Christmas at Bok Tower Gardens
Good Morning, and Merry Christmas
Reflecting on our Time at Bok Tower Gardens…….
Hope you enjoy.
City of Lake Wales
We had the pleasure of visiting Bok Tower Gardens, in Lake Wales, Florida.
It was more of everything that I expected. Bigger, more beautiful, greener, more wildlife, more ponds, more flora and fauna, and more perfect than I had pictured it to be.
The last time I visited Bok Tower was as a little girl with my grandparents on one of our many trips to Florida. I didn’t remember much about it, other than the fact that they had brought me here.
Blue Herons Along Mountain Lake
On Our Way to Bok Tower Gardens
Unbeknownst to us the Blue Herons were a beautiful prelude to what we would discover at Bok Tower Gardens by Mr. Bok himself.
Bok Tower Gardens, also known as Bok Mountain, Lake Sanctuary, and Singing Tower, is a historical landmark located in central Florida.
Edward W. Bok, along with his wife, Mary Louise Curtis Bok, decided to create a bird sanctuary in 1921 on the highest peak in Florida, 298 ft. above sea level. Edward Bok was of Dutch ancestry. Bok commissioned landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. to transform this land into a sanctuary.
Mr. and Mrs. Bok
There are more than 100 bird species located at Bok Tower.
Bok wanted the gardens to feature a myriad of lovely trees, flowers, citrus orchards, and of course the centerpiece would be The Singing Tower.
The Singing Tower
The road to Bok Tower Gardens
Rows and Rows of Orange Groves
Bok Tower Gardens
Located at: 1151 Tower Blvd.
Lake Wales, Florida 33853
There is an admission fee.
I would check with their website to find out more.
The Visitor’s Center
Gordon Ready to Explore the Gardens
The Spanish moss is a favorite of mine, I love how it drapes trees and shrubs making them more beautiful than before.
“Make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it.”
The Beautiful Fountain Entrance
Rows and Rows of Bright Red Poinsettia’s
And no, the alligator is not real. 🙂
But we wanted to pose with it anyway.
Tour this beautiful home on the grounds of Bok Tower Gardens.
This is my favorite photo that I took during our visit. This sample table. It tells you everything that is in bloom at this time of year here here at Bok Tower Gardens.
We did enjoy looking around The Plant Shop.
The Pitcher Plant
We have a few of these around our house. Those pitchers eat the bugs kind of like a Venus Fly Trap. There is a syrupy liquid on the inside that attracts the bugs. They then get stuck in it and digested by the plant.
A Beautiful Wall of Potted Plants
This looks very Spanish to me, the Spanish did discover Florida after all.
Here are 4 photos of the same plant. I just couldn’t help myself. Such a lovely succulent.
I believe this is a Crassula Arborescens.
I do recognize the Spider Grass in the center but I’ll have to do some research on the pretty red and green plant. I do believe it to be Adenium Obescum.
Ornamental Pepper Plant
We have had a few of these in our years here in Florida.
They are so beautiful but not edible.
This is one of my most favorite palms here in Florida.
One of our many varieties of Air Plants here in Florida.
Red Poinsettia Balls on a Stake
An Air Plant Natural Fence
We have this variety of air plant all over our property. They tend to just blow in the wind from one tree or bush to the next. I love them. They found such a great and creative use for them here.
The Stone Walkway
This is a walkway in the garden center of the Visitor’s Center. The thought and time that went into creating this is wonderful! I love these kinds of little touches that someone took the time to do to make something a bit more special.
Inside The Visitor’s Center
Birds are the main focus of Bok Tower Gardens.
It’s nice to see that such a small creature is the main feature among all this magnificence.
Gordon With our Picnic Lunch
(We kept it in the car until we were ready to eat.)
We also had an excellent picnic lunch inside the sanctuary which I have to say is the nicest picnic I’ve ever been on. I feature our picnic further down this blog post, also our recipes, but I did want to say that they do allow alcohol inside the gardens. And there are so many secluded places to picnic. So much privacy. We loved it! The area that we found here was all ours. We didn’t even see anyone our entire picnic even though there were many people visiting Bok Tower Gardens on this day.
