LAKE WALES, Fla. — Peak bloom season has officially arrived at Bok Tower Gardens, one of the best times of year to visit the National Historic Landmark.
During this annual rite of spring, visitors can observe more than 150 varieties of camellias and hundreds of azaleas along with nun’s orchids, irises, coral bean, Mexican flame vine, and other flowering plants as they create an explosion of color throughout the Gardens. Since the exact date range is hard to predict, guests are encouraged to return throughout the bloom season to experience Mother Nature’s ever-changing palette of colors— and to take plenty of pictures.
“Azaleas are once again stealing the show, “says Greg Kramer, Gardens’ director of horticulture. “And the best time to visit is right now into the first few weeks of March while the bloom cycles for camellias and azaleas are overlapping,” Kramer said.
Violas, snapdragons, dianthus, delphiniums, holly hocks and other annuals also escort the arrival of spring with glorious displays of color. Trees in bloom include native plums and deciduous magnolias.
In Florida, seasons are gauged as being either rainy or dry, and flowering plants bloom in response to this water cycle. Additionally, chilly days with temperatures in the low ‘30s (without freezing) yield the most colorful, vibrant blooms. Winters with a hard freeze will cause azaleas to bloom all at once, while warmer winters yield blooms over a longer period of time.
In addition to the colorful blooms, another unique exhibit at the Gardens features air plants that require no soil. The display around the Visitor Center features dozens of different species of Tillandsia. Many of them are available for purchase in the Tower & Garden Gift Shop. With more than 550 species of Tillandsia, the genus is one of the largest and most diverse of the entire bromeliad family, accounting for approximately 550 of the over 2,500 species of bromeliads. It is only second to the orchid family in terms of diversity.
What began as nearly 50 acres of woodland gardens designed by Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. has grown to more than 600 acres of woodland gardens, nature trails, conservation lands and groves. The visual centerpiece of the National Historic Landmark is the 205-foot art deco and neo-Gothic Singing Tower, a pink marble and coquina stone architectural treasure that houses one of the world’s finest carillons. The 60 carillon bells ring every half hour and during daily concerts at 1 and 3 p.m.
On March 8-16, the Gardens will present the 22nd International Carillon Festival, when four emerging guest carillonneurs from around the world will debut world premiere performances on the Singing Tower. This festival’s theme is ‘New Music On Old Bells’ and visitors will hear selections from important American composers, digitally-synthesized music with live bells, and several new compositions.
Gardens carillonneur Geert D’hollander said, “This is one of the most important carillon festivals in the world because of the unique place that Bok Tower Gardens is and because of the history we have with composers who continue to write new music especially for the Singing Tower. It represents an opportunity to be experimental and to try new things that haven’t done before.”
This world-class carillon music along with the spectacular blooms is all included in Gardens’ general admission pricing of $12 for adults and $3 for children. Visitors can learn about the flora, fauna and history of the Gardens during hour-long guided garden walking tours through April 13, also included with general admission. Tour hours are Monday through Saturday at noon and 2 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.
Self-guided tours of Pinewood Estate, a 20-room, Mediterranean-style 1930s winter retreat, are available for a small additional fee. For tickets and more information, visit www.BokTowerGardens.org.
About Bok Tower Gardens:
Voted Florida’s best garden, Bok Tower Gardens is a National Historic Landmark located 10 miles from LEGOLAND Florida, 55 miles southwest of Orlando and 60 miles east of Tampa near Lake Wales in Central Florida’s rolling hills of citrus. Open every day of the year from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with last admission at 5 p.m. The Visitor Center, Café and Gift Shop are open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $12 for adults and $3 for ages 5-12. Members and children under 5 are admitted free. LEGOLAND ticket holders will receive free admission for children under 12. For more information, contact Bok Tower Gardens, 1151 Tower Boulevard, Lake Wales FL 33853; 863-676-1408 or visit www.BokTowerGardens.org.