|Stop, it's Tulip Time in Bowral - Quick Facts|
Bowral is 114 km south-west of Sydney. From Sydney, turn off the South-Western Freeway just north of Mittagong and follow the signs.
Be prepared for snow and sub-zero temperatures in winter.
According to the gardener's view of the world, Bowral in spring is about as close to heaven as you might expect to come on this earth.
In the full glory of its spring plumage, the aristocrat of the Southern Highlands can leave you dazzled and weak in the knees - particularly so during Bowral Tulip Time.
Spread over a two-week period at the end of September and the beginning of October, this event is a marvel - a florid, perfumed, photogenic celebration of the cool-climate gardens of the Southern Highlands.
Tulip Time officially begins on a Saturday with the Bowral Street Parade, which concludes at Corbett Gardens, where the official opening ceremony takes place. Located on Bendooley Street, Corbett Gardens is the centre of the action throughout the festival, where the lawns, paths and surroundings of the ornamental ponds erupt with 100,000 tulips in a blaze of colour that turns strong men into poets.
During Tulip Time, Corbett Gardens also becomes the backdrop for a program of springtime festivities that includes musical performances in the rotunda, street theatre, markets, craft exhibitions, horticultural displays and Dutch clog dancing. Cultural activities include outdoor sessions of opera and Shakespearean drama, exhibitions of sculpture and schools art events.
Elsewhere in the region, the gardening brigade throws open its front gates at this time of the year to show off its green-fingered expertise. Admission fees are donated to local charities and community institutions such as the local hospital, churches, and facilities for youth, the aged and the disadvantaged.
Among the perennial favourites of the open-garden scheme, Red Cow Farm in the leafy outskirts of Sutton Farm has something for just about everyone. There are beech and cypress hedges, an orchard, a lake, a bog garden, an avenue of silver birches and rhododendrons, a woodland filled with azaleas, dogwoods and rhododendrons and underplanted with bulbs, and a monastic garden divided into quadrants and filled with perennials and enclosed by a stone wall. Amazingly, this is a garden in its infancy - barely a decade old. It is at its best in October, when the roses and perennials flower.
Even by the high standards of the Southern Highlands, the garden of cool-climate exotics within an indigenous framework at Buskers End is stunning. This is a garden that reveals itself layer by layer. The leaves of the Japanese maples are unfolding when the garden opens in late September, adding lime-green flavours to the two-acre informal garden, notable for its small-species bulbs and tulips.
Elsewhere, perfumed shrubs, a viburnum walk, small trees from China and advanced camellias and rhododendrons reflect the wide passions of Buskers End's ebullient owner and impresario, Joan Arnold.
Redlands - A 1930s work by gardening legend Paul Sorensen, was rescued from marauding ivy and blackberry just a few years ago. Don't expect razzamatazz. This serene woodland garden makes a virtue out of subtlety. The show stealers are the trees - 136 in total - in sculptural arrangements that illustrate Sorensen's visionary genius.
The driveway is lined with a row of purple-backed sycamores. Beds of roses, tulips and peonies step down to the lawn. The terraces on the steep slope at the side of the property are cleverly planted in fragrant thymes and silvery plants and end in the punctuation point of a potted agave.
At the back of the garden, formality gives way to winding paths. One leads to a classic French wrought-iron gazebo, backed with rhododendrons. The gazebo overlooks a run of pools and waterfalls that tumble down the slope through Japanese maples, ferns, big-leafed gunnera, hostas, candelabra primulas and primroses. Another walk leads through a grove of giant deodars and dogwoods underplanted with mahonia and hundreds of bulbs, to the silver sparkle of a variegated elm set against dark-green conifers.
If you have a short time in the Southern Highlands, head straight to Corbett Gardens for a quick Tulip fix. I of the beautiful flowers for everyone to enjoy. F.G. Rozelle
Take the time to wander the local streets and look at the residential gardens too. Local residents are happy to provide tips and chat to tourists about how to best grow Tulips and other species. Michelle, Bowral