Sunday, April 10, 2016

Field Trip: Spring Fever in the Garden (Winter Garden) - April 9, 2016

Downtown Winter Garden was blocked for the event so the city was providing free parking at a nearby park with a free shuttle.  However, I decided to incorporate some exercise into our outing and proposed to Greg that we park in Oakland and walk on the West Orange Trail to downtown Winter Garden and he agreed.

The drive to Oakland took us about 25-30 minutes. Oakland is a tiny town that sticks to the west side of Winter Garden, FL. The West Orange trail goes right through it. Oakland has been a favorite of ours for years and we longed to buy a home there when we first got married, but it's very expensive. It was then and it is now.  Most side streets are still dirt roads, which is actually quite charming.  We used to take the kids to their park very often when they were little because it's large and not busy at all, and there are 2 playgrounds, a gazebo and tennis court (but no bathrooms which is challenging when you go to a park with 6 little kids!).  So I suggested to Greg that we park there and walk on the trail to Winter Garden.  I had no idea of how far it was, but Greg thinks it was 2 to 2.5 miles.  The area has been developed quite a bit since we last were there but not for the worst, quite the contrary!  Subdivisions have sprouted on the sides of the trail but the developers did a marvelous job ensuring that they didn't disturb the charm of it and the amenities (such as parks and landscaping) actually enhance it.  The only things that I found sorely lacking were a restrooms (none to be found), water fountains, benches (there as one bench) and trash cans.  But the trail was nicely kept and very clean.  Still, they needed to add a bathroom or two!

The park in Oakland. There was no one there!

Another view of the park. Our dream had been to purchase a home bordering this park so the kids could use it as their backyard.  Sigh... I still wish we had been able to!

There are 2 playground tucked under the trees. I used to bring my youngest son here all the time when he was a toddler, after we had attended the weekly Story Time at the Borders store at the West Oaks Mall.  Of course, Borders closed years ago.   I keep very fond memories of that time.
I'm kicking myself for not taking any more pictures of Oakland itself.  There aren't any stores, just quaint government buildings, small squares and parks, and residences. It's so peaceful and quiet, like a Southern Mulberry.

We had a leisurely walk to Winter Garden, reminiscing of past walks and admiring all the improvements. It helped that we didn't really know how far it was,  lol.  What I love best about that part of the trail is that it's very shady due to all the trees. We passed one person walking a dog and one person on rollerskates (the old fashioned kind!) pushing a stroller but otherwise everybody else was biking.  I'm going to go back and ride my bike there too!

Wildflowers on the side of the trail.

Darn, the camera didn't focus. There were too far on the other side of a ditch so I had to use the zoom.

The last time I walked this trail, probably 10 years ago, this lake was completely obscured by trees so I had no idea it even was there!  Since then they have built a road and houses around it and landscaped the whole thing quite nicely, This huge oak tree is very majestic in real life and my picture doesn't reflect this too well. I should have chosen a different angle. The trunk is massive and formed from 4 different trunks fused at the base.

Another view of this lovely park

A lot of new homes have been erected. I'm guessing they must be in the $400 to $500K range at least since we saw townhomes that didn't look like much a little further down advertised as starting in the $280K!  It might not sound expensive to someone from California but it's pretty expensive for Florida.  We'd have to win the lottery for us to feel OK with paying so much for a home, even if we could probably qualify for a loan. Who wants to spend so much on a house?!

Of course. we saw some wildlife too... here is a Florida gator...

LOL. At second glance, someone carved it from the stump of this oak tree that apparently had to be cut down.  Clever!

We didn't stop by the butterfly garden. I'm definitely going to have to revisit this trail!
This is to remind me of where the butterfly garden and small parking lot are located.  We could have parked here and saved ourselves a couple of miles in walking today, but then we wouldn't have seen the lovely sights I just posted... and also I didn't know about this parking lot, lol.

This is the road where I'll have to turn to get to it.

Look at those huge leaves!

