Gardening Basics

Visit a Public Garden This Winter

By Jean Starr


PlantersPlace is pleased to initiate a series listing some of the best public gardens. Winter is an especially good time for a visit to a public garden because it can provide an out-of-season experience. Whether you are snowbound in the Midwest or just taking a winter’s break in a friendlier climate, why not schedule a visit to one of the public gardens featured in this article? In order of appearance, they are located in Lake Wales, FL, Phoenix, AZ and Grand Rapids, MI.

Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales, FL, is a National Historic Landmark, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., and gifted to the public by founder Edward William Bok in 1929.  Not only does it feature several formal themed gardens, Bok Tower Gardens is a designated site on the Great Florida Birding Trail. Hours and directions: Bok Tower Gardens is located 55 miles southwest of Orlando and 60 miles east of Tampa near Lake Wales, Florida, and is open every day of the year from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., 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.

  • Special Gardens and Features:
    • The Singing Tower carillon concerts are at 1 & 3 p.m. daily with short selections played on the hour and half-hour. The carillon schedule features live concerts from mid-October through mid-May, Thursday to Sunday. Concerts can be heard throughout the Gardens and there is no additional ticket required.
    • The Edible Garden and Outdoor Kitchen are two new features consisting of a fruit orchard, grape arbors, and raised beds for herbs and vegetables. It’s a perfect spot to gather inspiration for your own home garden. The Outdoor Kitchen commands a 6,400 square feet space, complete with a wood fired brick oven, grill, cook top and range. With its center island countertop, it’s the ideal place for chef demonstrations.
    • Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden just opened last fall to great response. It’s nearly three acres of fun in the form of natural exploration. The perfect place for kids of all ages to climb on a larger-than-life indigo snake, crawl inside a tortoise burrow, and spider-walk along a humongous web. Fountains, foggers and misters, an outdoor kitchen with kid-sized water pump, and fairy house trail all keep kids immersed in outdoor play and learning.
    • Trails: Visitors will discover four different Florida ecologies as they walk through a pine savanna, oak hammock, wetland prairie and bog. And don’t forget the wildlife—including some of the 126 species of birds that can be seen throughout the year.
    • Pinewood Estate is a 20-room Mediterranean-style mansion built in the 1930s, and now open for tours throughout the year. Don’t miss the beautiful floral displays in each room from February 1 through March 31.
  • Early Spring Experience: From orchids and exotic irises to freshly green trees dripping with Spanish moss, the first three months of the year lead into Bok Tower Gardens’ peak bloom season. Azaleas and camellias steal the show, while Yellow Plume, Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow, Princess Flower, Tree Dahlia, Chinese Hat, Popcorn Senna, Gardenia, Jasmine and Brazilian Red Cloak join in the carnival of color. The weather is usually spectacular, with an occasional cold snap into the 40s, but most days are sunny and clear with temperatures in the 70s.
  • Creature comforts: Of course there are bathroom facilities, a gift shop and the Blue Palmetto Café, serving salads, soups, sandwiches and wraps, fruit and desserts as well as beer and wines. It is located next to the Visitor Center, and open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Boxed lunches can be ordered for take-out or dine in.

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