IKE a whole bunch of other local people, I was invited to plant a tulip bulb in Corbett Gardens last week, one of 100,000 popped in the ground now to ensure they burst into a magnificent display for the 50th Tulip Time festival beginning on September 21.
Father Chris Riley, Alby Schulz, Matt Brown, Mayor Duncan Gair, Noeline Brown and many others, including a bunch of local school leaders, also buried a bulb to mark the occasion.
“Do you want to hear a gruesome story, Mr Goodfellow?” asked a pleasant young primary school lad planting a bulb beside me.
On my other side was the lovely Miss Australia Southern Highlands, Emily Farrar, but I concentrated on the young bloke.
“Sure, mate,” said I, always enjoying a good gruesome yarn from kids.
“Well, one day a gardener planted a tulip bulb in Corbett Gardens, then he watered it and added fertiliser,” said the young bloke with a playful twinkle in his eye , “and it grew and grew and grew some more.”
He’ll go far that one.
AWAY from the television camera, speech making and dignitaries, Wingecarribee Shire Council gardener Barry Ford was quietly planting bulbs in a corner bed at the other end of the garden.
Barry doesn’t particularly like the limelight, but nobody deserves acknowledgement more than he in this golden year of Tulip Time because he planted the first bulbs 50 years ago and has been planting them ever since.
So here goes Fordy, you can’t hide this time.
BARRY FORD has been gardening with the council since 1959 and remembers well the first Festival of the Flowers, recalling colourful flower beds planted in Glebe Park and around Bradman oval in those days.
“I can remember the day well,” he said.
“Old Dave Absolon from up there at Robinwood, in Rose Street, came into the garden to see Alfie Stubbs ... it was 1960.”
“I’ve got a great idea,” said Old Dave. “I think it will bring thousands of people to the district.”
“What is this idea of yours, Mr Absolon?” asked Alfie.
“Tulips,” he said confidently.
“Alfie and I didn’t know anything about tulips. We’d never grown them before but Old Dave said if we’d plant them he’d supply them. We agreed and he did the rest.”
He even managed to buy 12 of the magnificent and rare Queen of the Night black tulips for the display.
According to Barry, Jack Davy and his legendary slippery pig show came to town and put on a show at the picture theatre to raise funds for the festival.
“Five thousand quid they raised. It was a terrific show, the best thing I’ve ever seen in Bowral,” says Barry remembering the show as if it were yesterday.
He can even tell you which local butcher dispatched the pig.
AND after 50 odd years working the soil there is not much Barry doesn’t know about gardening.
His colleagues tell me he once gave a lovely young local lady some advice to help her tomatoes ripen.
It had been a bad year for tomatoes and all she had were bushes full of green tomatoes, so she asked Barry for help.
“The old timers reckon if you go outside when it is dark at night and take off all your clothes then dance stark naked around the tomato plants they get embarrassed and turn red,” said Barry seriously suggesting she should give it a try.
So she did.
“How did you go?” asked Barry when he saw her the next day.
“The tomatoes are still green,” she grumbled, “but I notice all the cucumbers are four inches longer.”
IT was a quiet morning and Barry was putting the final touches on Corbett Gardens just before Tulip Time when one of the clergymen from the magic mile of ministries in Bendooley Street stuck his head over the fence.
“Isn’t it wonderful, Barry, what God and man can do when they work in harmony.”
“Yep, you’re spot on there mate,” said Barry without lifting his head from the patch of weeds he was pulling out.
“You should have seen the bloody place when it was only Him looking after it.”
*Geoff Goodfellow has lived his life in the Southern Highlands and is well known in local sporting and social circles.