Saturday, 26 September 2009

Blown away by Bok Tower!



Bok Tower Gardens in Florida has got to be one of the most special gardens that I've visited this year - it's spectacular, unusual, slightly haunting - especially when you hear the Carillon bells ring! And we chose quite a difficult day to visit - the temperature outside on the way there was 94F; the air-conditioning in my car chose to stop working; and then we encountered massive Florida thunderstorms later in the day (you can see the torrential rain for yourself later in this post!), which made both garden visiting and driving conditions challenging. But none of this made me think any less of this fabulous garden.


This is an extraordinary place - the brainchild of Edward Bok - a Dutch immigrant who made his fortune in publishing at the beginning of the 20th century as editor of "Ladies Home Journal" - one of the most successful publications of its era. He went on to become a Pulitzer Prize author. He was also a philanthropist and on 1st February 1929, the completed gardens and tower were donated by President Calvin Coolidge as a gift from Edward Bok to the American people. They now attract some 200,000 visitors a year (although you wouldn't have known that when I visited - a potentially rainy day in September is obviously a good time to dodge the crowds).

The Bok Tower has been described as "America's Taj Mahal" and sits on the highest point in Florida - formerly known as Iron Mountain. It has an outer facing of pink and gray Georgia marble and Florida coquina (a limestone of shell and coral fragments); a wonderful brass door that depicts the story of the creation; a magnificent sundial; and the famous bronze carillon bells - 60 in total - that sing out every day. It is an amazing sound, so if you are visiting, make sure you are there when the tower "sings".

The grounds cover 130 acres and you approach Bok up a long driveway through citrus groves - suddenly you see the tower ahead of you emerging through the trees. The gardens have been laid out around the tower and you find many different areas here, but the overwhelming feeling is one of peace.

There are benches everywhere for you to sit and enjoy the views; magnificent stepped borders reminiscent of England (until you look closer and realise that these are tropical plants, not English perennials); the Reflecting Pool, filled at this time of year with magnificent Victoria lilies - with their four-foot leaves (right) and an array of needle and cabbage palms (Florida's state tree). Everywhere you look there are stately oak trees with Spanish moss and also wonderful butterflies. This really is an extraordinary place and when the tower sings, the music will send shivers down your spine!

Eighty years on, Bok Tower Gardens have stood still in time and they will continue to do so following their designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1993. This is a really special place. Located near Florida's most famous tourist attraction - Disney World - this is a far cry from Mickey Mouse, and you will see and feel something really different here. But try and go on a sunny day - otherwise you will get soaked!

18 comments:

  1. What an beautiful and tranquil historical site -- I will have to go visit when I next get to Florida. We keep trying to plan a trip -- at this rate my kids will be grown before we get out there, but we're working on it! Thank you for the introduction to these beautiful and historic gardens.

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  2. A very beautiful garden... love all the gardens you have posted from your travels around... thank you for sharing.
    Cariños

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  3. I have been to Florida a few times but have never visited the Bok Tower Gardens. Will be on my list for our next visit. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  4. It looks really pretty, I've never heard of it before. We've only been to Florida twice and both times were to see Mickey Mouse. The thunderstorms we did experience there, it's very different from the rain we get in the Seattle area. Next time we're in Florida hopefully we can visit these gardens.

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  5. I think Galloping is a bit slow for you even jet plane gardening doesn't seem fast enough you seem to be on a different continent as I flick through my dashboard.Tardist perhaps?

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  6. That's some trip you had. Just came from Florida...too hot!
    Love the garden tour and history.
    Didn't know it was near Disney World.
    Should be a must see next time in that area.

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  7. What great gardens. Once we move to South Carolina perhaps we will branch out to some southern gardens to explore.

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  8. What a beautiful garden! Thanks for the tour...loved the butterfly shot. And the lily leaves are amazing!!

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  9. Very unique gardens! you are right, a far cry from Disneyworld.
    Rosey

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  10. Beautiful post, I love the water garden

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  11. I love the last picture of the rain in the garden.

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  12. Hi just visited your lovely blog, Thanks for adding in the follower in my blog. Have a nice day!

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  13. I think Gardens have always been a very strong representative of a place's culture. The Bok Garden is amazing. Places like these help one appreciate, how we can play with nature in a very very positive way.

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  14. You are providing a wonderful service to those of us who love visiting gardens but don't have the means to do so right now. Your blog is amazing! Thank you for visiting my site and introducing yourself.

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  15. What a beautiful garden. My favorite photos are the ones with the butterfly and the huge lily pads.

    Thank you for sharing.

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  16. Love this garden very much! The plants are so tropical. We have many of the plants shown here. Have another great day!

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  17. I certainly would want to visit this garden, when next I am in the area. Your presentation inspires with your photos... including the rain! Looks so refreshing and peaceful as you say. Lovely post.

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  18. Hey Charlotte,
    That is quite a compliment you paid our very own Bok Tower... "one of the most special gardens that I've visited this year" ... considering all the places you've been internationally.

    You've captured this beautiful place so well.

    I do love to go there... extremely peaceful setting. But I wouldn't want to be there with temps in the 90's. The last time I was there the sunset beyond "Iron Mountain" was sensational.
    Meems @ Hoe and Shovel

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