BOK TOWER GARDENS and the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) teamed up to display the “fruits of their labor” recently at the grand opening of the new garden section at the Lake Wales attraction.
On Saturday, September 10, Bok Tower Gardens debuted its new attraction, which has been in the making since October of 2014. It consists of five new garden areas with a state-of-the-art granite outdoor kitchen area. The new gardens areas include a Pollinator Garden, Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden, Wild Garden, and Outdoor Kitchen & Edible Garden. The grand opening featured guided tours of the new garden areas, hands-on learning exhibits, cooking demonstrations, and live Carillon concerts.
In the Pollinator Garden, guests can find numerous species of butterfly-attracting flowers, plants, and bushes. All of the Florida native species found in this garden can be planted and will thrive right here in Central Florida. In another area, the Edible Garden surrounds the outdoor kitchen, which features beautiful granite counter tops, state of the art kitchen appliances, and a brick oven. This napa-esque garden features a variety of fruits, such as raspberries, blueberries, persimmons, pomegranate, vegetables, and herbs that can also be grown right in your backyard. Hammock Hollow, the children’s garden area, covers three acres of land and is for all ages — both the young and the young at heart. In this garden, guests are surrounded by natural Florida landscape and can play at the same time. Hammock Hollow also includes a water splash park, where visitors can cool down from the Florida heat, and even an old-fashioned hand water pump. The last, but certainly not the least, new garden area is the Wild Garden; this garden area features four Florida ecosystems and a three-quarter-mile walk. The path links up to the historic garden and brings visitors through a pine forest, through the oak hammock, and ends up at a boardwalk that covers a bog. The pine forest contains 135 different species of plants and the bog contains the carnivorous pitcher plant, which is a visitor favorite. Erica Smith, marketing director at Bok Tower, explains that this is the most underrated attraction, because the “unique textures and biodiversity to be seen in this area are just astounding. We have vegetation that gopher tortoises love to eat and flowers that attract bees, too. And, in the fall, the wildflowers will bloom, which will be an incredible sight to see.”
Bok Tower Gardens President David Price explains, “It has been a long journey since construction began in October 2014, and we are so excited to share these new Gardens with our visitors. This grand-opening celebration salutes the work of our board, donors, members, and staff who recognized this vision would lead to big improvements without changing the spirit of the Gardens.”
According to Smith, the new partnership between Bok Tower and UF/IFAS has enabled both tourists and locals to get better acquainted with the world of Florida gardening and agriculture. “We hope people will embrace what they see and learn about at the gardens, whether it is a fruit or vegetable garden or Florida-friendly landscape, and try to recreate it on a smaller scale in their own backyards,” she states. For those garden enthusiasts who missed out on the September 10 grand opening, a Rootstock and Plant Garden Festival is coming to Bok Tower Gardens on October 15 and 16, which is a perfect excuse to come visit the new gardens.
story by JULIE GMITTER
photo by CAROL PYLES