The seeds of a spring garden are sown in autumn.
It’s an old saying and true – seen especially clearly at Tulip Top Gardens near Canberra, where the ‘seeds’ are bulbs – tulips mainly – and there are thousands of them! This breathtaking garden is a tribute to the classic splendour of a traditional spring landscape: blossom trees and bulbs, carpets of annuals and swathes of lush green lawn. Everywhere you look are gorgeous vistas, which will leave you itching to replicate them, even on a small scale, in your own garden. So take a wander and start planning your own spring scene.
About the garden
Spread over four glorious hectares, Tulip Top Gardens is the creation of Pat and Bill Rhodin, which they commenced in 1994. Having lived in nearby Canberra for 20 years, where they created two award-winning gardens, the Rhodins were looking for a new challenge. And the valley farmland they purchased certainly was that! Today, this beautifully created landscape features 1000 blossom trees, including crabapples, peaches, plums and weeping cherries fringed by massed beds of annuals, tulips and many other spring flowering bulbs. Arching shade trees frame the landscape and a watercourse meanders through the scene, complete with a waterfall constructed from local rock. There’s even a 70m high lookout, carved out of the property’s natural hills, providing sweeping views of the valley beyond.
A 20-minute drive north of Canberra, the garden experiences a typical Southern Tablelands climate of cold winters followed by warm spring days, and so is ideally suited to the ‘bulb and blossom’ landscape style. Amazingly, the whole landscape is maintained by the Rhodin family themselves! When winter unfolds into spring each year, their extraordinary efforts feel totally worthwhile!
1. Do it in layers! The blossoms of Prunus ‘Elvins’ team up beautifully with ‘Peace Flame’ tulips and a border of pansies (see image above).
2. If your climate has mild winters, pop your tulip bulbs in the fridge prior to planting, for a fabulous display like this – Prunus ‘Elvins’ with tulip ‘Apropos’ (foreground).
3. Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’ is a gorgeous springflowering pear tree.
4. For a striking bicoloured tulip variety, consider this ‘Dreamland’.
5. If rosy red flowers are your thing, add a flowering peach (Prunus persica) to your gardenscape.
6. For a splash of vibrant spring yellow, forsythia is your shrub! It’s deciduous and very cold-tolerant.
7. You can never have too many daffodils – this yellow-and-white stunner is ‘Avalon’.
8. Tulip Top Gardens features more than 50 tulip varieties in massed displays – this is ‘La Courtine’.
9. Among your tulips, how about planting a river of pansies? This effect is created between tulip ‘Curly Sue’ (foreground) and tulip ‘Sauternes’.
Ideas for you
- Layer your plants to create stunning springtime scenes. Here, low groundhugging annuals step up to mid-level tulips and beyond that to blossom trees, like flowering cherries and plums.
- You don’t need tons of outdoor space to achieve fabulous effects, just borrow pockets of ideas. A weeping cherry in a pot, surrounded by tulips, will create an exquisite spring vignette in miniature.
- Contrast formal row plantings of bulbs with organically shaped beds edged by flowing curved lines.
- Jump start spring in your garden by planting sweeps of early blooming bulbs, like jonquils – which start in August – round the base of deciduous trees. This way, the trees come to life long before their leaves sprout.
What: Tulip Top Gardens
Where: 20 Old Federal Hwy, Sutton, NSW
When Open: 16 September to 15 October
Cost: Adults $16, Seniors $15, children under 16 free
Also Cafe; bulb and nursery sales
More info at tuliptopgardens.com.au