“Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it.”
This motto is embossed in various places across the idyllic, Wordsworthian realm of Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida, just 37 miles from Disney World.
And while you might be near the “Happiest Place on Earth”, Bok Tower Gardens is really going to give you a natural euphoria along with some Middle Earth-Lord of the Rings vibes.
Edward Bok’s Grand Vision
Around an hour drive from Tampa, Bok Tower Garden is a gift to Floridians from Edward Bok. While his name may not ring a bell to many, Bok was a philanthropist and successful publisher of Ladies Home Journal. A Dutch immigrant, Bok, commissioned the garden and singing tower as a thanks to the adopted home that gave him a chance at success.
To make his dream possible, Bok hired famous landscape Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., whose father designed Central Park and the grounds of the Biltmore Estate, to transform 50-acres of sand into the lush sanctuary it is today.
Olmsted worked for five years on the Garden mixing native and wild plants – including bringing in 8,000 azaleas and live oaks forty feet high – crafting the area into a serene home for birds planting 50 bird baths across the property.
Of course, the most iconic image of Bok Tower Gardens is the tower itself. The neo-Gothic tower was designed by Milton B. Medary and was meant to be a reminder of the carillons Bok remembered from the Netherlands.
The structure they built is 205 feet high surrounded by moats filled with hungry fish. The singing tower is voiced by bronze bells – with the largest bell weight 12 tons -that can reach 5 octaves and 60 notes.
Daily concerts for visitors
On the seventh floor of the tower, Geert D’Hollander, is the current carillonneur and he is widely regarded as one of the world’s finest. He performs daily concerts for the crowds daily at 1 and 3 p.m.
In addition, the Garden is especially lively right now as the 90th Anniversary International Carillon Festival begins March 20-24.
Visitors can also enjoy complimentary guided walking tours of the gardens Mondays – Fridays at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m., and on Sundays at 2 p.m. from Jan. 4 – April 14.