Flowers blooming, birds singing and are clear signs of the first official day of spring.
A great place to visit to enjoy this spring’s bloom is Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park.
According to floridastateparks.org, the park was originally named Killearn Gardens, after a Scottish village where the grandfather of Alfred Maclay, the founder of the park, was born. In 1953, the wife and children of Maclay gave the gardens to Florida as a memorial to him.
In 1994, the Lake Overstreet was added to the park, making it a total of 1176 acres, and in 2000 Maclay Gardens State Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Ginger Nichols, a park services specialist, said what separates Maclay Gardens from other state parks is it’s, “serene and peaceful nature.”
“It’s amazing how many people come from all over the world and make the same compliments on the park. The most frequent comment made is that the park is so peaceful,” Nichols said.
Today the park is home to wildlife like the white ibis, the pig frog and the eastern king snake and flowers like the gloriosa lily, camellia and the amaryllis, which can be seen blooming all over the park.
Nichols said Maclay Gardens is home to over 160 varieties of camellias and 60 varieties of azaleas.
Some flowers now in bloom include the white, red and pink camellias, azaleas and oriental magnolias.
In addition to the plethora of wildlife and foliage, the park is host to recreational activities like bicycling, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, garden tours, horseback riding, exhibit showing, nature trails, picnicking, playground, swimming and wildlife viewing.
Maclay Gardens also plays host to several city events as well.
On May 5, the park will host the Parade of Gardens that will begin with worship service at Timberlane Church of Christ. Following the service there will be a catered lunch, and guests will be allowed to visit six private gardens. The event will culminate with a silent auction.
The Parade of Gardens is an annual fundraiser event, and proceeds will go supporting the park. Tickets for the event are $45 each.
Other upcoming events include the “Great Strides: Taking Steps to Cure Cystic Fibrosis,” taking place on April 28 and Red Hills Triathlon on March 24.
Nichols said, ironically, the park was designed to be relaxing and peaceful. “The park isn’t about being a very showy atmosphere,” Nichols said. “It’s intended to be an escape from busy and stressful everyday life.”