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Come See What’s Growing in 2014-15

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Bok Tower Gardens has released its new Programs & Events Guide for the 2014-15 season. Members, watch for it in the mail.

View the new guide online!


In celebration of a year filled with exciting new garden projects–the largest expansion in our 85-year history–this season’s theme is COME SEE WHAT’S GROWING!

Together, we are writing the next chapter of Bok Tower Gardens. Projects are underway to preserve and enrich your experience in new and engaging ways, to restore and revitalize the Gardens for future generations. Landscapes are being transformed, but Edward Bok’s vision is cared for and protected.

We invite you and your family to explore, to learn, to participate in the process. Discover a wide range of unique activities and events designed to engage the young and young at heart.


Rare Plant Conservation Program Wins “Livable Polk” Award

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On the evening of August 27 at Polk State College in Lakeland, Polk Vision and the Polk Transportation Planning Organization presented the 2014 Livable Polk Awards.

Polk Vision is a broad, community-led partnership of organizations, businesses, government and individuals acting collectively to ensure implementation of Polk County’s community vision.

Conservation Manager Cheryl Peterson and Rare Plant Specialist Juliet Rynear accepted one of only three Judges’ Choice Awards on behalf of the Gardens’ Rare Plant Conservation Program (RPCP). The RPCP defines the Gardens’ conservation mission and its commitment to conserving and enhancing our understanding of Florida’s rarest plants.

Bok Tower Gardens is partnering with communities throughout Polk County and other conservation groups to preserve and restore rare plant species and habitats, therefore helping to make Polk a better place to live. We are one of only 39 institutions nationwide that participate in the Center for Plant Conservation, a national coalition dedicated to conserving and restoring the rare native plants of the United States. Approximately 64 of Florida’s rarest plant species are housed at the Gardens. Living material is carefully collected from the wild and maintained in one or more of our 60 endangered planting beds or dry seed storage facilities.

Endangered plants that are being protected through the Rare Plant Conservation Program grow in only a few known Florida locations (thanks in part to population re-introductions by Cheryl, Juliet and their team!), and most can’t be found anywhere else in the world.

Join us for Dog Day of Summer Sept. 6

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Don’t let Fido feel left out this summer – bring him to our annual Dog Day of Summer on Saturday, September 6. Visitors are invited to bring their furry friends for a walk through the Gardens and take in some of the special events happening from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in and around the Visitor Center. This once-a-summer event is sponsored in part by Veterinary Healthcare Associates.

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The Gardens – 10 Years After Hurricane Charley

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Many Floridians still have vivid memories of the 2004 hurricane season. Four hurricanes struck Florida that year with three storms leaving their mark across Central Florida. August 13, 2014 marks the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Charley making landfall on the West Coast of Florida, beginning its damaging race across the state. The speed of the storm meant hurricane force winds impacted even the central portion of the state, ripping apart regions which had not been seriously affected by storms since Hurricane Donna in 1960 and Hurricane Elena in 1985.

Rumors of the Tower’s demise spread quickly, but staff and friends of the Gardens soon saw the Tower still stood. Many of the trees filling the Gardens were not as fortunate. On August 14, 2004, the cleanup of the Gardens began. Staff and hundreds of volunteers donned their gloves and picked up shovels, chain-saws, and clippers to attack the massive amounts of debris choking the landscape. Regional gardens sent crews to help with the overwhelming process. This included a group from Fairchild Botanical Gardens which had been affected by Hurricane Andrew in 1992 (a group from Bok Tower Gardens assisted in their cleanup then).

In the midst of cleanup from Charley, Polk County felt the effects of Frances September 4-6. Because of the tree damage from Charley, though, Frances caused little additional damage. The Gardens partially reopened September 11, 2004, four weeks after Charley. Just over two weeks later, Jeanne followed almost directly in the path of Frances, once again closing the Gardens. Finally, on October 2, 2004, Bok Tower Gardens reopened her gates to the public. While the scars of the storms were visible, the newly opened vistas were breathtaking. Altogether, the Gardens lost more than 200 trees that season, sustaining damage to the entire grounds of about $1.5 million. Through it all, though, the Tower stood as a symbol to many of the strength and beauty of Florida that would return.

Take a moment to see how Bok Tower Gardens has healed over the past ten years and to think about our future as we continue to grow.

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Florida Wildflower Symposium Registration Open

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Bok Tower Gardens is proud to partner with the Florida Wildflower Foundation to bring the 2014 Florida Wildflower Symposium to the Gardens on Sept. 19 and 20.

The event includes field trips to natural lands, workshops, walks in the Gardens, and presentations by experts on wildflowers, native plants, butterflies and bees. There is also a landscaping track for those who want to learn about using natives at home.

Doug Tallamy, author of “Bringing Nature Home,” will speak at the symposium banquet, to be held Friday, Sept. 19 at the Gardens. Tallamy, who chairs the University of Delaware’s Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, will talk about the important roles native plants play in ecosystem health and our own well-being. Cost for dinner is $35 for FWF and Bok Tower Gardens members, or $45 for non-members.

Symposium registration includes access to Friday field trips ($10 each), and admission to Bok Tower Gardens for Friday and Saturday activities. Registrants attending Saturday also will receive a beautiful “La Florida: 500 Years in the Land of Flowers” poster ($10 value). Cost to attend the event is $35 for FWF and Bok Tower Gardens members, and $45 for non-members, which includes a $5 donation to the Gardens.

Additionally, Bok Tower Gardens will host “Wildflower Day” on Saturday, Sept. 20, which includes public events such as short films, a presentation by Doug Tallamy, walks in the Gardens, and book signings in the gift shop. All “Wildflower Day” activities are included with Gardens admission, with the exception of Tallamy’s presentation, which costs $18 for symposium registrants and $20 for the general public.

Visit the Florida Wildflower Symposium website to learn more about symposium activities and to register. Special hotel rates are also available.

Fresh Food, Fresh Ideas

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Chef Matt Fulwood shares his vision for the Blue Palmetto Café and what he’s working on this summer to tempt our taste buds!

by Matthew Fulwood, Chef & Café Services Manager

Recently, I was offered the opportunity to take over as head chef at Bok Tower Gardens. I was extremely excited, and maybe a little nervous. After all, this is something I have been working toward since beginning in the food service industry more than 12 years ago. The support from co-workers and guests has been outstanding, and I look forward to keeping the Blue Palmetto Café moving in the same direction it has been—UP! We’ve enjoyed significant growth since I started at the Gardens a year-and-a-half ago, and more is on the horizon with the addition of a new outdoor kitchen and plenty of extra terrace seating at the café.

During my tenure, I will continue to strive for excellence and to remain on the cutting edge of food trends. One of my primary goals is to build more relationships with our local farmers and to have most of our produce sourced locally rather than from large food suppliers. Nothing beats fresh!

Over the summer, I will be working feverishly to devise new seasonal menus for the café. They will still feature quite a few of our current selections, but there will be some new items added that have not been seen at the Gardens before. (Not to worry, our soups and chili will remain on the menu and will always be homemade.)

We will continue to email out our daily specials for the week and begin featuring new fusions of flavors to pull people out of their comfort zones and try something new and exciting. To receive these updates, please email us at

I love to cook and have fun in the process, so also on my radar are the various special events we host throughout the year. From our Live at the Gardens concerts to Pinewood Estate dinners, I’m excited about revealing my inner personality and character through the food I prepare.

Next time you’re at the Gardens, please take a few minutes to stop by the café and say hello.

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