Bok Tower Gardens embarks on largest expansion in its history

The Board of Directors and executive staff of Bok Tower Gardens is hosting a groundbreaking ceremony on Friday, October 24 at 11 a.m., representing the start of the largest garden expansion in the 85-year history of the National Historic Landmark.

In February of this year, the Gardens announced the public phase of a $12 million capital campaign, Preserve the Legacy, Steward the Future to keep the Gardens relevant and sustainable.

To date, the Gardens has raised nearly $10.5 million, which is enabling construction to begin on the major new garden spaces, including a new:

  • Children’s Garden
  • Outdoor Kitchen and Edible Garden
  • Wild Garden
  • Oval Lawn and Pollinator Garden

“It’s an exciting time in the history of Bok Tower Gardens as we are starting to realize our vision for the future,” says Gardens’ president David Price. “We’re making big changes as part of this first phase of our 25-year master plan, and everything begins October 24 as we break ground on exciting new gardens.”

“The community is invited to come out for free and join our Board and staff for a ceremony at 11 a.m.,” Price said. “We’ll have a few guest speakers, followed by visits to the sites of the outdoor kitchen, children’s garden, pollinator garden, and wild garden.” Three undeveloped acres of land north of the Visitor Center is being transformed into two of these distinctive and engaging garden spaces—the children’s garden and outdoor kitchen.

Bok Tower Gardens Rendering

Children’s Garden

Keeping children in touch with nature is important to building their confidence, independent spirit, critical thinking, and ultimately their capacity for environmental stewardship. The new 2.7-acre 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, performance stage, and music area. Children will have things to climb on, under and through, as well as places to build, dig and create.

“We need to have refuges like this that can be maintained for future generations,” said Board Chair Michael Aloian. “If this place were to go away, I feel that the State of Florida would turn into a big parking lot. We have too many places where we have immediate need for gratification, and I think the Gardens offer the complete opposite of that.”

Outdoor Kitchen and Edible Garden

Adjacent to the children’s garden will be a new kitchen garden that connects farm to table. Lake Flato Architects of San Antonio has designed an inviting outdoor open kitchen space in harmony with the landscape. A gift from Danielle Fence & Outdoor Living is helping make possible a pizza oven, fire pit, grills, cooktops, and other appliances.

Edible display gardens surrounding the kitchen will be a welcoming destination for daytime or nighttime educational programs and events showcasing lifestyle gardening and the culinary arts. Cooking demonstrations, receptions, school group programs, and private rentals will make this area a hub of horticultural and culinary activity.

The nearby discovery center, also designed by Lake Flato, will offer space for scheduled programs, small classroom learning, and staging for field trips or groups.

Wild Garden

Campaign funds are also transforming seven acres of the northern garden into a haven for wildlife and native plants. The expanded wild garden, encompassing the existing Window by the Pond and Endangered Plant Garden, will showcase a variety of Florida native plants and landscapes including an oak hammock, wet prairie, sandhill preserve, wetland and bog.

The new bog will serve as a natural filtration system for the exiting pond. Water-loving plants will absorb excess nutrients that otherwise contribute to algae growth. The pond itself will be made deeper, repaired, and replanted with a rich variety of Florida natives to attract birds and wildlife. A 170-foot boardwalk through the new wetland and bog area will provide visitors with an immersive experience into the new landscape.

Oval Lawn and Pollinator Garden

A gentle grade to a spectacular new oval walkway and special event lawn is being constructed behind the 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 strollers, the primary path is being re-graded and paved to meet ADA compliance, using a material and color that blends with the garden setting.

“A ribbon of pathway was paved through the historic core gardens this summer,” explains Price. “We used a reddish-brown aggregate that will give the surface a warm brown tone as it wears. This treatment is already making the walk smoother for visitors with strollers and wheelchairs.”

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.

“Accessibility for everyone has been a really important piece of our planning process, so that young and old can together enjoy the entire Gardens,” said Cindy Alexander, co-chair of the campaign.

Restoration work on the Tower begins next summer and will focus on removing rust, sealing, and painting the iconic tile grilles surrounding the bell chamber at the top of the Tower.

“Most designated construction areas won’t disrupt our current visitation, and we’re staging things in a way that least impacts the visitor experience,” Price said. “This will be about an 18-month-long project and is expected to be completed in late spring of 2016.”

Supporting the Campaign

To date, the Gardens’ Preserve the Legacy, Steward the Futurecampaign has generated nearly $10.5 million of the $12 million needed to complete all the projects. Publix Super Markets Charities are bringing the Florida water story to life in the new children’s garden with the lead gift for River Run. The Mosaic Company stepped forward with both a financial gift and 492 tons of rock to surface secondary walks in the pollinator garden, kitchen garden, and along the Pine Ridge Trail.

Last month, an anonymous donor within the GiveWell Community Foundation issued a challenge gift of $250k to support the new children’s garden because they were inspired by the Gardens’ vision for the future.

Dozens more unique donor stories are surfacing with this campaign. Jeanne Jahna, also known as “Granny Greenthumbs,” will forever be remembered with a gift made by her children through the Jahna Foundation to establish the Fairy House Trail in the children’s garden. Long-time supporters Frank and Carol Drake considerBok Tower Gardens one of their favorite places in the world, and with five grandchildren decided to invest in helping make the children’s garden a reality.

“We enjoy how peaceful the Gardens are and appreciate just how hard the staff works to preserve its natural beauty,” says Frank and Carol Drake. “We’re excited about the Gardens’ plans for the future, and we love the idea of a children’s garden to connect young people with nature.”

Options are now available to honor someone with a commemorative bench, chair, or table and chair set. Gifts of cash or securities may be made outright or pledged up to a maximum of five years. Specific gift provisions through one’s estate, for donors over age 70, will qualify for campaign recognition.

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.

For more information visit boklegacy.org.

Information provided by Brian Ososky, Director of Marketing & Public Relations via a press release 

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