Images ~ Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens at Tallahassee, Florida
Entrance to Maclay Gardens
"Best Garden in Florida"
The Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens not only add great beauty to Tallahassee, Florida...an already scenic place...but according to a 2007 issue of Florida Monthly Magazine was ranked as the "Best Garden in Florida."
With Cypress Gardens and other gardens of great beauty in the State of Florida, that is high praise indeed!
Often when my mother and I used to travel between our point of origin and final destination, we would look for things that might be of interest to us along the way.
Such was the case with the Maclay Gardens.
We were returning to our homes in Houston, Texas from a visit with relatives who lived in Englewood, Florida and Maclay Gardens State Park drew our interest.
Photo taken at Maclay Gardens
The fact of Maclay Gardens State Park being located only one half mile north of Interstate 10 which is the main Interstate thorough-fare between the lower States from Florida all the way to California made it even more accessible to us time-wise.
Hours at the 1184 acre State Park are from 8 AM to Sunset with the Gardens being opened from 9 AM to 5 PM on a daily basis.
The physical address is 3540 Thomasville Road, Tallahassee, Florida and the phone number is (850) 487-4556.
Blooming Season at Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park
Spanish Moss at Maclay Gardens
After deciding to take this side journey to see this State Park and Garden, one of the first things we noticed at Maclay Gardens were the trees bearing their lacy curtains of Spanish Moss.
For those unfamiliar with this epiphytic plant which survives in warmer and humid climates, it lives by attaching itself to host trees (for the most part) and derives its sustenance and moisture from the air.
The only way that it can adversely affect the host tree is by blocking off too much of the light to the leaves which interferes with photosynthesis or by becoming too heavy for the branches to support its weight, thereby breaking a branch.
Other than that, it is ornamental and adds a distinct charm to Southern Gardens given the correct growing conditions. The Alfred B. Maclay Garden State Park was filled with Spanish Moss. All one had to do was gaze upwards to see the shafts of sunlight illuminating these curly and lacy draperies cascading down from the branches of the trees.
Spanish moss hanging from the trees at Maclay Gardens
Alfred Barmore Maclay
Born in 1871 to a family of significant wealth derived from the Knickerbocker Ice Company which had become the country's largest ice producer by 1881 as well as other interests like real estate and banking, Alfred B. Maclay had first immersed himself in the family business.
According to accounts, by around age 30 and after touring much of the world, he decided to become more involved with his passions which included horses and other animals. His personal wealth afforded him the opportunity to pursue his other interests and he became very active as an exhibitor as well as officiating at horse shows. He also showed and judged at dog shows.
An ASPCA ( American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals ) board member, Alfred Maclay became the president of the American Horse Show Association from 1926 to 1936.
Maclay Gardens scenery
The farm property that Alfred B. Maclay purchased in 1912 at Millbrook, New York was named Killearn after the birthplace of his great, great grandfather in Scotland.
After marriage to Louise Fleischman (from the well known Fleischman yeast company) in 1919 Alfred and Louise purchased the property in Tallahassee, Florida for their winter residence. It was also initially named Killearn.
The planting of the gardens was initiated in 1923 and since they resided there primarily in the Winter months and Spring, they wanted their new gardens to be not only pretty but exploding with seasonal color.
28 acres of ornamental gardens were planted and the Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens today contain one of the largest assortments of camellias and azaleas found anywhere in the South.
In addition to azaleas and camellias which bloom anywhere from January to the end of April generally peaking in mid-March, one can spot rhododendrons, wisteria, dogwoods, red-buds, sago palms, magnolias and other plants which grace the grounds with different colors, textures and heights.
Alfred died in 1944 and Louise continued to develop and tend her gardens opening them to the public in 1946. Ultimately in 1953, 307 acres of property was donated to the Park Service in Florida and has since gained the status of a National Register of Historic Places.
Lake Hall on the property at Maclay Gardens
For boaters ( only non-motorized boats are allowed ), canoers, kayakers and others, Lake Hall which covers 160 acres provides an aquatic place to refresh the spirit and get a little exercise in the Tallahassee area.
For swimmers or people who wish to picnic, there are picnic tables, grills and even some pavilions provided for visitors to this park.
Hiking the short nature trails or even biking or riding horses on the longer ones is also something that can be accomplished.
As mentioned in the video above, the reflection pond on the expansive lawn facing the lake provides a great spot for weddings or other significant events.
The day that my mother and I were visiting, professional photographers were setting up their equipment to shoot photos for the State of Florida or so we were told.
Florida alligators...in Florida
This is the type of alligator encounter that I would enjoy...especially with the face of a happy child toddling along in front!
A sign on the property posted the following:
"Alligators are present in this park. They are an important part of Florida's ecology and may be found whenever there is a natural body of water. They have a natural fear of man, but may lose that fear by being around people - especially if they are fed. When this happens, alligators can be dangerous. For this reason, it is against park rules to feed or molest alligators in any way."
We did not see any alligators nor did we especially wish to do so!
In days of the past, my husband who has golfed on some Florida golf courses has seen alligators lying around water hazards.
Gives a whole new meaning to hazard!
Generally from what we have learned from my Aunt and Uncle who lived in Florida for many years, when the alligators get to be a certain size...and if living among populated areas...they are generally removed and re-located to natural settings in less populated areas of the State.
Of course if alligators natural territory keeps being swallowed up with human development, more conflicts are (sadly) likely to arise.
Lovely ornament and remembrance from a visit to Tallahassee. I like using ornaments as reminders of places I have visited. Do you?
Tallahassee is the location of the Florida State Capitol.
Obviously there is much more to the city and there are many other things to do and see while in Tallahassee but we were merely passing through on our way back to Houston.
My mother and I were really happy that we had stopped and had taken the time to see the Maclay Gardens and would highly recommend that you do the same if ever in that part of the country.
Fortunately we happened to be there in mid-March which was perfect timing to see the hundreds of azaleas, camellias and other blooming plants and trees showing off their vestments of color.
Hopefully you enjoyed this look at one of Florida's special State Parks in the heart of Tallahassee...the Alfred B. Maclay State Gardens.
Map pinpointing Tallahassee in the Panhandle of Florida
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© 2010 Peggy Woods
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