Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales: Making the World a Little More Beautiful

The Bok Tower Gardens Mission: Make the World a Little More Beautiful

We visited Bok Tower gardens and wildlife preserve on Saint Patrick’s Day. Edward Bok, a Dutch immigrant who’d made his fortune in the US during the 1920s, so loved the United States, and Florida in particular, that he wanted to give something back. His motto was his grandmother’s: “Make your part of the world more beautiful because you have lived in it.”

He chose to do that by purchasing Iron Mountain, at 298 feet the highest point in Florida, and making it into a botanical park. At the top of his mountain, he built his office: a 205 foot Gothic and art deco carillon tower. The 60 bell carillon is considered one of the world’s finest.


Then he hired landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr., famous for his work in Washington D.C. and Boston, to do his yard work. Olmsted tends toward designs that incorporate an outside perimeter circle with wandering paths in between. His genius is in creating hidden treasures: secret paths that lead to “plant grottoes”, hidden spots cleared in the middle of hedges and foliage.




There is a seasonal home on the property, built by the President of Bethlehem Steel, last name of Buck, and is an impressive Mediterranean Revival. We did not take the $6 tour of the home, but probably will on another day. We walked for three hours. After we finished the nature trail, we went through all the Bok Tower gardens, among them, The White Garden, The Round Garden, The Live Oak Grove, The Reflection Pool, The Overlook, The St Francis and Mocking Bird Walk, and my favorite, Window by the Pond, and others. After spending time at the top, we went back down to shop and have lunch. Then we climbed the mountain a second time.

An Afternoon in the Bok Tower Gardens

The bell concert could be heard throughout the park, but I’m glad we were there at the tower for the big 3 P.M. concert because the bells’ deep tones seemed to resonate better. Not that we didn’t enjoy walking the Pine Ridge Preserve Nature Trail and listening to Menuet and Trio by Mozart, but up close listening to “Jerusalem” and “Marizapolis” (Spanish folk song) and “Send in the Clowns” seemed to resonate better. On this visit, we heard Processional, Sicilienne, and Milonga, and paid respect to the Irish, as well, since it was St. Patrick’s Day, with “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” and “Paddy Whack” and “Londonderry Air (“Oh, Danny Boy”)”.


Funnily enough, quiet is requested, and even more strange, the bells do not sound sharp and intrusive; instead they fill the air with dancing notes as you sit back on one of the many benches and comfortable chairs and look out on the panorama of rural Florida. It is not Disney World, but it also isn’t a busy botanical garden that you rush mother-in-a-wheelchair through. It was, literally, a time to stop and smell the Camellias. And they were in full bloom during our visit, as were the Darkshadow Magnolias and the Azeleas.

It was a tranquil day, one to remind me that making my corner of the world just a little nicer lifts not only my own spirits, but others’, as well.



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