AMERICAN PUBLIC GARDENS ASSOCIATION
2020 VIRTUAL CONFERENCE
JUNE 25 - JULY 9 2020

Bok Tower Gardens
Operational Sustainability Award

As the world has grown more complex and its pace more hurried, there is one spot in the heart of Central Florida where time stands still and a sense of peace and tranquility prevail. Bok Tower Gardens has offered some of Florida’s most remarkable experiences to more than 20 million visitors since 1929. Through its historic landscape gardens, unique 60 bell Singing Tower and palatial 1930s winter estate, Bok Tower Gardens offers unparalleled opportunities for artistic, cultural, personal and spiritual enrichment.

Located approximately 55 miles southwest of Orlando and east of Tampa near Lake Wales, the National Historic Landmark is like no other place in the world. When its founder, Edward W. Bok, immigrated to America from Den Helder, Netherlands, at age 6, he did not understand the language, customs or culture. Through determination and hard work, he became a highly successful publisher, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, respected humanitarian and an advocate of world peace and the environment. Bok’s grandmother told him to “make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it,” and he did that throughout his lifetime.

During visits from their Pennsylvania residence to their winter retreat near Lake Wales, Florida, Mr. Bok became enchanted with the beauty and vistas from nearby Iron Mountain. At 298 feet above sea level, one of peninsular Florida’s highest point offered views of dramatic sunsets. Awed by the tranquility of the area, Bok wanted to create a place that would "touch the soul with its beauty and quiet,” and chose it as a perfect setting for a bird sanctuary. He purchased multiple residential plots to transform them into a sweeping landscape of lush gardens featuring a majestic Singing Tower with a carillon. Originally called Mountain Lake Sanctuary and Singing Tower, Bok presented this extraordinary gift in 1929 as an enduring token of his appreciation for the opportunities he had been given.

Bok Tower Gardens boasts one of the greatest works of famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. The 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 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 showcasing an ever-changing work of art. Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden, the Wild Garden, Outdoor Kitchen and Kitchen Garden are the newest garden attractions and offer families the opportunity to connect in a vibrant, natural setting.

Hammock Hollow is wonderland for children featuring cooling water features and play structures. This area is also an excellent learning environment with focus on art, music and Florida agriculture.

The Visitor Center features permanent exhibits that provide insight and historical perspectives on Edward Bok’s life and influence as well as offerings of the Gardens and orientation video. Also, temporary exhibits showcase artists’ interpretations of Florida’s flora and fauna.

Or, watch this video on YouTube here!