Our Picnic Lunch
Hand Painted Tiles
“Give to the world the best you have and the best will come back to you.”
Bok Tower Gardens are so big and massive that you do have to consult the maps they provide occasionally.
With our lunch in tow, Gordon and I are determined to find the most perfect picnic spot.
It was NOT this way……
This area was a more natural and rugged area. It was quite lovely but we wanted something a bit lush for our picnic.
We then decided to head this way.
A Christmas Arch
Walkway to the Singing Tower
I do admit that this post is very picture heavy. I don’t think that I have ever been as excited as I was to photograph so much beauty in my entire life. I must have taken about 2000 photographs and I will most likely post most of them here. 🙂 I will try and refrain myself but if you could have been with me then you would understand my excitement of sharing them all here. I will also do my best to label the plant life accurately. But, if I do mislabel something then please let me know. Some, I am very familiar with, others, I am not.
Pink Silk Mimosa, Powder Puff Trees
“Madame Hardy” a Damask Rose
I LOVE this TWISTED Tree!
A Forest of Bromeliads
We are a fan of Bromeliad’s and have several on our property.
I can’t believe that here is a forest of bromeliad’s.
A Bomeliad Christmas Tree at Buck House at Bok Tower Gardens.
More Beauty at Bok Tower Gardens
A Charming Downed Tree Trunk
Ferns and Moss Growing up a Tree Trunk
I don’t know why this is green and yellow but it is stunning!
A downed tree and the leftover stump.
THE Most Enchanting Pathway to the Singing Tower
I just expect to see fairy’s peeking out from the fern’s and motion me to follow them. 🙂
This is an area where tourists can sit and watch the Carillonneur playing the keyboard in the Singing Tower.
This live video image is transmitted from the playing cabin on level seven of the tower. The carillonneur is a mechanical linkage to the bells in the carillon. The 60-bell carillon is housed behind the large, colorful fuience grills comprising the top one-third of the tower. The music is coming directly from the carillon.
The Charming Benches to Watch the Performance on the Screen.
This is so lovely! First of all, we are at the highest point in the state of Florida while standing here. Secondly, this is a lovely coral with carved impressions of birds. Seating area…. tribute…. I don’t really know what this is, but it is beautiful!
A tribute to Edward William Bok from his neighbors of Mountain Lake Park
Conrad Hubert, Chairman
Plague Left: The summit upon which this resting place stands is about 324 feet above sea level. It is the highest point of land yet measured in peninsular, Florida by the government of the United States. It is also the highest land within 60 miles of The Atlantic Ocean and The Gulf of Mexico between Washington and the Rio Grande.
Plaque Right: This sanctuary of approximately 50 acres with it’s planting of native vegetation of Florida was the conception of Edward William Bok. It was designed and executed during 1924-1928 by Frederick Law Olmsted. It’s purpose is to provide a retreat and repose and natural beauty for the human. A refuge for the bird. And a place for the student of southern plant and bird life.
The Beautiful Herons
Benches of Coral
Again, I absolutely adore the Spanish moss draped over what I refer to as, “Spooky Trees.”
This is the highest point in the state of Florida.
Here we are standing at that point and overlooking this view.
This Beautiful Butterfly Joined us on our Picnic
THE Perfect Picnic Spot
We simply walked down a path that suddenly emerged into this grand area and we knew this was OURS!
I have to start off with our lovely Christmas tablecloth that I found at a thrift store for about $3.00. It is red and green and what you don’t see is the lovely gold thread throughout. I couldn’t have selected a more perfect tablecloth.
When we were planning our foods for our picnic I told Gordon that I wanted to eat “Flowers.”
Meaning, that I wanted our food to resemble flowers, not necessarily be flowers.
These were easy and fun!
