“What’s in there?” I asked Ivan, my brother-in-law, who was driving at the time. I was referring to the rich foliage we were passing by. “Oh, that’s a garden,” Ivan replied nonchalantly. Then he added, “And oh, there’s a rose garden in there.” “Can we stop?” “Can I see it?” I quickly asked. We were on our way home driving along Park Avenue, the bustling shopping street in Winter Park, a suburban city north of Orlando. We have just left the hospital after my pregnant sister’s checkup. Sightseeing wasn’t on the agenda but upon learning there was a ‘rose garden’ hidden behind the rich foliage, all I wanted was to get out and explore. Ivan acquiesced and said, “Okay.”
I got off right away, in case Ivan changes his mind. I crossed the West Avenue railroad tracks gingerly and walked to where the garden was. I stepped through the brick-columned trellis teeming with vines and other crawling plants, and there it was. Rows and rows of roses in different colors, shapes and sizes forming a circular pattern. I was like Alice in Wonderland, mesmerized, mouth agape. A perennial shrub, roses come in over a hundred species. The garden looked like it had at least 20 species including Romantica, Flower Carpet, Darcey Rose, Multiflora Floribunda and Eternity Red Rose. I hopped from one rose to another. Some were still bulb-like buds while others were already in full bloom.
Ivan, who followed me, smelled an Everest Double Fragrance, a soft-pink rose, and announced it had the nicest scent. I smelled it but I wasn’t convinced. I tried a Heritage Rose, also a soft-pink bloom, and decided it had the best scent. Yet my favorite was the Eternity Red Rose. I bent over one, held it closer to my nose and uttered in despair, “Why can’t the Eternity Red Rose have the best scent? Then it would have been the perfect flower.” Ivan simply chuckled.
I looked around and noticed that the rose garden seemed to be just a small section of a bigger park. We didn’t know it then but we’ve actually stumbled upon the Rose Garden in Winter Park’s Central Park. Located along Park Avenue, Central Park is considered the crème de la crème of all the parks in Winter Park. Spanning across 11 acres, the park plays host to annual festivals including the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival and 4th of July celebrations. The Rose Garden itself is often used as a venue for weddings. We were blessed to have found it deserted when we came.
“Oh look, they have a Jasmine.” I didn’t notice that my brother-in-law has wandered off and discovered something else. “This is my favorite flower.” I came over and recognizing the flower, I laughed. “Really, how can that be your favorite flower?” “They’re used for funerals!” I exclaimed. “No, they’re not. It’s a popular flower in Argentina.” “My mom always used them in our home,” he said, smiling. Fearing I was being rude, I tried to stifle my laughter and told him that it always reminded me of the dead so I never liked it. As we rejoined my sister in the car later, we told her of our ‘discoveries’ and the Jasmine flower. She agreed with Ivan saying they were in fact used in both funerals and homes in the Philippines. “Oh yeah?” I thought. I don’t remember ever seeing them in homes.
I then realized what I might consider grotesque may actually be statuesque to someone else. Never laugh at someone’s seemingly odd choice even as trivial as a Jasmine flower, everyone’s entitled to his own opinion after all. All that ‘picked’ from a ‘secret’ rose garden in Winter Park, I mused.
How to get here: From the Northeast of Orlando via Florida Turnpike, take Exit #87 to Fairbanks Avenue, turn right heading East, proceed approximately 2.5 miles to Winter Park. Turn left to Park Avenue. Entrance is free; open all day. Dogs however are not allowed.