I'll bet they're remnants from prehistoric times :)

As you can see, we pretty much had the trail to ourselves... although there were quite a few people biking. Isn't the shade lovely?

Greg exclaimed "a rhinoceros!" and I thought he was kidding, but no, there was a large statue of a rhinoceros in this backyard bordering the trail. LOL.  My camera focused on the chainlink fence though.

A second before I took this picture, I was asking Greg "Did there used to be an abandoned building with FSU symbols on it?!" and then I turned to my left and there it was!  We used to boo at it with the kids since we were a Gators (UF) family.  The University of Florida (UF) and Florida State University (FSU) are old rivals.  Their nickname is The Seminoles (or 'Noles) and UF's is The Gators.  Their mascot is a Seminole Indian riding a horse who plants a lance in the ground as he enters the football field (Well, I think. I try not to watch FSU football games!).  UF's mascot is Albert the Gator.  

Years ago someone painted the FSU logo on the roof of this building. You can see the Seminole lances to the right of the building and there's a gator and a Gators fan that look dead.  Ha.  Very funny, FSU fans!

Here is a better view of the whole thing (there are lances to the left of the building as well) and proof that there were other people on the trail as this cyclist zoomed into my picture as I was taking it. I chuckled at the sign that says "Some Days Nothing Goes Left".  Someone has a sense of humor that I like :)


Approaching downtown Winter Garden, finally! The tents were erected on each side of the trail so the trail was closed to cyclists today and there was a trail detour.

Years ago there was a fundraiser where fiberglass cows had been painted and embellished by several artists and displayed around town and then some businesses bought some of them. The owner is this commercial property is still displaying his purple cow.  I love it!  I wish we had a fiberglass cow in front of our house too :)
Getting to Winter Garden took us about 45 minutes. Greg was very patient and encouraged me to take pictures of flowers and other interesting sights.  But by the time we got there, we both had to pee very badly, lol.  A past trip that I had taken to their Farmer's Market a few years ago paid off as I remembered the location of one public bathroom, otherwise we would have had to go buy something at a local café in order to visit their facilities!

Even though I expected to see a lot of visitors, both Greg and I were amazed at the size of the festival and the sheer number of exhibitors!  It was kind of hard navigating from booth to booth and he's not really into the kind of things they were selling (plants, garden impediments, etc.) and I couldn't buy anything since we had another 45 minute walk ahead of us and all I had brought was a small string bag with a bottle of water, cash and sunscreen in it!  So we ended up doing just superficial "window shopping", which was enough.

There didn't used to be trees planted alongside the trail but what a difference it makes!  It really dresses up the whole landscape.

There was a sidewalk chalk drawing competition going on. My pictures didn't turn out very well.

A singer was set up in front of city hall and was belting lovely tunes... You can't really see her, I took most pictures while walking because it was busy and Greg isn't the kind to stop and listen to music.

More chalk art

So talented!

This is the marquee of the Winter Garden Theatre which has been completely refurbished and hosts concerts and plays.  My oldest son and his jazz band played there a couple of years ago and Jodie and I went to see them perform. It was lovely, They played the Nutcracker Suite by Dizzy Gillespie since it was almost Christmas when we saw them.

The Birds of Prey Rehabilitation Center was there and showing a couple of owls.  However, they were snubbing us (I mean, the owls were)

I spotted this sign in the window of a café (Pilars) and emailed it to my son.  Per Danielsson is a piano teacher at UCF who is extremely talented. I love his playing so I hope my son will jam with them at some point and let me know in advance so I can go watch them!
People brought their dogs. I always wonder why you would want to bring your dog to a crowded event like this.  What possible enjoyment can the dogs derive from it?  And yeah, I don't like dogs.  However, we did see someone on the trail who had a small basket on the back of her bike and in it was a small fluffy white dog that seemed to be enjoying the ride and he was very cute.
I think this is the store that Jodie and I had visited and enjoyed before my son's concert and where she had gifted me a sign that made fun of my housekeeping skills. One of my favorite decor items in my house :)

Beautiful whose roses (and other white flowers) being grown on the side of the trail.  Sigh. It's all so lovely down there!

