasts. However a fact that has been for larger strata been a mystery is the grooming of the garden to make it worth where it is currently. Tulip Garden was adjudged as the second best Tulip destination, worth travelling by the World Tulip Summit Society in the year 2015 in Canada.
Thrown open for visitors on March 19, this year the Garden has already attracted over three lac tourists from far and wide, much to the satisfaction and fulfillment of the organizers.
Talking exclusively to local news agency GNS, Floriculture Officer Tulip Garden Mr. Shayiq Rasool responded to a host of queries. Here we produce the interview:
i) How much have you been satisfied with the tourist response so far?
Shayiq Rasool: We are very much satisfied because we have been witnessing a good tourist flow so far from within the country and abroad – we even witnessed thirty five thousand people visiting here in a single day. We have so far witnessed over 3 lac tourists visiting the garden upto now which is a good omen for all those associated with the tourism industry here. The happiness, joy, excitement shown by the tourists gives us utmost satisfaction and we feel that our hardwork has paid off by seeing the response of the tourists.
ii) How many varieties of Tulips are currently at display in the (Tulip) Garden?
Shayiq Rasool: There currently are 68 varieties of tulips in the garden– out of the total 68 varieties; four new ones were introduced this year: Hamilton, Sweetheart, Cafe Noir and Christmas Dream. The Department of Floriculture is in a pursuit that every year we add a few new varieties to enrich the garden with an aim to make this garden more beautiful and scenic.
iii) Off late we have been witnessing early bloom of the tulips and even these considerably last longer than earlier years. How do you see it?
Shayiq Rasool: Due praises to Almighty Allah that the weather this time around has remained pleasant. Since day one of the Tulip show 2023, the temperature has been feasible much to the favorability of tulips, there even have been intermittent rain spells in between amid cloud cover – these all factors help in the extension of tulip life. Owing to these factors, the tulips have bloomed suitably so far.
iv) How big has it been a challenge to you or the gardeners, field staff on ground to make the garden ready for inauguration on March 19 this year?
Shayiq Rasool: As we all know the Tulip Garden has over the years turned out to be a major tourist attraction for the local, national and foreign tourists alike, so it always remains a challenge for us to come upto the expectations of visitors. Keeping the things in view, we give our best efforts throughout the year from top to bottom and plan the things threadbare to bring the best – and it is this hardwork and proper planning that you see is yielding us these satisfying results.
v) This Garden is hailed as Asia’s biggest (Tulip Garden). Any thoughts on it!
Shayiq Rasool: Yes this is the largest Tulip Garden in Asia. It was adjudged as the second best Tulip destination of the world, worth travelling, by the World Tulip Summit Society in the year 2015 in Canada.
vi) Once the garden shuts for visitors, what immediate process follows the closure, to say how the tulips grow and thrive in the following season?
Shayiq Rasool: In this regard I would say that once the tulip bloom is over, the activities inside the garden don’t stop. Even when the bloom is over, the tulip plants remain there – as the Tulip plant continues to carry its normal physiological processes which paves way for the process of growth/development of the new daughter bulb. We in the meantime continuously carry out the de-weeding process in the field. Once the Tulip plant leaves withers, the dry leaves are detached from the underground new Bulb. The bulbs are then uprooted and harvested from the soil manually. Accordingly the harvested bulbs are first shade dried (there is high moisture content in the harvested bulbs and this moisture content is to be brought down to an optimum moisture content level so that the bulbs when stored doesn’t get spoiled by disease). After the shade drying, the process of Cleaning and Sorting is carried out. While doing this, we have to take caution to see whether there is any diseased/infected bulb and if we find any; such bulb(s) are separated (and discarded) from the other bulbs. After this, the different sized bulbs/bulblets are properly stored with proper labeling as per the variety type.
There are three teams working simultaneously, one which digs out the bulbs from the field and the second receives them (bulbs) for shade-drying, cleaning and sorting, the 3rd team then stores the tulip bulbs in a single layer on metallic mesh racks inside the Storage Chamber. We have to maintain the proper ventilation of abundant air, optimum temperature inside the storage facility which for tulips is feasible between 17 to 20 degrees and 65 % humidity level in the Storage Chamber. During the storage, the bulbs are dusted with Contact and systemic fungicides to ward off the infections and diseases. Care is taken to minimize the ethylene production in the storage chamber which otherwise is a source of diseases like Fusarium etc. These are a few things which are taken care of on a priority which helps us to keep the Bulbs healthy, free from disease etc. Besides, these factors help to form a fresh tiny tulip flower bud inside each Bulb stored. Pertinent to mention that when the tulips bulbs are harvested around June, at that time the tulip bulbs are in vegetative phase.
The sown area of the Tulip Garden being very large, to harvest lakhs of Tulip bulbs and its subsequent storage and proper care of bulbs takes much toil of around three to almost four months, this all work is carried out manually. As the process of harvesting the bulbs goes on, it is simultaneously followed by tracterization of fields and sterilization of soil – which stamps out the possibility of any disease growth. We carry out manuring and add fertilizers as well to retain the fertility of the soil. In the run up to sowing of tulip bulbs in the field, Proper colour scheme planning in respect of the varieties and colours of Tulips is made on the Drawing sheets with due diligence. Care is taken to make the new colour scheme attractive and presentable. This work continues till autumn. These processes are part of the preparations for the next year’s Tulip flower show.
vii) What are the immediate things that are considered once the department plans to plant back the bulbs?
Shayiq Rasool: A bulb cannot be planted in the soil until the temperature is taken into consideration to say, until the soil temperature hovers below 14 degrees. If the temperature goes above the prescribed limit, the bulbs may fall victim to diseases. We see a feasible soil temperature around the month of November and during this time we plant the Tulip bulbs in the soil as per the Colour scheme. During this period the soil temperature is enough to promote rooting in the sown Bulbs.
viii) Any message for the visitors!
Shayiq Rasool: We wholeheartedly welcome the Tourists to Asia’s Largest Tulip Garden. We are here for the tourists/visitors to see that they enjoy this scenic spot to the hilt and make it a memorable and mesmerizing experience for them. Tulips garden is all yours, visit here and enjoy the rainbow of sprawling Tulip flower colours under the foothills of Zabarwan hills with an overview of Dal Lake. (GNS)