Tiptoeing through tulips

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Corbett Gardens, Bowral

It has been more than 30 years since I last visited Tulip Time in Bowral. I imagine that I returned home then with visions of planting out my Sydney garden with swathes of tulips, and no doubt that idea ended in tears. Getting tulips to do well in Sydney requires a lot of fiddling about with refrigerators (and even putting ice on top of where the bulbs are planted), and the bulbs don't flower again after the first year. Older and a little wiser, with a slightly better idea of the imperative of climate on what can and cannot be grown in my garden, I am now able to enjoy cold-climate plants for what they are, instead of feeling I can't appreciate them unless I can grow them myself. With this reconstructed view, I found myself in Corbett Gardens, Bowral NSW, at the weekend, on a glorious early spring day, enjoying the spectacle of 100,000 tulip bulbs.

Tulips - Negrita, Corbett Gardens, Bowral

There is obviously something about tulips in full bloom that brings much joy. Everyone in the park - young and old - had a smile on their face and many were busily photographing the flowers. The elegant, bold form of a tulip, and the wide range of rich colours they come in, really make an impact. Fortunes have been made and lost over tulips - tulip-mania in Holland in the 17th century and in Turkey in the 18th century saw fabulous prices being paid for exotic varieties of the bulbs. They have played an important role in religions and in art over the centuries. Tulips seem to encapsulate the very essence of spring, and herald renewal in the garden. To see the pleasure that these flowers were bringing to the people in the park at the weekend was a reminder of how important plants and flowers are in our lives.

Tulip - Asahi, Corbett Gardens, Bowral

The venue, Corbett Gardens, is named after Bowral resident Ada Corbett, who lobbied for an empty block near her home to be turned into a public park. A century ago this year, the park was opened, after a government grant was received for the project and shrubs were donated by the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney. This year is the 54th Tulip Time festival, which apparently began with just 500 tulips in 1961. A mixture of early-, mid- and late-flowering tulips is planted so that whatever the vagaries of the season, there will be flowers during the festival. It took 12 gardeners 10 days to plant the tulips this year, and the bulbs were sourced from Tasmania and Victoria. The tulip display will continue to be open to the public daily until 28 September.

Gulliver, the giant Guide Dog mascot in Corbett Gardens, Bowral

This year, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT is the charity partner for Tulip Time, and their giant mascot, Gulliver, is keeping a watchful eye over the park and proving popular with the children. Various satellite events are held in conjunction with Tulip Time, and a number of the local gardens are open to visitors. This is an opportunity to enjoy some of the other beautiful cool-climate flowers of early spring that we (sob) can't grow in Sydney. Some of the gardens will remain open for several months; others will be open later on in spring: see here for details.

Reader Comments

  • By margaret 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 22 September 2014

    Agree with you, the sight of the tulips is wonderful, something we here in Sydney, can"t emulate. Years ago, I tried tulips in my garden, which were fine for the first year. I have not bothered with them again, admiring them in the cool climate gardens, but this year was sent two as a "freebie" with a parcel of other bulbs. I planted them, then forgot about them, but was rewarded with two beautiful yellow blooms, which lasted two weeks. Loved Gulliver! That sounds great re your yellow tulips! Deirdre

  • By Lynette 2768 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 22 September 2014

    I was in Bowral on Saturday to see the tulips too Deirdre. What a feast for the eyes to see so many tulips in flower. An amble around the garden enjoying the sun, taking photos and checking out the various stalls was bliss. Came home with two new geraniums. I had been down to Canberra for Floriade with a friend, and we were blessed with sunny days there too. Have come home with lots of photos so I can enjoy my trip all over again, and enthused to get into my own garden. Sounds like you had a great trip away, Lynette. The weather was perfect! Deirdre

  • By Chris 4034 (Zone:11A - Sub-tropical) Monday, 22 September 2014

    It is a lovely blog, and made me reminisce my childhood in the Netherlands. They remind me of a carpet of colour. Unfortunately we can only admire them in a vase here in Queensland. I will try to visit the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers, starting shortly. Thanks for the memories. I would love to see those tulip displays in Holland some day. The Toowoomba show sounds like it will be good. Deirdre

  • By Georgia 4107 (Zone:11A - Sub-tropical) Monday, 22 September 2014

    I used to love visiting Southern Highlands when I lived in Sydney for the beautiful cool climate flowers and trees. Visited Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers with Indooroopilly Garden Club last week. Although I enjoyed visiting the gardens, I find massed planted beds somewhat artificial as they obviously have been fed and watered very carefully for the displays. I think I prefer the different shrubs, trees and existing flower beds with bulbs that just naturally flourish in the cooler climate. Yes it is a very different look in these sort of massed display gardens, but I found it enjoyable all the same. Deirdre

  • By Lynne 2479 (Zone:11A - Sub-tropical) Monday, 22 September 2014

    I agree with your comment about beautiful flowers and plants bringing a smile to faces Deirdre. It is hard to be depressed when confronted with such beauty. Tulips are both elegant in form and delightful colours. No wonder they were the subject of Tulip Fever in the Netherlands at one time! Thank you for sharing them with us. Lynne Thanks, Lynne. It certainly was very uplifting. Deirdre

  • By Maria Portugal Monday, 22 September 2014

    Hello! I was moved when I read your blog and enchanted with pictures and the beautiful, poetic narratives of your love for plants and an attempt to try to bring them near to you. The same thing happened to me. I tried to cultivate tulips many times, without success despite my care! I live in Lisbon, the climate is not favorable. I have never seen a field of tulips ... unless in pictures! I try to cultivate other beautiful flowers peonies ... I cannot! I wish the best luck. It is good to grow the things that do well in your own climate, but we can still enjoy seeing the other flowers in places where they grow well! Deirdre

  • By beverley 2113 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 23 September 2014

    Hello everyone ! I live in Sydney I have been growing Tulips for years.I buy about 20 or what ever I can afford, put them in the bottom of the fridge for 6 weeks, they don"t take up much space and plant them together in May. They flower well for a few weeks and then I take them out and compost them. I just look on them as annuals.They don"t cost more that you would spend on a flower arrangement you might send to a friend or family member. I get a lot of pleasure from seeing them Beverley Thanks, Beverley. Your purple tulips were indeed gorgeous when I saw them a few weeks ago. Your method should work for others in Sydney who would like a similar display; I might try it myself next year! Deirdre

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