I had found these ornamental balls filled with flavors at a liquor store, so all we had to do was to add some Vodka. Not only were they pretty colors but they also were different flavors. A very pretty festive addition to our picnic.
Our Picnic Spread
Add some fruit……
and my FAVORITE, Homemade Chex Party Mix…..
and our Floral Foods……
(The marinated red onion right, kind of resembles the lovely flower, left).
Our “Flower” food starts with this excellent Christmas Wreath Pasta Salad
Gordon created an excellent dressing to go with it.
Also the marinated red onions were such a nice topping as well.
The food was delicious, the picnic area perfect……
Our foods were light, yet filling, and beautiful all at the same time.
Gordon did an excellent job on our food.
For the recipes, see down below this blog post.
Time to pack up and get going to see more of beautiful Bok Tower Gardens.
From our picnic spot, this was our view! The Singing Tower.
It was also serenading us with Christmas Music as we ate. 🙂
Atop The Singing Tower
Gordon and I asked a passing grounds keeper who are the people at the top of the tower?
He then told us that they were birds. Oh, Birds! How perfect!
Although I do believe that my photos are very nice, they just do not do justice to the beauty of this place.
Birds Carved All Around the Tower
The Door is Brass!
The Pond Surrounding The Singing Tower
All the Lovely Wrought Iron
The Front of The Singing Tower
The beautiful carp that are all around The Singing Tower.
Coming to tourists to be fed.
They are so used to being fed by tourists that they come right up to you.
Edward Bok born October 9, 1863 at Den Helder The Netherlands died within sight of this tower, January 9, 1930. At his request his family placed his grave in the lawn in front of the great brass door. Coming to the United States as a poor immigrant boy of six. He achieved success as a writer and editor. Late in life he created the sanctuary as a place of repose for the human spirit. Built the tower with the great carillon as it’s central accent and presented them to the American people for visitation. As his thanks for the success they had given him.
Another One of my Beloved Spooky Trees
Another Metal Plant Art
A cute little squirrel ran past me.
This beautiful gate leads to some insignificant pump.
But I love that they took the time to place something unique here.
Gordon here at a waterfall pond, of sorts.
Pretty Little Dam
I happen to love frogs and saw this little cutie right next to my foot.
More Giant Lilly Pads
The Mountain Lake Sanctuary
The Sanctuary is owned by The American Foundation, a non-profit corporation created an endowed by Edward Bok to hold title to the Sanctuary and Singing Tower and to maintain them. Mr. Bok bought the property. Planted it, built the tower, and presented the Sanctuary to the American people for visitation. It was Dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge, on February 1, 1929.
The Sanctuary is under the protection of the public.
Often mistaken for a Cormorant, trying his best to swallow that FISH!
I was so very excited to photograph this!
I recorded this from start to finish and you can even see the fish going down it’s throat.
This was so beautiful and so exciting to witness.
If I could somehow be reincarnated into an animal I would chose a bird, and I would chose to live here. 🙂
I think the wildlife that live here and get to enjoy all of this beauty have life much better than most of us.
An Island in this Hidden Pond with another Metal Art Sculpture
My Most Favorite Bamboo
We also have a lot of this in our backyard.
STRING OF PEARLS
This is one of my favorite plants.
I have this in two small pots and they look so much like little green peas.
We actually have one of these in our backyard. I have been searching online for the correct name and I just cannot find it. But I will keep trying. I just love the beautiful orange little nuggets that lay below the fern like plant.
I have always had a thing for trees. Especially the unique ones. When I was an art student at my community collage in Pine Hurst, N.C. my art teacher noticed how much I love drawing trees and told me that my drawing’s looked like something Van Gogh would draw. (You know I treasured that compliment!)
We have one of these in our backyard and we love it! The Staghorn Fern is also known as an Elk Horn.
And as we were walking to the Welcome Center we couldn’t help but notice this scary ‘Children of the Corn’ cabin that freaked us out! What is the story with that?? 🙂
One Last Bathroom Break at the Welcome Center
What a GREAT DAY!!!
