Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Kraft Azalea Gardens

Kraft Azalea Gardens is a gorgeous place to sketch as the sun sets. This 5.22-acre public garden is located on the shore of Lake Maitland and is open all year from 8 a.m. until dusk. Lakefront, secluded and unique, this is Winter Park’s secret garden! This beautiful park is shaded by enormous cypress trees that add to the old Florida charm of the 13-acre property.

This gnarly old tree with light bark lights up a bright orange in that golden moment before the sun slips behind the luxury homes on the far shore. The winding bark seemed to hint at hidden female forms which glowed in the fading light.

I returned several times wanting to catch the colors and forms in oils as well as watercolor. Right next to this tree is a rare Banyan Tree which is native to India, Siri Lanka and Pakistan. It is often planted around temples and is considered sacred by Hindus and Buddhists. The free is not cold tolerant and usually only grows in an area south of Miami. A deep freeze in 1989 devastated many of these trees, so the tree in Kraft Azalea is quite rare. A Banyan in Saint Augustine was thought to be the most northern Banyan in the state but it died in the 1989 freeze. Some therefor believe this to be the northern most Banyan in the state. It is believed that the tree was first planted here in 1938 when Kraft Azalea Gardens was first developed by Notable nurseryman Martin Daetwyler who 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.

Knowing the history of this unlikely pair of trees, I plan to return for several more sunset sketches to watch them light up with a fiery glow. The twisted intertwining forms of the Banyan will be fun to draw.


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