This large building, The Plant Street Market, is new to me. We didn't go inside because it looked busy but I imagine there are several counter-style restaurants indoors and then people can eat outside too. We'll have to check it out another time.

Hmm, and there seems to be a brewery on the far left side.

The farmers' market was going on. It takes place every Saturday morning. This is the only picture that I took but it's much larger than this and there are lots of prepared food vendors as well.

Beautiful bromeliads. I wouldn't mind having a display of those in my  front yard or backyard! I need to read up on them and see if they prefer the sun or the shade.  I like that one with the pale leaves on the left.  I had one of the red and green ones in the forefront in my room during my first year of college and, since I didn't know anything about keeping plants alive, I would bring it back on the train with me to my mother's house every weekend because I was afraid it would die over the weekend without any care, LOL.  The train was often too crowded to find a seat so I'd be standing there like a sardine for 2.5 hours, holding my bromeliad and trying not to spill soil over everyone.  What an idiot!

This is the trail going downtown Winter Garden.. It splits the main road so the road is one way on each side of the trail.  The booths were set up in the roads, leaving the trail open to foot traffic.  I had read that they would have "green machines" that would collect your purchases and meet you nearer to the parking lot for you to then carry your purchases to your car, but I forgot to look for them. I was looking to see if I could spot my former boss there, but I didn't see her.

So many lovely plants everywhere!
We did come upon a booth that sold self-watering bins.  At first I saw this huge bunch of kale and I thought they were selling the kale and it was just stuck in some large pot to keep it fresh.  I was marveling at the size of the kale and then I looked to the side and saw the piles of bins and realized they were self-watering bins!  They were very similar to the ones that I make but professional looking, of course, and the plastic was stronger and thicker.  The seller came to talk to me when he saw that I was interested so I asked him how much they were... $97 for one bin!  I couldn't stop myself from exclaiming "$97?!? For one?!?" which was kind of rude but I was in shock.  He said it was cheaper per bin if I bought three but I wasn't listening anymore since I make my own for about $20 each.  I did ask him how long he expected they would last outside in the sun and he said 5.5 years so that would make it a little more worth it. But his have to be filled out by screwing the hose into a coupling at the bottom of the bin, which I find very much a PITA. With mine, I only have to sit one end of the hose into the pipe that's sticking out so much less bending down and no screwing and unscrewing necessary. Still, I should look into getting better quality bins like his.  It's a waste if I buy lower quality bins and they break after only a year or two. I picked up his brochure, which was interesting since I learned that he recommends using potting mix and not potting soil (specifically noticed in his brochure) and I have been using potting soil more recently. So I shall try to use potting mix in the future to see if my kale can look as beautiful as his!

Look at how huge those were! As it turns out, the kale and the collards next to them were each growing in a separate bin.

I asked Greg to stand next to the bin so I could show the proportions better.  Look at that!  My kale is about 1 inch tall and I'm doubting it'll get to this size. I need to read the brochure that I picked up a little more to see what else he does to his plants. With that, I completely forgot to take a picture of the bins!

But there is the brochure with the website. The brochure helpfully shows how to set up the bin and soil and... fertilizer.  Well, dang. Do you know what I've neglected to put in my bins for the past couple of years?  Yep.  Fertilizer.  I told you I was a terrible gardener.  I need to remedy to that. I'll be studying the brochure and visiting the website to see what else I can improve on :)
Right before leaving I bought a small sign for my garden.  I love it. I'm going to hang it from my bird feeder :)

As a matter of fact, here it is, in situ.

Greg was worried that maybe we hadn't seen everything that I wanted to see since we only spent about 45 minutes there so he encouraged me to stay longer but it was so crowded and I couldn't buy anything and really, I mostly enjoyed the sights and walking with him, so we decided to head back to the car.

