The Landscape Architect designed eight acres of new garden space within the 250-acre property, substantially increasing the horticultural collection of Bok Tower Gardens and providing new programming abilities and educational opportunities. They worked within the 50-acre core of the existing historic gardens to improve circulation throughout and promote access to the 1928 Neo-Gothic Singing Tower, which houses cast bronze bells precisely tuned and arranged in chromatic progression.

The design honors the original philanthropic intent of the Gardens and historic vision of Olmsted Jr., while expanding accessibility and outreach to include a expanded visitor population and inspire stewardship for generations to come.


Provide Universal Access to a National Historic Landmark

An important aspect of the Landscape Architect’s initial work was to clarify a system of pathways within the historic core of the property to promote accessibility of the Olmsted Gardens and the Singing Tower. The gardens had utilized a series of loose mulch pathways which were difficult or impossible for the elderly and physically-challenged to navigate. The charge was to sensitively add paved pathways through existing mature plant collections, maintaining critical views of and from the Tower and restoring path layouts of the original Olmsted Jr. design. The design carefully integrated historic design documents and consideration of mature trees and important existing plant collections, while responding to subtle topographic changes across the site. The resulting circulation strategy created a garden with vastly expanded access for those with limited mobility, increasing visitorship to more areas of the garden and reintroducing the original visitor sequence, while remaining sensitive to the historic character of the gardens. The visitor’s approach to the Singing Tower was dramatically altered when parking and arrival was moved to another part of the property. The Landscape Architect advocated for a new circulation sequence that would bring the visitor back to the original Olmsted Jr. era entrance allowing for a longer procession through mature gardens to offer glimpses of the Tower before one arrived at its base.

Expand Bok Tower Garden’s Mission

The Landscape Architect was also commissioned to create several new spaces within the existing property to expand the offerings of Bok Tower Gardens and to reorganize the visitor experience. An entry garden and Oval Lawn were created to give clarity to a new circulation strategy offering options beyond visiting the Singing Tower and surrounding historic gardens. A pollinator garden, wild garden, wetland and bog garden, edible garden and children’s garden were designed to highlight regional ecological systems while providing opportunities for expanded community outreach and programming. The gardens also highlight important stories of species interdependence between plants and animals (carnivorous plants in the Bog Garden or unique insect-plant selections in the Pollinator Garden), humans and plants (fire-supported Sandhill Pine Forest regeneration in the Wild Garden), and within human culture (music, art and drama in the Children’s Garden; vegetable propagation and food production in the Edible Garden). These new gardens explore themes unique to Central Florida which complement the mission of BTG to “share Edward Bok’s gift of a beautiful and serene garden with music, architecture and nature, so that all who visit will be inspired by his vision.”

Promote Environmental Stewardship

The location of Bok Tower Gardens provides a direct connection to the native Sandhill Pine Forest ecosystem. By carefully designing the sequence of new garden experiences, visitors can make visual and physical connections to the garden’s Pine Ridge Reserve Trail while experiencing the diversity of other regional ecosystems displayed in the new garden spaces. The Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden highlights these ecosystems to tell a story of species interdependence, notably through the narrative of “Keystone Species” like the endangered Gopher Tortoise in Central Florida. The imaginative play elements and native plantings are distributed among majestic existing live oak trees within a circuit that encourages creative expression and exploration. Many of the play elements are specifically designed to inspire empathy for the creatures by allowing children to occupy spaces that mimic the animals’ natural habitats. The Children’s Garden expands the ability to provide educational programming to a broader range of local children within a space that feels uniquely of its place. The garden hopes to inspire a new generation of environmental stewards. The Edible Garden and Outdoor Kitchen house collections of plants useful to the home or school gardener for food production and are beneficial for insect habitat. The adjacency of the garden to the kitchen provides a direct visible and physical relationship between food and eating. An educational partnership with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has been bolstered by these new garden spaces and is supported by new buildings designed by the Architectural collaborators.

Extend Edward Bok’s Legacy

Today, Bok Tower Gardens offer a cohesive sequence of garden spaces that takes visitors on a journey through agriculture, native Florida habitats, environmental education, creative play, and historic gardens. The original vision of a bird sanctuary and Singing Tower has expanded to inspire new audiences for decades to come.

Landscape Architect: Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects
Other designers involved in the design of landscape
Mary Wolf Landscape Architect and Coyle & Caron Landscape Architects

Project location
1151 Tower Boulevard
Lake Wales, Florida 33853
United States

Design year
2013 through 2016

Year built


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