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.