We hope that you enjoyed coming along with us on our visit to Bok Tower Gardens. We had such a lovely time and can’t wait to come back. I’ll bet Springtime will be perfect!
Gordon and Julie
Our Picnic Recipes
First Up: Our “Flowers” Palmiers
½ Large Vidalia Onion Finely chopped
2 Tbsp Olive Oil – I used the oil from the Sun Dried Tomatoes
3/4 Jar Sun Dried Tomatoes or about 1/2 Cup – Finely chopped
1 Cup Kalamata Olives – Finely Chopped
2 Cloves Garlic – Finely Chopped
2 tsp Fresh Thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste
2 Tbsp flour
2 Puff Pastry sheets – Very chilled but not Frozen
½ Cup Fresh Grated Parmesan cheese
2 Pieces of Parchment Paper
Start by slicing your onion using small cut both vertically and horizontally.
Using the oil from the Sun Dried Tomatoes, pour about 2 Tbsp into a medium sized sauté pan placed on Medium heat.
When the oil has heated to temp. drop in your sliced onions.
Sauté your onions well for about 8 min. or until translucent, be sure to flip them or stir occasionally for even cooking.
While the onions are cooking chop your Sun Dried Tomatoes.
And place them into a small bowl.
Check on those onions …
as you can see I have just a bit of caramelization going on… this will make the onions even sweeter.
We wanted more Sun Dried Tomatoes, so I had to open another jar…. We love these things.
Here I am chopping them up as well.
Drain your Kalamata Olives in a colander.
Slice your garlic into small pieces.
Drop them in with the onions and mix well. Cook the garlic for about 3 min.
Chop your Kalamata olives as shown Above.
And then place them into the bowl with your chopped Sun Dried Tomatoes.
Once your garlic has cooked, remove the garlic and onion mixture from the heat to cool.
Once cooled, place them in the small bowl.
Remove the Thyme from the stalks an place in the small bowl.
Lastly, add your salt and freshly ground pepper to the mixture and stir well.
Remove your Puff Pastry from the freezer and then out of the box. In about 10 min. they should be pliable enough to unfold as shown. Place them each on their own cookie sheet to help them keep cool if needed.
Evenly throw some flour on a clean cutting board so the pastry won’t stick, and place one sheet on top of the cutting board. Then, take your Sun Dried Tomato mixture and spread it evenly over the puff pastry going out far to both sides of one edge.
Here is a great picture Julie took of what I mean by both sides of one edge.
Now, grate a small amount of Cheese over the Sun Dried Tomato mixture as shown.
I started with the side that has the mixture all the way to the edge. I did this so the center of the roll would have filling and not just be a bread in the center. Roll one side of the Puff Pastry to the half way point as shown.
Now, roll the other side to evenly match the other as shown.
Slice the pastry in ½ inch sections.
Here you can see the thickness of the slice.
Carefully place the slices on your parchment paper lined cookie sheet and chill them in the refrigerator for about 10 Min. before cooking. Now is a great time to Preheat your oven to 400’F.
Here, we butted the ends of the pastry together to make them look like flowers.
Place the chilled pasties into the 400’F oven and bake for about 10 min. or until golden brown.
Remove them from the oven and place on a cooling rack.
Next Batch Ready
Here, I sliced more for the second batch! One just isn’t enough.
Great for Breakfast the next Morning. 🙂
Our Christmas Wreath Pasta Salad
Christmas in our Kitchen
When Gordon and I were planning food for our picnic I remembered that I had these beautiful pasta ‘leaves’ from Italy. I told him that I want to eat a Christmas Wreath. I wanted him to make something that resembled and reminded me of a Christmas Wreath. But it also had to be tasty. So, Gordon got to work and created this beautiful Wreath for us to eat.
6 Sweet & Smokey Chicken Sausage Links – Grilled and sliced
1 Yellow Squash – Diced
1 Zucchini Squash – Diced
1 Celery Stalk – Small Dice
1 ½ Cups Black Olives – Sliced in half
1 Cup Cherry Tomatoes – Sliced in half
1 Pomegranate – just the bright red seeds
½ Cup Parsley – fine chop
Here is a great picture of the sausage we used… this is nice and sweet and very flavorful.
