Bill and Pat Rhodin have been opening their 10-acre tulip garden to the public for 20 years.
When they purchased their property just outside Canberra at Sutton in 1993 it was little more than a bare grassy field tucked in beside the Federal Highway.
“When we arrived the place was just overrun with rabbits and dead trees,” Mr Rhodin said.
“We were able to burn it all off and see that the landscape had plenty of potential because it’s tucked into a hidden valley.
“We burnt off the entire area except for the trees around the homestead.”
Ultimate garden transformation
Since then the couple have worked tirelessly to establish their magnificent garden to attract tourists en route to Canberra each spring.
Tulip Top Garden is only open to the public for four weeks each year, coinciding with Canberra’s Floriade season.
“Behind the scenes for the rest of the year we’re working away at it all the time,” Mr Rhodin said.
“We start preparations just before Christmas, organising plants to come which has them here in March and April.
“We grow around 90,000 seedlings in little containers — they all have to be potted in March and April.
“It’s a lot of work but I really do enjoy it.”
A labour of love
Mr Rhodin estimated he spends up to 5,000 hours in his garden in the months leading into spring each year.
“It certainly keeps us pretty fit,” he said.
“I grew up on a dairy farm out the back of Wagga, so I’m used to working seven days a week.
While Mr Rhodin does the majority of the planting, getting the garden ready for display is a family affair.
“Our son Dallas helps us with getting the plants in,” Ms Rhodin said.
“And our daughter Melissa looks after all the promotional side of things.
“Some of the grandkids help out too and we all spend a great deal of time caring for the plants and doing the watering.”
Ms Rhodin admitted that while Tulip Top had been their biggest garden project, the couple had been transforming gardens for a long time.
“We won big garden competitions with our smaller gardens in Canberra before making this place our home,” she said.
“Bill usually has a vision for the garden and a really good idea of where he’d like all the plants to be.”
The couple said they had taken inspiration from beautiful gardens they had seen while travelling abroad.
“I know our garden looks fantastic, but there’s always room for improvement so we just keep at it and at it,” Mr Rhodin said.
“That’s what makes it so good, we’re always working towards a higher standard.
“We love to see the end result.”