We were mulling over having lunch downtown Winter Garden instead of going to Four Rivers, but Greg claimed that he actually wasn't very hungry yet and I knew he had his heart set on Four Rivers so we agreed it might be a good idea to just get a snack. I bought a small bag of kettle corn for $3 and we shared my bottle of water.  It was such good kettle corn and we managed to only eat half of it between the two of us because we wanted to keep room for lunch.

Well, this didn't turn out either!  A red vine.

Pretty clover flowers

My dream home in Oakland.  Our house is also yellow, white and green but this one is much more beautiful! I love the white picket fence.  I have got to win that darn lottery!
The walk back to the truck ended up being a little more challenging because halfway there my butt gluts started rebelling and hurting and then I got a blister on the back of my heel and I could feel blisters forming under the balls of my feet.  I tell you, when the truck was in sight, I could barely put one foot in front of the other!  But we made it and gratefully sat on the very cushy seats of Greg's truck.  Ahhh, the relief!  The temperature had been beautiful though, I didn't get overheated or cold even though we were in the shade and I was wearing an sleeveless exercise tank top. Greg had a T-shirt and a flannel shirt on (you knew that he would, right?) and was concerned that I would be cold, LOL. It was in the 70s. I wish it were that temperature year-round!

We ended our field trip with a visit to Four Rivers in Winter Garden for a well-earned lunch.  We had a great time and I hope that you enjoyed our field trip as well.


  1. What a great field trip! I really enjoyed all your photos! Such lovely scenery. I love seeing all the Spanish moss hanging from the trees. Thank you for sharing your day out with us. Sorry you got blisters from all the walking you did, though. Hope your feet are OK, today.

    1. I'm glad you are enjoying this as I have been thinking about you staying home to try and minimize exposure to viruses and germs. But you have a gorgeous garden so you can have your own field trips all the time :)

      My feet ache today and I feel very stiff all over, lol. I'm going to use the bike tomorrow.

  2. What a lovely day! Oakland looks very beautiful -- I can see why you would want to live there. And I would totally take advantage of the beautiful trail, too!

    I love bromeliads, too. I really need to decide on a simple landscaping plan for the backyard and just stick to it. I don't know if bromeliads will work there, but it would be really cool if do.

    I am so intrigued by the FarmDaddy containers. I have been really discouraged by my attempts at gardening here, so something like that appeals to me far more than it would have a few years ago. Can you share the directions you use to create your self-watering containers? I actually like the way his boxes can be coupled together -- I could hook up a few on our front porch very easily. I am definitely going to check this out!!

    1. Here is the post I wrote a couple of years ago with the instructions, Laura.

    2. Thanks!! I think I can do that!

  3. I love all these pictures. I love going to these type of things, we don't have many out here. Tomorrow is Mom's funeral, it sucks getting older! Hopefully once tomorrow is over, things will get better, So, enjoy reading your blog, Love you Nathalie!

    1. Aw, Maria, lots of big hugs in preparation for tomorrow. It's going to be a tough day for you and your husband, I'm sure but at the same time, you guys can start moving forward. I don't mean to sound callous, I just know that it was a big relief for my dad when my stepmom was cremated after a long illness and difficult last days and he could start facing the rest of his life.

      I appreciate your reading the blog and letting me know that you enjoy the photos. I hope that you get to visit a festival soon. Maybe the two of you need a little side trip, like a change of scenery?

  4. You have a lot a beautiful little towns around you. I had no idea. What a wonderful outing. I bet you could go back next week and there would be all kinds of different photos you could take. I especially like the pictures that bring back memories for you and Greg. I like that you included the little dialogues between the two of you. It must have been a wonderful trip down Memory Lane.

    I am going to steal the idea of the wooden bird set. It looks like a very easy wood-working project. I could make a couple for Christmas gifts. Shhh. Don't tell anyone.

    1. Seriously... I have been looking at it and thinking that instead of paying $12 for it, I could have probably made it myself for less than $5. However, I always think that whenever I go to events like these and then I never make the items so I'm still glad I bought it. It makes me smile. We won't tell anyone you'll be making your own :)


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