The annual Tulip Festival at Tesselars Farm, just a short drive from the city is in its 60th year and the event just keeps getting bigger. The Tesselaars began to grow their tulips on arrival from Hollland in 1939. To accommodate the curiosity of the day trippers, the first festival opened its gates to the public in 1954. The farm is still a family business and the festival now includes much more than just tulips.
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Among the more than a million spring -flowering bulbs, half of them are tulips. I visited on the weekend which happened to be "Dutch Weekend" and on arrival, was greeted by a young lady and gentleman dressed in traditional Dutch costume. I couldn't recall where the male national dress was from, but I do know that the lady's was from the well known fishing village of Volendam.
There was so much to see and do that I wished we'd arrived a little earlier. Deciding to leave the spectacular acres of tulips until later, our first discovery was the famous Deftware pottery. There were small ornamental clogs, clocks, teaspoons, vases, money boxes, salt & pepper shakers, milk jugs and sugar bowls. Wait, there's more.. there were also Delftware cows and pigs and windmills. Next door were two very cute little alpacas and a whole range of clothing made from quality alpaca products. On sale were such items as scarves, gloves, hats and special festival tee shirts.
Following the trail of visitors, we next visited The Clog Shop.There were clogs of every conceivable colour, and in fact some had no colour at all and were, I suspect, for the more talented than I to paint with their own design. There were varnished dress clogs, motor car clogs, flowered clogs and clogs with a Lunar Park face adorning them. There were red clogs with windmills and blue clogs with windmills painted on them. There were lilac, lemon, pink, orange, blue and green clogs and a range of Delftware clogs. How one could make a decision beats me!
Gaint Clogs- just for the Adult Kids to have their photo taken in them?
As we left Clog Heaven, we noticed that there were various items and activities on offer. Tractor rides were available so you could visit the rows of tulips without muddying your shoes. There was a large sign with a smiling policeman asking you not to pick the flowers. You could purchase CDs of dancing organ music for just $ 15 or for just $1.20 per stem you could wander around a selected area of tulips and pick your own bunch.
Next we visited the clock stall where all types of fancy timepieces were displayed. Not in the market for a new clock, we wandered over the the Stone Fruit display where bottles of preserved organic stone fruits were up for sale. My eye then spotted a beautifully made Dutch organ with lively dance music wafting from it's pipes. The symbolic monkey, clutching a money box clung to the nearby pole hoping for donations to enable the purchase of new music.
Fairground organs were popular in 1800-1939 era with organ makers originally working in Europe and America. Organs played the popular music of the day but electric amplification saw them fade from use. However, in 1950s & 60s in the UK, the Fairground Organ Preservation Society was formed and their popularity returned. This particular organ was made in Australia and is locally owned.
After watching the Tukkers Dutch Folk Dancing (in clogs), it was now time to wander up and down the rows and rows of brilliantly coloured tulips. Among the bright orange, purple, pink , red and white flowers were stripes and pastels, mottled and two toned varieties. Visitors are able to walk between the rows and photograph the flowers (or each other).
Not all of the land contains fully blooming tulips. There are also acres with younger plants and others that are tilled, ready for sewing. Tesselaar's is a working farm and the ground is unsealed and usually a bit muddy so you need to make good use of the shoe scapers at the end of most rows before returning to your car. It is advisable to wear old shoes for your stroll among the tulips.
There are over 60 festivals celebrated over the period of the Tulip Festival and one of them is the "Sculpture Among the Tulips". Sculpture exhibits by budding artists are scattered along the central walkway between the beds of tulips. Visitors can vote for their favourite piece in the People's Choice Awards, the winning entry receiving $250.
It was now time to eat. Having spent considerable time meandering among the goods stalls and rows of coloured blooms, we headed off towards the eateries. Two of my favourite Dutch foods are croquettes and poffertjes (mini pancakes) so there's no surprise in which direction I headed. While the croquettes were good, they didn't quite measure up to ones Oma always made, but I think the poffertjes did.
Many visitors seemed to dine in at The Tulip Cafe but other choices were The Potato Man and the Tulip Take Away Cafe. As the weather was warm and sunny, most took the option of sitting on the grass or relaxing in chairs scattered around the venue
Before heading off for home, we wandered around the grounds and discovered even more items of interest. I loved the little pottery flowerpot men selling for $25 ea. and the colourful garden spikes featuring young ladies, exotic parrots, frogs and ladybirds. There were even three ceramic flamingos in the garden bed among the plants, and kites flying above the tents.
Discovering that Tesselaar's also had a daffodil display, we made our way in that general direction, passing some interesting topiary along the way. I was particularly taken with an image of a young lady with a parasol who was walking with a young girl . There were other shapes including the form of a man holding out two bird feeders. We passed several small windmills before we arrived at the daffodil gardens.
While the daffodil display was not extensive like the one full of flowering tulips, it did have a variety of flowers. The rows were full of white, yellow, two-toned and salmon coloured flowers and there were many many rows of daffodil heads blowing in the breeze. It was certainly worth taking the time to check the display out. After quite a full day, we headed off for home.
There is still time for you to visit, so pack the kids in the car, don your garden boots and head for Tesselaar's Tulip Festival right next to the Silvan Dam.
Tesselaar's Tulip Farm
357 Monbulk Rd, Silvan (right next to the dam)
Ph: (03) 9737 7722 www.tulipfestival.com.au
12th Sept to 8th October 2013
10am - 5pm daily
$20 Ad: $17 Conc: Under 16 yrs free
$7 school holiday program
Festivals still to run: Food, Wine & Jazz Weekend: Fri 27th-Sun 29th Sept
Features Moonee Valley Jazz Band & Cheek to Cheek Trio
Irish Weekend: Fri 4th -Sun 6th October
Non stop music from Red Cat and Knot O' The Gate
Irish pipers, dancers, Irish coffee, beer & Celtic arts & crafts
Mon 7th & Tues 8th- Music & songs among the tulips by Piet van Abel Music Man
Children's Days: Mon 23rd - Thurs 26th Sept:
Mon 30th Sept - Thurs 3rd Oct
Dance to MilMaks,Paul Jamieson (The Music Man) & fairy Monica
Benny the Balloonist & Flash Twinkle Toes Magician Extraordinaire
There is plenty of parking
Chartered bus service on weekends from Lilydale station to the farm ($3pp) Information on website.