It’s springtime in Florida. Well, technically it isn’t spring yet, but when it comes to seasons, Florida definitely doesn’t play by the rules.
Spring Has Sprung
I love this time of year in my hometown and home state. Everything is blooming — azaleas, camellias, tabebuia, bougainvillea, and saucer magnolia. It’s a riot of color for a few weeks and it’s just lovely. A perfect time of the year to get outdoors and enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. The only negative is that it’s also oak tree pollen season. The trees are full of pollen that is released before their baby green leaves take over. Everything is covered in a greenish-yellow dust. It wreaks havoc on people with allergies. Fortunately, it doesn’t bother me.
There is an old Florida attraction about forty-five minutes away from my house — Bok Tower Gardens. This attraction was in its heyday long before the mouse took up residence and made Orlando the main tourist destination of the state. It is known for its beautiful gardens as well as its famous bell tower.
Even though it isn’t that far away, I’ve only been to Bok Tower Gardens a handful of times. Isn’t that how it usually goes, though? We travel all over and miss the treasures in our own back yard.
I’ve always wanted to visit when the azaleas were blooming. I knew they had a concentration of them. My husband and I had a day without any major obligations, one of the perks of this empty nest life, so I was able to talk him into a day trip. That they welcomed dogs, for a small fee, was an added bonus. Our doodle, Boone, loves a good car ride and loves being outside. It promised to be a beautiful day.
As we neared Bok Tower Gardens, my husband rolled down the windows as we drove through the gate and up the gently curved road to the visitor center. The fragrance was heavenly as we drove through a vibrant, working orange grove. The trees dripped with tiny white blossoms and orange globes of citrus waiting to be picked. I wished there was a way to capture the scent.
The brochure from the visitor’s center gave historical information about the park as well as a map of trails.
Bok Tower Gardens was established in 1929 by Edward W. Bok, a Dutch immigrant, as a gift to the people of America. Bok was an author and editor of the magazine, The Ladies’ Home Journal for thirty years. An interesting bit of trivia, he is given credit for coining the phrase “living room” to replace the term parlor or drawing room.
Bok had the beautiful bell tower built on one of the highest points in peninsular Florida, Iron Mountain — a whopping 298 feet above sea level. It is in a geographical area of Florida called The Ridge and you can see it long before you arrive. A few weeks ago, I was at a retreat on a lake in a neighboring town and we could see the “singing tower” from five miles away, as the crow flies.
Mr. Bok commissioned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. to design the gardens surrounding the bell tower which was the centerpiece of the park. The tower and gardens were dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge on February 1, 1929. According to the website, over twenty-three million people have visited since it first opened.
A Visual Journal
We enjoyed walking through the gardens and listening to the bell tower chime the hour. Our pup even seemed to enjoy the change of scenery. Although we didn’t stay for the twice daily carillon concert, we did hear a couple of short tunes. Best of all, I got to see some beautiful flowers.
If you would like to find out more about Bok Tower Gardens, click here. If you live in central Florida or you’re traveling through, you should definitely check it out. Click here if you would like to find out about some of the other nostalgic Florida tourist attractions. Meanwhile, enjoy a few photos from my recent visit. Hopefully, it will bless you with hopeful thoughts of the beauty of spring — especially if you’re reading this from somewhere cold and snowy.