Two flower gardens fighting out a bitter battle for popularity is something only a city like Canberra could host. As Tulip Top Gardens and Floriade step up their respective floral fiestas year after year, spring in the Capital is really heating up. Both offer flowers galore but the question is: which does it best?
Floriade has been a mainstay on the Canberra events calendar for decades. Once a favourite of over-60s bus trips, retirees and serious gardeners, its appeal has broadened over time. With over a million bulbs including 100 species of tulip on display, flowers are king here but there is plenty more to keep you entertained too. Floriade has introduced bespoke spirit bars, flower crown workshops, music and entertainment and some serious food offerings. Now in its 31st year, Floriade is confident enough to allow Canberra to see its edgy darker side during the evenings at the ticketed Night Fest.
Free to get in during the day, Floriade's flower displays are based around a central theme each year. With bulbs lovingly tended in beds then dropped into Commonwealth Park for the main event, it is a brilliant sight and the lakeside location makes strolling around a pleasant experience right in the middle of Canberra. Seeing the view from the top of the Floriade Ferris wheel is surely a right of passage for any self-respecting Canberran and you won't ever leave Floriade regretting that you went. As a slick and entertaining celebration of flowers, Floriade sure is hard to beat BUT...
Now in its 22nd year, Tulip Top Gardens are the strapping country cousin of Floriade. The wholesome goodness of these gardens is hard to resist and Tulip Tops is rapidly winning flower-lovers hearts. The brainchild of a husband and wife team who have built their garden with years of love and planning, these gardens are all about curved beds and natural features. With 1000 blossom trees, half a million bulbs and 100 000 annuals brightening the 10-acre garden, the sheer volume of floral fabulousness is mind-boggling.
The feel is remarkably natural when compared with the commercial buzz and meticulously choreographed displays of Floriade. Many of the flower beds are nestled under blossoming trees which provide a spectacular additional dimension to the floral fantasy on display and when the light catches in just the right way here, it really is breathtakingly beautiful. As you amble around, you might notice piped music as a soft backdrop which, rather than being kitschy, adds a little bit of European flavour.
On set days, you'll catch live music and you are welcome to either buy some food on-site or bring a picnic and settle in under the trees. The gardens are dog-friendly, kid-friendly and, it's fair to say all-round friendly with everyone looking like they wouldn't want to be anywhere else. If you're feeling fit, you can walk to a 70m high lookout for a whole new perspective (perhaps the Tulip Tops equivalent of the Floriade Ferris Wheel?) which is especially beautiful when the tree blossoms are out. And for the hard-core green thumbs or the wannabe gardeners, there's a plant stall and the option to order bulbs so next year you can create your own floral masterpiece at home.
So which is better? At the risk of sitting on the fence (albeit a fence between two glorious gardens), it really does depend on what you enjoy. Music, dance, drinks, kid's activities, comedy shows, market stalls, rides AND flowers? Floriade it is. Laying out a lazy picnic and popping a cork with your friends or family for a long and delicious afternoon surrounded by trees and flowers? Get yourself to Tulip Tops. Addicted to gardens or the 'gram – try both!