Pat and Bill Rhodin spend all year preparing their tulip garden for opening for one short burst during spring. A recent visit confirms it’s worth the wait.

Southern Tablelands residents Pat and Bill Rhodin say their passion for gardening has taken them around the world. Twice, in fact, as on two occasions their first home garden in Canberra won competitions with world trips as prizes. But 20 years ago they moved out of the national capital in search of more space in which to build their dream garden. Now for one month each year the world comes to them to see their remarkable 10-acre (four-hectare) site at Sutton north of Canberra on the Federal Highway.

“We bought the property in 1993 and for the first few years concentrated on developing around the house,” Pat recalls. “We gradually spread out into the valley, planting conifers, willows, English elms and more than 1000 blossom trees. We added a waterfall because the rocks were already there and built up the beds for the bulbs and annuals.”

While she makes it sound matter-of-fact, the spectacle that occurs each spring is testimony to the hard work that the Rhodins devote to their garden, which is called Tulip Top. There’s a staggering array of bulbs, more than 500,000 at last count, all arranged by colour and interspersed with annuals including, pansies, primulas and Bellis perennis (English daisies), as well as flowering shrubs including prolific forsythia.

But perhaps the most remarkable thing about the garden is that Pat and Bill manage the entire place on their own, except during the opening period from mid-September to mid-October, when they hire staff to run the ticket desk, catering facilities and gift stores that are set up in marquees around the property.

For more information on Tulip Top Gardens visit

Read more about Pat and Bill’s top tulips in the December / January 2014 issue of Australian Country magazine, available for order now!

Click here for more farm-life.

Words and styling Kirsty McKenzie
Photography Ken Brass