In a hidden valley just north of Canberra there’s a 10-acre garden that will take your breath away. It’s called Tulip Top. As you might have gathered, it has a lot of tulips, but that’s not all. Oh.my.goodness, the blossom! As you walk down the hill, the scent of crabapples almost knocks you over.
Then the garden rolls itself out before you and suddenly life is a bit better than it was five minutes ago. Worries disappear. Relationship cracks are smoothed over. You feel lighter. It’s as if everything hard or anxiety-provoking was left outside the gate. All you have to do is walk around and feel happy.
There’s dazzling golden forsythia lining the path to the lookout.
There are black tulips. And frilly purple tulips. And blackberries-and-cream coloured tulips.
There are undulating hedges by a pretty watercourse.
There’s a waterfall and a pond where pobblebonks call to each other: “Bonk! Bonk!” I really love the name pobblebonk. It’s like something out of a fairytale.
There are tulips so scarlet that they’re hard to photograph.
And my favourite: sunny yellow.
The family who own the gardens started the project in 1997. This year they planted half a million bulbs. I love that they had the idea, the vision, and that they continue to work so hard, year on year, to create this beautiful place.
While a lot of people visit, sometimes busloads, it doesn’t feel crowded. Everyone seems to be wandering around with a smile on their face, in a happy daze. You pay a small entrance fee, but you can stay there all day if you want to, drinking free tea or coffee under the trees as classical music plays softly from speakers hidden in the blossom.
You can find out more about the garden here. It’s open from mid September to mid October every year. You can take a picnic. You can even take your dog. Don’t tell anyone I said so, but it’s miles better than Floriade, Canberra’s annual tulip extravaganza.
There’s a short but uplifting TED talk by Ingrid Fetell Lee on the importance of colour and shape in creating joy. Colour and abundance, she says, signify life and energy. This garden, Tulip Top, with its mass plantings, swathes of colour, undulating shapes and gently swaying blossom everywhere is surely proof of that. Her talk is titled Where joy hides and how to find it. I think we already know the answer.