Thursday, March 5, 2009

I Walk Through The Garden

Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida, has long been one of my favorite local places to visit. Each spring, I head there to walk under the peaceful oak hammock, soak in the abundance of flowers, and listen to the carillon bells.

Dogwood Blossoms

Dogwood Blossoms

The story of the singing tower and the surrounding gardens is a fascinating one to read. The tower and gardens were created by author and publicist Edward Bok and his wife, Mary Louis Curtis Bok (founder and editor of the Ladies' Home Journal). The gardens themselves were designed by famed landscape artist Frederick Law Olmstead (Yosemite National Park and others), and are built on the highest point in Florida at 295 feet above sea level. Every tree, shrub, flowerbed, and even the 2 lakes, were put there by design.

The two flowers you go to see in the spring are camellias and azaleas. Some 8,000 azalea shrubs were planted in the original garden. There are hundreds of species of camellias, some bushes standing 6' tall. Benches have been placed throughout to enable one to do what the garden demands-just to sit still, listen to the trill of the birds, admire a lot of friendly squirrels, and most of all, to think.

Bench in the Camellias

Bench in the Camellias



The tower was built beginning in 1927 and was dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge in 1929. It is a carillon (bell) tower and as well as playing chimes on the hour, various concerts are held throughout the year. It also holds the world's largest library of carillon music.

Standing 205 feet tall, the Gothic tower is built of pink Etowah marble, gray Creole marble, both mined in Tate, Georgia, limestone, and native coquina rock from Daytona Beach, Florida. Its stained glass windows and marvelous carvings depict Florida wildlife and Biblical scenes. The 35-foot tall set of beautiful gold doors reflect into the surrounding 15-foot-wide moat.

Sadly, Edward Bok died in 1930. He is buried at the base of the tower.

Bok Tower, Lake Wales, Florida

Bok Tower, Lake Wales, Florida

If you'd like to hear the bells, below is a video I made.

Bok Tower Gardens is truly one of the most beautiful places to visit. Edward Bok's grandmother gave him a quote, which he held throughout his life and is displayed at the garden entrance, "Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it." I'd say Edward Bok achieved just that and we are all the better for his efforts.

A Bench Amongst the Azaleas

A Bench Amongst The Azaleas

Bok Tower Gardens

Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales, Florida

Looking Up at Bok Tower

Bok Tower, Lake Wales, Florida

To see more images from the tower taken over a span of years of my visits to the garden, you can visit my webshots album.

To read all you'd ever want to know, The National Park Service has an online pdf file. (Requires Adobe Acrobat)


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Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.


Peg said...

Oh, these pictures and comments bring back old, old memories. My family lived in Florida for 3 winter school terms in Clewiston when I was a very little girl. During those years we frequently visited the Bok Singing Tower (as I believe it was called back then - think 1946-49).

Thanks for the trip down memory lane.


scw1217 said...

You're welcome, Peg. It is still a beautiful place. It was hit hard by the hurricanes of 2004, but has rebounded, though the oak tree canopy will never be quite the same. Glad I could job good memories.

Mary said...


The photos are amazing. What beautiful lighting and color. Thanks so much for sharing.