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Fresh Food, Fresh Ideas

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Chef Matt Fulwood-noteworthy

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.

D’hollander Students Take Top Honors

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Brian Geert Joey-noteworthy

For the first time, two Americans earned first and second place at the seventh International Queen Fabiola Carillon Competition in Mechelen, Belgium. Winner Joey Brink and runner-up Brian Tang both traveled to Lake Wales this spring to prepare for the world’s most prestigious competition under the guidance of Gardens’ Carillonneur Gert D’hollander.

“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Geert said. “It is truly an amazing accomplishment.”

Winner of the first Queen Fabiola Competition in 1987, Geert’s name was also on the program this summer. He was given the honor to introduce a compulsory composition for mobile carillon and strings.

While mobile carillons have been in existence for decades, Geert’s new composition further advanced the art form on a worldwide stage. Generally recognized as a classic tower instrument, this smaller variation makes it possible to enter concert halls and play carillon music along with other instruments and ensembles.

This four-day competition is undoubtedly the most important in the carillon world. It is also a strong stimulant for the recognition of the art of the carillon as an artistic performance of the highest standard. The five most promising participants from a worldwide pre-selection process competed in the final round for the first place prize, which included a required performance of Geert’s new composition.

Former winners used this competition to help build an international reputation, including: Geert D’hollander (1987), Boudewijn Zwart (1990), Gideon Bodden (1993), Tom Van Peer (1998), Twan Bearda (2003) and Kenneth Theunissen (2008).

Congratulations Brian, Geert and Joey!

Giant Victoria Water Lilies Return for Summer

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Two gorgeous Victoria water lilies (Victoria ‘Longwood Hybrid’) are stealing the show this summer in Bok Tower Gardens’ reflection pool near the Singing Tower. Their gigantic pads will most likely reach an immense size of six to seven feet in diameter, leaving guests in wonder and questioning if they are living plants or something out of a science fiction novel.

We can assure you that these beautiful specimens are indeed real and are actually large enough to support the weight of a child. In fact, the lilies are grown from a seed the size of a pea before they are eventually transplanted into the reflection pool in late spring.

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Fourth of July Carillon Concerts (July 4 & 5)

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Enjoy your July 4th weekend with live patriotic music performed on the Singing Tower carillon by special guest carillonneur, Lee Cobb. Performances take place at 1 p.m. & 3 p.m. on July 4 & 5 and are included with general Gardens admission.

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Guest Carillonneur Lee Cobb visits Bok Tower Gardens from the Church of the Ascension in Clearwater, FL to perform a star-spangled lineup of patriotic music for your Independence Day enjoyment, including:

  • The Star Spangled Banner
  • America the Beautiful
  • This Land Is Your Land
  • Take Me Out to the Ball Game
  • Suwanee River
  • O Danny Boy
  • and many more!

Lee Keyboard Smiling.3x4.5A native of Atlanta, GA, Lee Cobb earned a master’s degree in organ performance under Willis Bodine at the University of Florida, where he also served as the coordinator of UF’s carillon recital series. Lee’s carillon instructors include Stephen Knight, Linda Dzuris and John Gouwens.

Lee is active with the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America, serving on both the adjudications and publications committees. After a brief appointment as assistant carillonneur at Bok Tower Gardens, Lee was appointed organist, choirmaster, and carillonneur at the Church of the Ascension in Clearwater, FL, where he plays the Betty Jane Dimmitt Memorial Carillon.

All Things Pink at the Gardens June 14

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Pink Day Gift Shop

Bok Tower Gardens is celebrating survivors, raising money for breast cancer research, and sharing the love of gardening during its 2nd annual Pink Day event on Saturday, June 14 from 9 a.m. – 12 noon. Fifty percent (50%) of the day’s admission revenues and 10% of the revenues for Pink Day items will benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Pink Plants

The Tower & Garden Gift Shop will host a Pink Plant Sale, offering an assortment of Wendy’s Wish salvias and pink caladiums, as well as pink hibiscus, pink begonias, pink pentas, pink polka dot plants, and pink delight buddleias, among others. Gift Shop retail displays will feature pink jewelry, polo shirts, hats, stationery, flags, gardening items, accessories and more.

Pink Pentas

More than 20 vendors will be on hand with products and services for women ranging from massage therapy, manicures, and healing oils to unique jewelry, cosmetics, healthy living tips, self-defense demonstrations, and mammography information.

All services (chair massages, manicures, etc.) are included free with general admission.

Thanks Podio, for helping us make work simpler.

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Bok Tower Gardens is pleased to announce that we will be partnering with Podio, a Citrix Company, to streamline our internal communications. Podio is the new way for more than 400,000 teams to communicate, organize and get work done in one customizable place. We look forward to introducing our new intranet to our department directors, then staff, and later our volunteers to keep us all connected on all things related to the Gardens.

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