Tulips are normally associated with the Turks and Dutch, but Kashmir is fast catching up with this craze to somehow squeeze itself into the exclusive zone of Tulip-growing regions of the world.
Towards the end of this month, the city's Tulip Garden overlooking Dal Lake would be a riot of colour as Floriculture Departments is expecting a bloom of more than a million tulips in the garden. Marking the onset of spring and tourism season, the sprawling Tulip Garden tucked away in the foothills of the Zabarvan range of the Himalayas and spread over 200 kanals, is all set to bloom with 12.25 lakh tulips.
The officials in the department had been very nervous during the course of the winter as the long dry spell meant that tulips would not show the growth that they usually have in a more conducive climate.
"Last month's snowfall and recent rains, however, proved to be boon for the tulip bulbs," said Mathora Masoom, the Director of the Floriculture Department.
"We had a technical team from SKUAST which monitored growth of tulip bulbs. There is no erratic behaviour shown by the bulbs till now. Sprouting of the bulbs has started and the Tulip Garden will be opened in last week of March," added Masoom said.
As an added attraction, a terrace with bulbous plants like hyacinths, daffodils, narcissus and other ornamental plants has been developed in the garden this year.
"We are hopeful to have a full bloom of 12.25 lakh tulips by end of this month," she added.
On 11 February, Srinagar received a light snowfall after a long dry spell with Chilla-i-Kalan, the harshest 40-day period that starts towards the end of December and ends in January, passing off in bright sun light. The Tulip bulbs mostly imported from Holland are considered highly sensitive to low and high temperature.
"Freezing temperature prior to bloom and above 18 degrees after bloom can affect life span and quality of tulips. Continuous dry spell can also affect growth besides life span of the tulips," said Dr Sarwar Naqash, an expert in floriculture who has also served as the head of the Floriculture Department.
In 2008, Sonia Gandhi, the then head of the United Progressive Alliance, inaugurated the garden with Ghulam Nabi Azad by her side. It was Azad as the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir who had taken it upon himself to convert the area into a terraced garden to plant tulip bulbs. The garden since then has lured a huge number of visitors, both local and foreign.
Director Tourism, Kashmir, Mehmood Shah, said the Tulip garden has become one of the major tourist attractions of the Kashmir valley. "Our tourism season used to begin from May every year. However, since 2008, Tulip garden has advanced our tourism season by over a month," said Shah.
When in full bloom, the Tulip garden is a broad flush of colour casting a rainbow-like formation as magenta, yellow and red vie for the eyes of visitors. "We will be organizing Tulip festival by end of this month and have launched a campaign to give it wider publicity though social media," Shah said.