On the Go with Gail: Kraft Azalea Garden

Our adventures around Orlando took us to the Kraft Azalea Garden in Winter Park, and I have always seen my photographer friends post the most stunning wedding and portrait sessions here.

I wanted to go see it for myself after seeing their wonderful photos, and I am so happy that we did as it is a beautiful little gem of a park!

The Kraft Azalia Garden is a 5.22-acre public park that is located on the shore of Lake Maitland, making it so secluded and unique!

The park is full of beautiful and enormous cypress trees that provide a wonderful canopy for shade.

We visited on quite a hot Florida day, and the trees provide much relief while we walked around comfortably!

From what I have seen and heard about this place, it can get extremely busy, especially on weekends when there are more photographers and people heading over for picnics with their families.

Luckily, we went on a Monday afternoon and it was super quiet and peaceful, we even saw a group practicing, what I assume, was Tai Chi in the middle.

The views by the water were just spectacular, not only can you nosey at the gorgeous homes over the water but you can watch boaters and jet skiers going by, it was so peaceful!

My favorite area by far is the Exedra monument, it is located right by the waterfront to get those perfect idyllic photos. On the weekends, I can imagine this spot would be hard to get to, due to the professional shoots going on as its such a main feature of the park! The Exedra can also be reserved for events like wedding ceremonies at sunset, for up to 20 guests and can be reserved by calling 407-599-3334.

Don’t forget to look up when you’re here, because the views are quite stunning with the tall trees all around you. The park is actually home to a very large banyan tree. These trees are native to India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan and often planted around temples as it is considered sacred by both Hindus and Buddhists. It is quite unusual to have one here locally as it generally only grows in USDA Plant Hardiness zones 10-12 which begin in an area south of Miami…the more you know!

Some have said that this tree may be the northern-most Banyan tree in the state. It is believed that the tree was planted in Kraft Azalea Garden when int was developed in 1938. Notable nurseryman Martin Daetwyler was hired to design the garden by well-known residents George and Maud Kraft, Mayor Frederick Cady, Forney Shepard, Leonard Hackney and Mrs. C. F. Ward.

On the way in to the gardens, it is hard to miss the sounds coming from the trees right by the entrance! At this time of the year, they are absolutely covered with great egrets nesting! Breeding for these birds occurs in the spring and they congregate into colonial nesting areas known as rookeries. These dense aggregations of nests are typically found in low trees near or over water. Winter park is fortunate to have a rare urban rookery for this stately bird. Every year between late February and early June, up to 50 nesting pairs of great egrets gather at Kraft Azalea Garden to begin nesting rituals.

Apparently, the males develop large showy feathers during the nesting seasons, and the females lay two to three eggs, and both parents share feeding duties. Its such a unique opportunity to be able to be up this close to so many at one time, it was such a nice surprise on our visit!

The gardens are open year-round from 8 a.m, until dusk. If you are planning on heading over to take professional photos and portraits, you must obtain a permit ahead of time to operate inside the park. This can be done by heading to www.cityofwinterpark.org/parks.

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