Burnside Farms’ Leslie Dawley calls it “the great tulip tragedy of 2018.” But don’t let that deter you from what could be a pleasant outing in the country, and some colorful Instagram posts.
Every year, Burnside Farms in Virginia plants one million tulip bulbs for its pick-your-own spring festival. It’s an idea that Dawley, a former florist who once owned Hedgerows in McLean, germinated—and she says it’s now one of the largest pick-your-own tulip farms in the world. But after the Haymarket farmland Dawley was using was sold by the owner to developers, Dawley and her son, Mike, had to find new land for their flowers. They found it in Nokesville, about an hour’s drive from DC.
Moving a farm, as you can imagine, is no easy task. You don’t know the land intimately, nor the vagaries of the growing conditions. The one million bulbs went into the ground. By January, all looked rooted and well. Then, says Leslie, the spring rains came. And came. Half the field, it turned out, was too low-lying and the standing water wouldn’t drain. The bulbs in that section were lost—around 400,000 of them, she says. Almost half.
Some 600,000 tulips in bloom—almost four acres—is still a lot. They’re due to peak this coming weekend, May 5 and 6. Visitors will find 200 varieties that will bloom in cycles (mid-, early, and late season), lasting about three-and-a-half weeks in all. (To keep tabs on the bloom, check the farm’s website or Facebook page.) While the flowers make for a pretty photo backdrop, this is not a look-don’t-touch experience: You can pull the stems out of the ground and take them home, $1 per stem (plus another $1 if you want the bulb).
There’s an entry fee of $6 for off-peak bloom times, $8 for peak. On weekends, you must pre-purchase admission before you arrive; no tickets will be sold at the gate (as they are on weekdays). To buy weekend tickets, click here. Tickets go on sale at noon on the Monday before each weekend, and typically sell out by Thursday.
Besides the flower patches, visitors with kids will find a bounce house and bounce slide, a playhouse, and cornhole games. There’s barbecue fare for sale on weekends and picnic tables if you want to bring your own food.
If you miss Burnside Farms’s spring festival, know that this is a year-round pick-your-own flower farm. After the tulips, you’ll find Dutch iris and poppies. In late summer come sunflowers and two sunflower mazes.