Tag Archives: bulb farms

1998.164.3

Flora MacLean discarding flower heads from the Hynish bulb farm

Photograph of Flora MacLean discarding flower heads from the Hynish bulb farm, photographed by the Sunday Express in May 1957.

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Courtesy of Sunday Express

Flora MacLean of Kenovay was photographed by the Sunday Express in 1957 discarding flower heads from the Hynish bulb farm. In the 1950s daffodil, tulip, narcissus and hyacinth bulbs were grown by a number of Tiree crofters to supply mainland hot-house growers with bulbs for forcing.

The busiest time was in the spring and summer. The flowers were removed to strengthen the bulbs which were dug up in June and graded according to size and condition. Large bulbs were exported to the mainland with the smaller ones replanted in the autumn for another year’s growth.

The initial outlay for ‘mother’ bulbs was high although spent bulbs could be purchased for a fraction of the cost. Unfortunately, the crop was decimated by diseases and pests, profit margins fell and the scheme petered out.

Black and white photograph of Flora MacLean of Druimfhraoich, Kenovay.

Flora MacLean of Druimfhraoich, Kenovay, discarding bulbs from the Hynish bulb farm, photographed by the Sunday Express in May 1957.

1997.162.1

Mr R. M. Percy at the Hynish bulb farm in the 1950s

Postcard of the Hynish bulb farm in the 1950s.

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Courtesy of Mrs Mary MacKinnon

In the early 1950s the West of Scotland Agricultural College’s horticultural adviser R. M. Percy suggested an experiment in bulb-growing to Walter Hume of Hynish. The experiment showed that the light sandy soils of Tiree were well suited to growing daffodil, tulip, narcissus and hyacinth bulbs.

Encouraged by this success, a number of crofters formed a Hebridean bulb-growers association and launched into bulb-growing as a commercial enterprise, supplying mainland hot-house growers with bulbs for forcing. Initially the economic prospects looked good as the yield per acre was high.

However, the bulbs were decimated by diseases and ravaged by pheasants, mice and slugs. Reinvigorating spent bulbs took longer than expected and markets became more difficult to find. Nowadays the only reminders of the bulb experiment are patches of daffodils growing wild in the fields.

Black and white postcard of the bulb fields at Hynish.

Postcard of the bulb fields at Hynish.