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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A Trip to the Winter Garden Honey Farm

Did you know that Winter Garden has a self-serve honey farm? I had heard about it, but I hadn’t had a chance to go take a look yet, so I ventured out to find it as I love supporting local businesses!

The farm is located at 9816 Tower Pine Drive, Winter Garden and they are open everyday 6am-9pm (although the website states 7am-7pm so make sure to check). It is completely self serve so make sure you bring cash or check as they are the only forms accepted here and it features a locked box for payment.

They have 24 hour video surveillance and request no one under 18 enters without an adult.

They advertise the finest local honey, their raw honey is 100% pure, with nothing added or subtracted, no high-heat or force-filtering techniques are used with their honey.

Inside, you will find Orange Blossom Honey, Palmetto Honey and Brazilian Pepper Honey in a variety of sizes in bottles and jars. All the pricing is on their website, and posted inside the stand.

You can see some older historic photos from this local family business posted inside. Bob started keeping bees back in 1968 at the age of 8. At age 15 he started his first Honey Company in Windermere, Florida in 1975. He moved around after this to finally settle back in Florida in Winter Garden, where he launched Winter Garden Honey Farm with his family.

They also sell Beeswax candles and honey sticks in various sizes and packaging. They also have an Observation Beehive inside, they had it cleaned last summer and not had chance to put the bees back in, but they hope to get it back up and running this summer. I would love to see that! It has 27 large frames, three frames across at 9 levels. It is this large because typically observation beehives are only a single frame width, which usually means the bees can not store enough food to survive or get over crowded and they swarm out.

As you can see from the shelves, some of their stock is low. According to their website, Orange Blossom Honey will only be sold in 2lb, 1lb, 8oz and 2oz as it is almost sold out until mid-April. Palmetto Honey is also running low, they only have what is on their shelves right now and this will return to shelves mid-June. They still have 8oz and 2oz for this one.

Don’t forget, the stand is open everyday 6am-9pm (website does state 7am-7pm) and it is cash or check only, they do have a collection of pens to write them out, along with some hand sanitizer for afterwards.

You can check out their website http://wghoney.com and if you have any questions you can call Bob himself on 407-454-0866.

You can also check out their Facebook page where they update daily and have some fun content!

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