Salad Dressing Ingredients:
Cranberry Olive Oil
Kikkoman Mirin – Sweet Cooking Rice Seasoning
Deitz & Watson Cranberry Honey Mustard
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Rice Wine Vinegar (NOT SHOWN)
1 Tbsp Sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste
The Pasta we used… they look like green leaves.
(These pasta’s that are from Italy are not only beautiful, but they are dyed with vegetables so that they are also healthy for you. I buy these at Tuesday Morning, the retail chain. But if you don’t have a Tuesday Morning then I would check online. Julie)
Ready to get Started…..
Parsley Washed and Drying
Start your pasta water in a large pot… adding some salt to the water to give the pasta some flavor…about a good Tbsp is good. Turn the water on to Medium High Heat.
Begin the salad by making the pickled onions.
Slice off the top and root end of the onion and then slice it in half as shown.
Peel off the outer skin and then slice the onion thinly.
In a medium sized bowl add about 1 Tbsp of salt.
Now add ~1/4 cup of Kikkoman Mirin – Sweet Cooking Rice Seasoning.
Add a touch of Cranberry Olive oil and about 1 Cup of Apple Cider Vinegar.
Add your sliced onions and mix all ingredients well.
Set aside in the refrigerator to let the pickling process begin…. It takes about 3 hours or more… sitting overnight is best.
When your pasta water is hot, add your pasta.
Now slice your Yellow Squash into small dice sized pieces.
To begin, slice off both ends of the squash then slice it in half and then into quarter lengths as shown.
Slice those pieces into long strips as shown, then dice all the slices.
Add your small dices, Yellow Squash to a large bowl.
Repeat the same process as above for the Zucchini Squash.
Once diced, add them to the bowl.
Slice one celery stalk into a small dice…
Basically, repeat the same steps as above, but this time make the long slices thinner. Doing this will produce a thinner dice as shown… and place them into the bowl.
When your pasta is done cooking as per the instructions, make sure it is not overcooked and still al dente or (cooked so as to be still firm when bitten), drain and rinse with cold running water until the pasta has cooled and stopped cooking.
Drain your Black Olives from the can in a small colander.
Slice your Olives in half as shown and place them into the bowl.
Do the same with your Cherry Tomatoes, and yes place them into the bowl.
Using another Medium sized bowl, make your Salad Dressing
Add your Honey Cranberry Mustard to the bowl.
Then your Cranberry olive oil, Rice Wine Vinegar, and your Kikkoman Mirin – Sweet Cooking Rice Seasoning
Now, whisk in your Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
A touch of ground pepper and sea salt.
Whisk again and set in the refrigerator to allow the ingredients to blend together.
Grill your Sausage
You can also just fry them up on the stove top with a little bit of olive oil, just until brown.
Nice close up of the grilled chicken sausages, Julie!
Add your pasta to the diced vegetables and add some of your salad dressing.
Toss all the ingredients together well, being careful not to hurt the fragile pasta leaves.
Slice just into the skin of the pomegranate as shown, going all the way around.
Pull the skin away to reveal the fruit seeds inside.
Gently remove the seeds from the inside skin of the fruit.
Add as many of the seeds you like to the salad and toss well again.
Now, slice your sausage links into rounds as shown.
Then slice the rounds in half, eating a few samples as you go… it’s good to be the Chef!
Add the sliced sausage to the salad.
Chop your parsley finely as shown and add it to the salad.
Mix all the ingredients well and you are done. Just before you are going to eat your salad, you add as much salad dressing as you like.
We miss you Sugar!
The sweetest little girl we ever knew. When we adopted her she had been abused. She was happy to live with us and be a part of our family. She appreciated us, loved us, and looked out for us. She died June 19th. It is our loss, forever.
Julie and Gordon