Winter Park's Florida Winter Wonderland

While I'm waiting for my new garden to fill in just a little more, I thought I'd share some of the sights from this week's trip to Winter Park. While the city is home to some extraordinary botanical gardens (Leu Botanical Gardens and Polasek Sculpture Gardens), there is a city park between the old train station and the downtown shops where you can leisurely smell roses in Central Park with coffee and french pastries in hand. Why doesn't every city have a park like this one?

Taking a trip to Winter Park was really a last-minute decision, prompted only by the opportunity to see my good friend Christa Hanson (@tinkhanson) while she was visiting relatives in Florida. Though this suburb of Orlando lies two and a half hours away from our Jacksonville home, Jennifer (Mrs. Rainforest Gardener) and I have been enjoying its extensive gardens, shop-filled streets and decadent sweets almost as long as we've been together. As often as we've made the trip, this is the first time we got to see it decked out in Christmas decorations and full of the many blooms timed to greet the annual flocks of snowbirds. For me, it was a really good example of what I could be planting for seasonal interest in my own zone 9a garden. For those of you readers up north, consider it a preview of spring!

You just can't have a winter garden without camellias, and Sasanqua camellias like the one above are probably the easiest ones around. Along with gardenias, these shrubs line the rose garden so that they can provide evergreen foliage and suspiciously rose-like blooms even when the roses themselves are dormant. As you can see in the first photo above, the wildlife appreciates the added shelter that bushes like these provide.

Luckily for us, the roses were blooming in full force. Christa, who had been feverishly photographing everything from painted hydrants to puddles, insisted that she had far too many photos of roses to take a shot at the many fragrant dewey blooms here, but it wasn't long before she was sucked in by their allure. I'm not much of a rose grower myself, but even I became entranced by the special qualities they took on with a sprinkling of water droplets and the filtered overcast light.

So I took some rose photos.

Okay, so maybe I took a lot of rose photos... and these are just a few! I'm clueless as to the names of these intoxicatingly aromatic individuals, but I'll be sure to ask my friend the Redneck Rosarian so that I can try my hand at one for myself. Out of sheer impulsiveness I bought a bare-root 'Just Joey' when I got back home, but I seriously doubt that it will live up to the heady fragrances that I encountered here.

All of those delicious smells only made us hungry for one of the offerings from our favorite bakery around, Croissant Gourmet. Christa had never been, but my wife and I had been looking forward to eating one (or two) of their french pastries since we left Jacksonville and settled upon sharing a raspberry almond jalousie and an apple tart between the two of us. We really need to start baking more.

Since winter has been mild so far, we were still able to see flowers on many tropical shrubs and perennials like the orange bird of paradise (Strelitzia reginae), yellow bells (Tecoma stans) and medinilla (Medinilla magnifica) pictured above.

These arrangements of poinsettias and annuals look like they could have come right out of my book! I just love how the water droplets glistened on the red leaves. The intermittent rain may have kept us on our toes, but it definitely added an otherworldly quality to the plants.

This squirrel was feeling gutsy enough to pose for a photograph with acorn in mouth! Maybe it's because Christa was talking to it while I readied my shot.

Each of these little brick raised beds contains its own garden design, ranging from Asian zen gardens to jubilant tropical plantings. The result of which is that a visitor always has plenty to explore at different times of the year. The three of us only spent about three hours there before dropping Christa off and heading to Ikea and Motherhood Maternity, but it was more than enough time to catch some sights, eats and even a few gifts. One could spend days trying to enjoy Winter Park's many attractions, but that's why we just visit year after year! What local cities do you like to visit for day trips where you live?


  1. really beautiful and so much appreciated! not to fond of snow pictures.
    Thank you, Mama D

  2. You're making me long for my old stomping ground! Since I'm in TX now, my favorite day trip would have to be San Antonio for the River Walk area. Your pic's are gorgeous.

  3. How beautiful! Love the photos of those roses! Wow!


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