One of Florida’s most iconic destinations is Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales. I remember visiting there many, many years ago as a child with my family. The last time I visited was in 2005 just after I bought my first DSLR camera. That visit was marked by the destruction of the hurricanes of 2004 hitting the site. It’s now well recovered, and in 2016 the gardens are bigger & better than ever!
Wikipedia has the following details:
Bok Tower Gardens (also known as Bok Mountain Lake Sanctuary and Singing Tower) is a National Historic Landmark, contemplative garden, and bird sanctuary located north of Lake Wales, Florida, United States. It consists of a 250-acre (100 ha) garden, the 205-foot (62 m) tall Singing Tower with its carillon bells, Pine Ridge Trail, Pinewood Estate, and a visitor center. The tower is built upon Iron Mountain, one of the highest points of peninsular Florida, estimated to be 295 feet (90 m) above sea level. It is a National Historic Landmark that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The gardens began in 1921 when a Dutch immigrant, Edward W. Bok, editor of the popular women’s magazine Ladies Home Journal and his wife, Mary Louise Curtis Bok, who would found the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia in 1924, were spending the winter beside Florida’s Lake Wales Ridge and decided to create a bird sanctuary on its highest hill (298 feet above sea level, 91 meters).
Bok commissioned noted landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. to transform what then was an arid sandhill into “a spot of beauty second to none in the country”. The first year was spent digging trenches and laying pipes for irrigation, after which soil was brought to the site by thousands of truck loads and plantings began. The Olmsted plan included the planting of 1,000 large live oaks, 10,000 azaleas, 100 sabal palms, 300 magnolias, and 500 gordonias, as well as hundreds of fruit shrubs such as blueberry and holly.
I visited this time just before Christmas. The temperature was in the 80’s and it was a beautiful day. The namesake tower is the center piece of the gardens and it’s carillon played Christmas music periodically and marked the hours.
The Pinewood Estate is also on the property. A tour of the house can be purchased when you come into the gardens. This house & other parts of the gardens are venues popular for engagement photos and weddings!
Bok Tower is sitting on one of the highest points on the Florida peninsula, so the view from the park shows a wide swath of the surrounding area.
The gardens are full of annual and perennial plants and flowers. I enjoyed walking around the paths and walks, photographing flowers and leaves.
The camellias were blooming all throughout the gardens.
In addition to the tower, estate and gardens, they have added a large children’s area and a kitchen garden complete with a kitchen and dinner seating. There is a huge visitor center with a theater, museum, cafe and gift shop.
If you are in Central Florida, be sure to visit this Florida icon! Click on the Bok Tower Gardens website for details and events.
Please visit my gallery for the originals and more images.
That is all for now!