The great tulip tragedy of 2018

About 50% of our seven acres of tulips did not make it through the winter. This is the single greatest flower loss in our farm’s history.

We’d like to tell you how this happened and what it means for you.

Our story starts back in 2014 because that was the last year we held our flower festivals at our home farm in Haymarket and planted in a field that was familiar to us. Word of our festivals had spread quickly and our small farm was no longer big enough to continue to host our events.  Since then, we’ve had to sign short-term leases every year and move when those leases ended while we continued to search for a larger long-term home. We know this was frustrating for you; it’s been frustrating for us, too.

Picking up and moving a farm every year is neither fun nor easy but it’s what we’ve done so we can continue to host our very special and increasingly-popular spring and summer flower festivals.

Moving every year is especially challenging because it means we start each year in an unfamiliar place. You can ask any farmer that’s cultivated a field more than a year and they can tell you to almost the inch where the problem areas are in that field.  As we’ve moved, we’ve had to learn new fields as we were planting them. We’ve been very lucky up until this winter.

By January 2018, the tulip bulbs planted in our picking field were healthy and had established a nice root system to get them through the harsh winter underground. We were in a moderate drought at the time and it didn’t look like there was any rain in sight. Then, the rains came. Our drought was quickly over and half of the picking field was completely submerged in several inches of water. We were expecting the water to start to subside, but as the days went by, the water stayed. With no way to move the water off the field, all we could do was wait and hope for the best. Days turned to weeks and more rain came. The end result was about three to four weeks of standing water on half of the picking field. Sadly, that was too much for those tulips and we lost just about all of them. A small section of that field was on higher ground and is now starting to bloom.  It’s hard to look at them because they’re a testament to what that field was going to look like, but it’s also a beautiful reminder that we’ll be able to make more informed decisions in future years because we will be able to remain on this farm for at least one more year - and hopefully longer.

Words cannot describe this loss but we will forge ahead and we WILL open the 2018 Festival of Spring with what we have. We’ll have 3 ½ to 4 acres of tulips, daffodils and Dutch iris (iris later in May).  Our flower fields may be smaller than they’ve been in past years, but we will still have something beautiful for you to enjoy.

We hope you’ll still plan a visit to the flower fields at our new Nokesville location (address TBA). Pack a picnic and enjoy all our activities, the flowers and the outdoors with family and friends.

We will do our very best to post the most accurate pictures of the flowers on our facebook page and website so you can plan your visit accordingly.

If you’re travelling several hours to see the flowers, we may recommend waiting until next year. Pictures from past years will not accurately reflect how this year’s fields look.

Thank you for being a friend of the farm!

We hope to see you this spring!

Mike Dawley


Burnside Farms

*View the 2018 field reports here*