Grab your camera! Peak bloom season has officially arrived at Bok Tower Gardens, and it's one of the best times of year to visit!
During Peak Bloom, an annual rite of spring, visitors can observe more than 150 varieties of camellias and hundreds of azaleas along with nun’s orchids, irises, coral bean, Mexican flame vine, and other flowering plants as they create an explosion of color throughout the Gardens. Guests are encouraged to return throughout the bloom season to experience Mother Nature’s ever-changing palette of colors— and to take plenty of pictures.
“Azaleas are once again stealing the show, “says Greg Kramer, Gardens’ director of horticulture. “And the best time to visit is right now into the first few weeks of March while the bloom cycles for camellias and azaleas are overlapping,” Kramer said.
Violas, snapdragons, dianthus, delphiniums, holly hocks and other annuals also escort the arrival of spring with glorious displays of color. Trees in bloom include native plums and deciduous magnolias.
In Florida, seasons are gauged as being either rainy or dry, and flowering plants bloom in response to this water cycle. Additionally, chilly days with temperatures in the low ‘30s (without freezing) yield the most colorful, vibrant blooms. Winters with a hard freeze will cause azaleas to bloom all at once, while warmer winters yield blooms over a longer period of time.
In addition to the colorful blooms, another unique exhibit at the Gardens features air plants that require no soil. The display around the Visitor Center features dozens of different species of Tillandsia. Many of them are available for purchase in the Tower & Garden Gift Shop. With more than 550 species, the genus is one of the largest and most diverse of the entire bromeliad family, accounting for approximately 20% of the bromeliad species. It is only second to the orchid family in terms of diversity.
Visitors can learn about the flora, fauna and history of the Gardens during hour-long guided garden walking tours through April 13, included with general admission. Tour hours are Monday through Saturday at noon and 2 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.
What began as nearly 50 acres of woodland gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. has grown to more than 600 acres of woodland gardens, nature trails, conservation lands and groves. The visual centerpiece of the Gardens is the 205-foot art deco and neo-Gothic Singing Tower, a pink marble and coquina stone architectural treasure that houses one of the world’s finest carillons. The 60 carillon bells ring every half hour and during daily concerts at 1 and 3 p.m.
Visitors will access the Gardens differently following the $12 million expansion. Behind the Visitor Center, a new entry sequence features a large Oval Lawn and Pollinator Garden, while outdoor seating at the Blue Palmetto Café will double in size.
On the occasion of its 85th anniversary on February 1, 2014, Bok Tower Gardens announced on a $12 million capital campaign, Preserve the Legacy, Steward the Future to undertake four major initiatives to keep the Gardens relevant and sustainable, to include:
•Rejuvenation of the Historic Core Garden
•Telling the Bok Tower Gardens Story
•Stewarding the Gardens for Future Generations
“It’s an exciting time in the history of Bok Tower Gardens as we are about to undertake our vision for the future. We’re making big changes, without changing the spirit of the Gardens our guests have grown to love,” said Gardens’ president David Price.
Following a careful selection process, Bok Tower Gardens chose the landscape architecture firm of Nelson Byrd Woltz, based in Charlottesville, Virginia, to create the designs for the new garden spaces. The firm’s owner and principal, Thomas Woltz, was named the Design Innovator of 2013 by Wall Street Journal Magazine and is known for his holistic design approach and working knowledge of Olmsted landscapes, like that of the Gardens.
“Our work is rooted in science and observation, finding the voice of a site, and interpreting that for people to see and hear,” Woltz said. “Making the land visible is a big part of what our design work is about.”
“Throughout most of 2013, our staff, Board, and Nelson Byrd Woltz have been hard at work preparing to initiate Phase I of our 25-year master plan,” Price said.
Phased construction at Bok Tower Gardens is slated to start this summer, with the groundbreaking for the new Children’s Garden planned for this fall. It’s estimated that the entire project will take 18 to 22 months to complete, and the Gardens will remain open for the duration of the expansion.
“Fortunately, the areas designated for new gardens won’t disrupt current visitation, and we’re staging construction in a way that least impacts the visitor experience,” Woltz said.
To date, the Gardens’ Preserve the Legacy, Steward the Future campaign has generated approximately $7.7 million of the $12 million needed to complete all the projects.
“We began quietly fundraising nearly two years ago and have achieved 100% financial participation by our Board, Campaign Cabinet, and Gardens’ staff,” Price said. “But there is still much work to be done, and a number of ways to get involved.”
According to Joan Thomas, director of development at the Gardens, there are a variety of creative naming and recognition opportunities in this campaign. “You can make a gift in honor or memory of someone close to the Gardens, associate your name with a major feature in our new garden areas, or consider an endowed fund opportunity,” Thomas said.
A full list of campaign recognition opportunities may be found at www.BokLegacy.org. Campaign staff may be reached at (863) 734-1213 for more information.
Following the passing of Edward W. Bok, many friends and connections wrote to his newly widowed wife, Mary Louise Curtis Bok, and his son, Curtis Bok.
Here is a small collection of letters written by Helen Keller, Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, President Herbert Hoover, and master blacksmith Samuel Yellin.
The Singing Tower is what sets Bok Tower Gardens apart from other tourist attractions, museums, and gardens around the United States of America – and even the world. Inspired by one man, and erected in an extremely unique location, the Gardens have always held a special place in the hearts of those who have visited us throughout our 85-year history as an organization.
Here are a few facts you may not know about the Singing Tower, and they’ll give you something interesting to think about as you gaze at this incomparable structure situated on what was once an arid sandhill amidst the orange groves of Lake Wales.
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Meet Kenneth Treister and David Price, the authors of the brand-new book Bok Tower Gardens: America’s Taj Mahal. This new book about Bok Tower Gardens uncovers the rich history of one of Florida most recognizable works of architectural and landscape design which is located in Central Florida’s rolling hills of citrus.
One of the most frequent requests we get from visitors is help in finding photos or documentation regarding their ancestors who worked on the Singing Tower. We thought we’d share this group photo of the construction crew that was taken in 1928.
Take a moment to mouse over this image to see if you can help us identify an ancestor who you think is pictured in the photo. If you think you can positively identify an individual please make a comment below using their reference number in the photo.
If you have any more photos of your family members working on the Tower we’d love to see them! Email email@example.com with additional photographs.
UPDATE (Dec. 18):
#4 – Milton Bennett Medary Jr. (Singing Tower architect)
#5 – Horace H. Burrell (Singing Tower builder)
#26 – Fred Pfeiffer
#32 – John Holloway