Attractive but destructive

I have mentioned in previous posts that last autumn I decided to plant out the tulip bulbs from last spring into the border as I wanted new different tulips in pots.

I have been thrilled with the success rate of the tulips particularly given that my soil is heavy clay in places and also due to the fact that the tulip bulbs were just left through the summer in a tray in the garage.  The majority have flowered with long stems and lovely flowers but  I have a couple like the one above.  This tulip is meant to be a plain burgandy but as you can see the bulb has been affected with the tulip breaking virus.  I am looking forward to seeing the flower completely open as I think it will be quite attractive.  However, on reading up on the tulip breaking virus it seems that I need to get rid of the affected bulbs before the virus spread to other tulips and lilies.  In fact selling bulbs with the tulip breaking virus is banned in the UK to prevent the spread of the virus which is why we don’t see this bizarre flowers very often.

In the past the bulbs with the disease were highly valued and were exchanged  for large sums of money.  Breeders did not understand why the colour break occured  and thought it was due to environmental conditions.  They tried various things to replicate the conditions, by frequently changing the soil and weakening the bulbs.  However research since the 1920s has found that the virus is spread by aphids who having taken a bite out of the affected plant, move on to an unaffected plant and spread the virus to them.  If left the bulbs will become weakened and in following years the plants will be stunted  and over time will  stop flowering.

So I suppose I should get rid of the affected bulbs so that the virus doesnt spread to all my bulbs  but it is hard to get rid of such an interesting flower


8 Comments Add yours

  1. Janet Cross says:

    Oh no, what a shame! I guess you could cut the flower and bring it into the house so that you still get to admire it? Or is there still a risk of the aphids getting to it and still spreading the virus around?

  2. catmint says:

    I’m afraid ruthlessness is best in this situation – I suggest wrap and bin it!

    1. patientgardener says:

      Hi Catmint
      Have wrapped and binned

  3. Lona says:

    Well that is a new one to me. Never heard of it and would have not even realized it was a disease. Thanks for the posting.

  4. Anna says:

    Have heard if this but have never come across an affected specimen – it looks quite attractive but I imagine best rid if you love your other tulips.

  5. Thanks for the info. I never knew!

  6. What a shame! It’s beautiful. I wonder it all the pretty varieties in the bulb catalogues are a result of this or whether they have managed to alter something somewhere with selective breeding. If it’s illegal to sell them I guess they came up with another way!

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