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Holiday Home Tour Reaches 20-Year Milestone

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Lucy's Bedroom_Holiday Home Tour

Twenty years ago, Bok Tower Gardens was still discovering the possibilities of Pinewood Estate, the 1932 Mediterranean-style mansion on Gardens property, built as a winter retreat by Bethlehem Steel Vice President Charles Austin Buck. After the Gardens purchased the home in 1970, staff and volunteers spent years restoring its architecture, furnishings and gardens. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, the home hosted a range of groups and visitors by appointment only. Then in 1994, Pinewood Estate & Gardens was opened to the public for guided tours, and just 571 people visited the home.

The same year, an event called Christmas at Pinewood was created to host a holiday showcase throughout the estate, opening the day after Thanksgiving and closing after the first of the year. Visitors paid for a ticket and entered the mansion to enjoy elegant decorations arranged by selected interior designers.

Over the years, the popularity of the home tour has grown tremendously, as has the importance of the holiday season at Bok Tower Gardens. So much so that in 2008, we officially re-branded our holiday season as Christmas at Bok Tower Gardens. This celebration is more than a month long and focuses on traditional holiday activities for all ages.

Today, the Holiday Home Tour at Pinewood Estate is our largest fundraiser of the year, hosting host more than 15,000 visitors annually. Every dollar raised through holiday admission tickets and activities goes right back into the Gardens.

This year, Bok Tower Gardens celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Holiday Home Tour at Pinewood Estate with 1930s vintage style. The home is being decorated by a range of talented local businesses and designers, community volunteers and partners. This year’s home design isn’t based on a single theme as in the past, but instead is a “Best Christmas Ever” edition featuring select design themes from the past 19 years. Each room will be different, as no theme is being duplicated anywhere in the house.

New this year, we’re introducing a group of patrons called The Amaryllis Club. Inspired by the history and beauty of Pinewood Estate, members of The Amaryllis Club have raised funds to purchase new holiday decorations and are decorating the Living Room as part of this year’s Holiday Home Tour. Their mission is to promote and preserve the heritage and vintage style of this historic home, and to take on other special projects on behalf of the Gardens.

Gardens to Break Ground Oct. 24 on Largest Expansion in 85-Year History

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Edward Bok Groundbreaking_featured

Gold Shovel groundbreakingBe part of history in the making! Join the Bok Tower Gardens Board of Directors and special guests for a groundbreaking ceremony on the site of our new garden spaces.

Afterward, visit the future sites of our children’s garden, outdoor kitchen, pollinator garden, and wild garden.

In 1922, there was just a large sandhill, longleaf pines, a shovel, and Edward Bok’s vision. In 1994, our Board of Directors broke ground to build the current Visitor Center. And on Friday, October 24, 2014, hundreds will gather to make history again at Bok Tower Gardens.

Gifts received to date for the Preserve the Legacy, Steward the Future capital campaign are fueling the start of Phase I projects this fall, including pathwork, Tower and Gardens restoration, and several new garden spaces. To date, we have raised $10.45 million of the $12 million needed to complete all the projects.

To celebrate, we will hold a Groundbreaking Ceremony October 24 at 11 a.m. behind the Visitor Center. This will be followed by docent tours to the sites of the children’s garden, kitchen garden, pollinator garden, and wild garden.

Refreshments will be served in the Visitor Center where guests can learn more about our new garden spaces.

Please join us for this landmark event! Admission is free between 8 – 11 a.m. Before you attend, please add your name to our guestbook.

Boktoberfest Plant Sale This Saturday!

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Celebrate our sixth annual plant sale with free admission to the Gardens, featuring more than 40 plant vendors from around Florida, live entertainment, German food, craft beers, children’s activities, live carillon music, and guest garden speakers ready to help you kick off the Florida planting season with great gardening tips.


For a complete schedule, list of plant vendors and other event information, visit!

Grab your lederhosen and join us for the sixth annual Boktoberfest Plant Sale on Saturday, October 18 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.! The event features live entertainment, German food, craft beers, tree climbing, activities for kids, and much more!

“Boktoberfest celebrates the start of Florida’s gardening season,” explains David Price, Gardens’ president, “where plant lovers and gardeners can come to find a wide variety of Florida plants and learn from experts to help make the most of their garden.”

Our Members Only Plant Sale Preview is Friday, October 17 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Members get exclusive access to the plant sale before it opens to the public. Skip the crowds, meet the vendors, and get first pick of plants and other natural products. Not a member? Sign up today!

Some of the plants for sale will include orchids, palms, trees, tropical fruits, Florida natives, ferns, bamboo, roses, heliconias, bromeliads, tillandsia air plants and water lilies. Education will be provided by Master Gardeners, plant societies, garden clubs and the UF-IFAS Extension Service. Expert gardeners will host free educational workshops throughout the day.

This year’s festivities will again feature the Jimmy & Eckhard Oktoberfest Show, a three-member lederhosen ensemble performing authentic German music. The group plays instruments from Germany, Austria and Switzerland including long Swiss alphorns the size of trees; a wooden Alpine xylophone, that is often referred to as “wooden laughter;” the “Singing Saw” and more.

Children can experience the thrill of scaling one of Bok Tower Gardens’ tall live oak trees! Climb more than 40 feet above the ground or just sit in the harness for a bird’s eye view of the upper canopy and Singing Tower carillon.

Check out our schedule of events, and mark your calendar for Boktoberfest on Saturday, October 18!


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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Livable Polk Award_blog

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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