Bok Tower Gardens Announces $12 Million in Improvements as Part of 85th Anniversary

Bok Tower Gardens is already one of Central Florida’s best natural attractions but to help kick off the 85th Anniversary a massive $12 million capital campaign has been announced with $7.7 million already raised.  Four major initiatives were unveiled that will create a more welcoming Bok Tower Gardens experience for all guests.  Starting this summer the phased construction project will take 18-22 months to complete, with the Gardens remaining opening during the construction. When one goes to shop a plot plan, they’d know that the optimum period of construction for a house to be constructed would be in the same range.

Known as Preserve the Legacy, Steward the Future the capital campaign will focus on;

  • Rejuvenation of the Historic Core Garden ($2.5 million)
  • Improved Accessibility ($1.5 million)
  • Telling the Bok Tower Gardens Story ($2.1 million)
  • Stewarding the Gardens for Future Generations ($5.9 million)

“It’s an exciting time in the history of Bok Tower Gardens as we are about to undertake our vision for the future. We’re making big changes, without changing the spirit of the Gardens our guests have grown to love,” said Gardens’ president David Price.

Following a careful selection process, Bok Tower Gardens chose the landscape architecture firm of Nelson Byrd Woltz, based in Charlottesville, Virginia, and some other Garden Paving services to create the designs for the new garden spaces. The firm’s owner and principal, Thomas Woltz, was named the Design Innovator of 2013 by Wall Street Journal Magazine and is known for his holistic design approach and working knowledge of Olmsted landscapes, like that of the Gardens.

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“Our work is rooted in science and observation, finding the voice of a site, and interpreting that for people to see and hear,” Woltz said. “Making the land visible is a big part of what our design work is about.”

“Throughout most of 2013, our staff, Board, and Nelson Byrd Woltz have been hard at work preparing to initiate Phase I of our 25-year master plan,” Price said.

Details  and more images on the 4 areas of focus are below.  Those interested in supporting the campaign can visit the Gardens website for more information. According to Joan Thomas, director of development at the Gardens, there are a variety of creative naming and recognition opportunities in this campaign. “You can make a gift in honor or memory of someone close to the Gardens, associate your name with a major feature in our new garden areas, or consider an endowed fund opportunity,” Thomas said.

Bok Tower Gardens Overall Garden Design 80-scale

Rejuvenation of the Historic Core Garden—$2.5 million

The 60-bell carillon Tower and historic Olmsted gardens are at the heart of the Edward Bok legacy. To ensure this National Historic Landmark is preserved for future generations, the Tower must continue to be well maintained. Particular attention will be given to removing rust, sealing, and painting the iconic tile grilles surrounding the bell chamber at the top of the Tower.

Every 25 to 30 years, a thorough evaluation of plantings in the historic core garden is made to ensure the original Olmsted design principles are adhered to, and that plantings remain healthy and thriving. These larger, critical restoration projects require funding above normal annual operating budgets and will include a comprehensive editing of plants, replacement of older plantings to ensure plant health, and augmentation of plantings to feature greater plant diversity, colors, and textures near primary walkways.

Access the Gardens Differently—$1.5 million

A gentle grade to a spectacular new oval walkway and special event lawn will be constructed behind the Gardens’ Visitor Center to help guests more easily find their way to Pinewood Estate, the Singing Tower, and the new expansion gardens to the north.

Because increasing numbers of visitors with limited mobility utilize wheelchairs and families with young children require the use of stroller, the primary path will be re-graded and paved to meet ADA compliance, using a material and color that blends with the garden setting.

The Blue Palmetto Café will offer expanded outdoor seating next to a colorful pollinator garden which will attract birds and butterflies, while a new dedicated shuttle route through the core Garden will offer a convenient pick-up point adjacent to the Visitor Center, enabling guests with limited mobility to enjoy more of an immersive garden experience.

Bok Tower Gardens Oval Lawn, New Entry Perspective

 Telling Our Story—$2.1 million

Inside the Visitor Center are exhibits that tell the story of Edward Bok and the Gardens. However, these exhibits are static and dated, and have not changed since the Visitor Center’s opening in 1997.  To tell a more comprehensive Bok Tower Gardens story, a series of dynamic exhibits will be installed, using modern technology and other media to engage and inspire people of all ages.

To the north of the historic landscape garden is a diverse native habitat that tells a very ancient story about Florida. Those familiar with the Gardens’ “wild side” at Window by the Pond and the Pine Ridge Trail know these areas are a magnet for wildlife.

Funding is needed for restoration and expansion of this area that will take visitors through an eight-acre diversity of Florida ecologies, including an oak hammock, sandhill preserve, and wetland bog. Additionally, the Garden’s existing pond is leaking and must be repaired. Window by the Pond and the Endangered Plant Garden will remain intact to be discovered by new generations of visitors.

Bok Tower Gardens Bog, Wild Garden Perspective

Stewarding the Gardens for Future Generations—$5.9 million

Recent research into daily visitation revealed that while a new generation of visitors ages 40 and under is coming to the Gardens, they are not staying very long. Those with young children are looking for an opportunity for unrestricted play and more modern, family-friendly amenities. Three undeveloped acres of land north of the Visitor Center will be transformed into two distinctive and engaging garden spaces.

The new Children’s Garden will be a place of hands-on fun, natural beauty, learning, and creative play.

Reflecting the unique spirit of Bok Tower Gardens, this garden will teach conservation and the vital connection between animals, plants, and people. There will be beautiful art, cooling water features, vibrant plantings, a boardwalk, canopy climb, and a performance stage and music area.

The Discovery Center at the entrance of the Children’s Garden will offer space for programs, small classroom learning, and staging for field trips or groups.

Adjacent to the Children’s Garden will be a new Kitchen Garden that connects farm to table. Edible display gardens surrounding an outdoor kitchen will be a welcoming destination for daytime or nighttime educational programs and events showcasing lifestyle gardening and the culinary arts. From cooking demonstrations to VIP receptions with well-organized worktop spots and other facilities (go to to see granite countertops been used), and from private rentals to school group programs, this new garden will be a hub of horticultural and culinary activity.

The Kitchen Garden also will complement the Gardens’ new University of Florida /IFAS educational partnership to develop school vegetable gardening programs throughout the State.

Kitchen Looking South Bok Tower Gardens Children's Garden Perspective Bok Tower Gardens Children's Garden 10-scale