Bok Tower Gardens boasts one of the greatest works of famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. The meandering, historic landscape garden was designed to be a contemplative and informal woodland setting offering a series of romantic recesses and tranquil resting spots, picturesque vistas and breathtaking views of the Singing Tower. Acres of ferns, palms, oaks and pines fashion a lush backdrop for flowering foliage and the spectacular seasonal color of azaleas, camellias and magnolias (a highlight of our spring peak bloom season) showcasing an ever-changing work of art.[flickr_set id=”72157670628822641″]
One of the wonderful attributes of the Gardens and natural habitats is its wildlife population. It includes 126 different species of birds as well as the threatened gopher tortoise and endangered eastern indigo snake. The grounds of Bok Tower Gardens is a designated site on the Great Florida Birding Trail.
The Gardens consist of paved primary pathways and many mulched secondary paths, some of which have an incline. There are two main pathways that lead into the core Gardens, and many routes to choose in making your way to the Singing Tower. It is about an 8-minute walk to the Singing Tower from the Visitor Center.
Main Garden Highlights
Hammock Hollow Children’s GardenSpring Peak Bloom SeasonRiver of StonePollinator GardenKitchen Garden & Outdoor KitchenEndangered Plant GardenWindow by the PondWetland, Bog & BoardwalkPinewood EstateExedra & Sunset OverlookReflection PoolPeace Lantern
Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden
Featuring almost three acres of nature play, this garden teaches conservation and the vital connection between animals, plants, and people. There is beautiful art, cooling water features, vibrant plantings, a boardwalk, performance stage, and music area. Children have plenty of safe things to climb on, under and through, as well as places to build, dig and create.
Spring Peak Bloom Season
More than 150 varieties of camellias and hundreds of azaleas along with nun’s orchids, irises and other flowering plants create an explosion of color. Since the exact date is hard to predict, visitors are encouraged to return all spring to experience the ever-changing palette of colors.
River of Stone
This unique pebble pathway at the Visitor Center features a simple, flowing pattern. The display of Tillandsia, commonly known as air plants, features more than 30 different species of the plant. Tillandsia require no soil and derive all of their nutrients from the air and water.
This colorful 22,800 square foot garden features native and non-native perennials along a meandering path. The garden provides a botanical wonderland for birds, butterflies, bees and other nectar- and pollen-loving insects known as pollinators.
Kitchen Garden & Outdoor Kitchen
The Outdoor Kitchen features 6,400 square feet of culinary delight punctuated with a wood-fired pizza oven, top-of-the-line outdoor appliances and much more. Festive café string lights, ceiling fans and vine trellises make the kitchen functional, beautiful and intimate despite its large size. A center island with granite countertop provides more than 15 feet of space for chef demonstrations. The Kitchen Garden includes fruit orchard, grape arbors, and raised beds for herbs and vegetables. This area will be a hub for horticultural and culinary activity showcasing lifestyle gardening and the culinary arts. The Kitchen Garden also complements the Gardens’ new UF educational partnership.
Endangered Plant Garden
This garden is an area to learn about the rare flora found in Florida. The garden’s circular plan allows an up-close view of these rare and endangered plants. An analemmatic sundial is located at the center of the garden.
Window By The Pond
This small observatory overlooks the setting of a Florida bog. Visitors can watch birds, reptiles, butterflies and other animals in their natural habitat. A sign proclaims, “This is nature’s show, not ours. No scheduled performances.” Arrive early for the most wildlife activity.
Visitors will discover four diverse native Florida ecologies as they walk through eight acres of native plantings including a pine savanna, oak hammock, wetland prairie and bog. Over 175 different native plant species were used to re-create these habitats mirroring the biodiversity and beauty of Florida’s Pine Ridge. The Wild Garden also features a spectacular boardwalk that overlooks the Wildlife Pond.
Pinewood Estate Gardens
Pinewood Estate features several unique garden areas designed by landscape architect William Lyman Phillips, including the Oriental Moon Gate, Frog Fountain, Vegetable Garden and the Grotto. The home itself is a 20-room Mediterranean-style mansion.
Exedra & Sunset Overlook
The marble Exedra was a gift to Edward Bok from friends in the neighboring Mountain Lake Community where he resided. This sunset view inspired Mr. Bok’s dream of the Gardens during his visits. At an elevation of 298 feet, this is one of the highest points in peninsular Florida.
Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., the landscape architect who designed the Gardens, specifically designed the pathway to shield the view of the Tower until reaching this point. This grand view of the Singing Tower is the perfect place for a photo with friends or family visiting the Gardens.
This Japanese stone lantern was a gift to the Gardens as a tribute to Edward Bok from Usaburo Tsujita of Japan. Mr. Tsujita was an attendant in the Bok home in Pennsylvania for several years in the 1920s. This gift was assembled and erected in 1955 within sight of Edward Bok’s grave.
Landscape Architect: Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.
Pivotal to Bok’s plan to create the Gardens was the participation of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., the most distinguished landscape architect of the generation. As bearer of the most renowned name in landscape architecture, Olmsted was chosen for positions of prominence from the very start of his career. He was the son of Frederick Law Olmsted, the father of landscape architecture and designer of New York City’s Central Park. After graduating from Harvard, Olmsted Jr. worked with his father on the Biltmore Estate and eventually landscaped many of Washington, D.C.’s most prominent landmarks, including the White House, Jefferson Memorial, Washington National Cathedral and the National Zoo. Later in his career, he wrote the key language of the federal legislation that established the National Park Service and served as the agency’s first director.
In 1923, Olmsted Jr. embarked on his mission to transform Bok Tower Gardens from a sand hill into one of the nation’s most beautiful garden sanctuaries. For the next five years, Olmsted Jr. and his team diligently planted a mix of native and exotic plants that would thrive in the humid climate and lend a tropical feel to the native oak hammock.
From a practical perspective, Olmsted also carefully selected plants that would provide a hearty supply of food and shelter for migrating birds and other wildlife in the Gardens.
The pathways leading up to the Singing Tower wind through the Olmsted historic landscape gardens. When visitors reach the top, a majestic view of the entire Tower is revealed in the Reflection Pool, showcasing one of Florida’s most photographed sites.
Edward Bok recruited famous artisans Milton B. Medary and Lee Lawrie to design a masterpiece that embodied the Gardens’ spirit of perfect unity, communicated through profound symbolism and represented in the unique Florida flavor. For example, the sculptures of the Tower convey a decidedly spiritual and nature theme through the use of majestic eagles and herons, as opposed to the gargoyles of traditional Gothic design.