Srinagar: Asia's largest tulip garden on the banks of Dal Lake in Kashmir was on Thursday thrown open to visitors by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

Accompanied by his mother Molly Abdullah, the Chief Minister formally opened the garden to visitors.

"The impact of this garden on tourism is evident from the fact that we have been forced to open it a week to 10 days ahead of schedule," Abdullah told reporters.

He said tourists were so keen to visit the garden that they could have broken in without waiting for the inauguration.

"The Tulip garden has succeeded in bringing forward the tourist season in Kashmir by two months. Our season has already begun," he said.

Although the tulips are yet to reach full bloom, the floriculture department has planted 20 lakh bulbs over an area of 12 hectares with eight new varieties of the flower added this year.

Formerly known as Siraj Bagh, the Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip garden was the brainchild of then chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.

The garden was developed with to provide tourists with an added incentive to visit the Valley.

Tulip cultivation has since been started on a commercial scale.

The delicate flowers in different hues and colours are sent to markets across the country including Mumbai, Bangalore, Delhi and Hyderabad.