Bok Tower Gardens

Bok Tower Gardens has been hosting visitors at it since 1929.  It was a gift from its founder Edward W. Bok.  An immigrant arriving at the age of six from the Netherlands who did not speak the language.  He worked hard and that all paid off as he became a successful publisher, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, humanitarian, and environmentalist.

 

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Bok’s grandmother would always tell him…

“make you the world a bit better or more beautiful because you have lived in it”

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Mr. Bok would spend the winters in the Lake Wales area and he came to love the location.  He would often take walks to Iron Mountain.  Iron Mountain is one of the highest points in Florida at 295 feet above sea level.  It was here he decided to build the garden.  He purchased the land and slowly transformed it to the gardens seen today.

 

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The feature that makes Bok Tower Gardens so unique is that Mr Bok commissioned the construction of the Singing Tower.  The Singing Tower is a 60-bell carillon that can be seen from miles around.

We love to take the drive to these gardens to just enjoy the sights and sounds of what Mr. Bok gave to us.

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When Mr. Bok first envisioned his gardens it was very important to him that the famous landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., design his sanctuary.

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The one funny thing we saw while on our trip at Bok Tower Gardens was that the gardens were in between holiday changes for the season.

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Strawberries Coming Soon

Here in Central Florida strawberry season starts late in November.  There are a lot of U-Pick farms and one of our favorites is Bekemeyer Family Farm not too far from where we live.

They grow all their strawberries using hydroponics.  They also grow vegetables at the bottom of each hydroponic column.

When it is strawberry season we go almost every week to pick so that we can enjoy this fruit in a variety of ways.

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Meyer Lemons in the Garden

Our Meyer Lemon tree produces very juicy and tasty lemons almost year round.

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They have multiple uses in the kitchen.  Start the day with juice for cleansing the body.  Use it in a lot of recipes, cooking, salad dressings, and flavor enhancements for dishes.  Sometimes when we feel like splurging on calories we make lemon bars, lemon pound cake, and lemon preserves.

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Today’s lunch was made using lemons on everything.  The menu was Lemon Moroccan Chicken, kale, green beans with a lemon sundried tomato dressing.  Eggplant, chickpeas, broccoli baked in the oven with lemon slices and spices.

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Robert is Here

Robert was a little boy when he opened a fruit stand in 1959 at the age of 6 to help his father sell produce from the family farm.  His father put up a sign to get the attention from people driving by.  It said, “Robert is Here.”

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Robert is still around in his tropical fruit stand located in Homestead, FL.  He has a big variety of fruits to offer in season.

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One of the things the fruit stand is famous for today, are their milkshakes.  They are made fresh from the fruits and they are delicious.  Our favorite is the Mango.  Nevertheless, there are many to choose from.  On a regular day they sell about 500 milkshakes and during peak season they can sell over 1,400 milkshakes.  They also have a petting zoo for the kids, which is alot of fun for adults too.

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Their property is still an operating farm with vegetables and fruit trees.

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The fruit stand is in close proximity to a bunch of other South Florida attractions.

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A Road Trip to Monticello

In September, the Heritage Harvest Festival is held at Monticello.  The famous home of the third President of the United States, Thomas Jefferson.  He was an avid gardener and a collector of plants and seeds.

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His home is a World Heritage Site.   When we went we enjoyed a lecture by P. Allen Smith from PBS television.

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We also enjoyed a tour of Thomas Jefferson’s collection of trees from around the world spread through out the property.

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Of course we took a tour of the mansion and a tour of the vegetable garden.

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Plus we got to enjoy tasting a wonderful harvest from the local area at the Heritage Harvest Festival.

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“Honesty is the first chapter of the book wisdom.” – Thomas Jefferson

Flowers in Our Garden

Today we are going to introduce you to Tecomanthe Dendrphila or the New Guinea Creeper Vine.

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This is a beautiful tropical flowering vine.  It blooms in our garden twice a year with pink trumpet flowers that grow on the old woody stems underneath the leaves.

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“Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature.” – Gerard De Nerval

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Showcase of Gardens

Today we highlight a wonderful botanical garden in the heart of St. Petersburg, FL.  Recently we went to visit some friends and while there we all decided to check out the Sunken Gardens.

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In the historic northeast district of St. Petersburg is where the 100 year old garden is located.  It is home to some of the oldest tropical plants in the area.

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In 1903 a plumber named Mr. George Turner, Sr. purchased the land just outside of St. Petersburg.  At the time St. Petersburg had a population of 1500.  However, the property was basically a 4 acre lake and George wanted to get to the fertile soil at the bottom of the lake.  So… George decided to drain the lake to get to that soil.  Imagine trying to do that today, the public outcry would have been deafening.

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Being a plumber George figured out a way to drain the lake and started his below sea level garden by planting a few fruit trees and a small vegetable garden.  He continued adding to the garden by building walkways and planting tropical plants.  Being sunken below ground level and the humidity levels encapsulated within this little bubble allowed for a tropical jungle to grow.

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Eventually, locals started coming by to buy his fruits and vegetables and by 1920 a quarter would get you into the gardens to stroll this unique tropical location.  In the 1950s the family added tropical birds to the garden.  In 1967, the family bought the property next door (a former supermarket) and opened the “Worlds Largest Gift Shop.”

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The family kept the gardens opened until the 1970s as a tourist attraction but soon after closed it and maintained the property as best they could.  In 1998, St Petersburg declared the gardens a local historic landmark and saved the property.

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In the heart of Madrid is one of the premier botanical gardens of the world.  It is called El Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid (The Royal Botanical Gardens of Madrid).

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In 1755, Fernando VI ordered the creation of these gardens.  In 1774, it was moved to its current location by Carlos III, where it was inaugurated in 1781.

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It is well known for its wild roses garden which are pictured above.

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Typical of garden designs from the period there are statues and fountains throughout.

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It is located directly across the street from the Prado museum and is a great place to take a break.

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“Earth laughs in flowers.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Pumpkins are Fall

At this time of year, pumpkins highlight the decorations and food in our homes.

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We grow several different pumpkins in our garden.  We eat them in soups, pastas, breads, and even desserts.  The best part is that we can freeze the leftovers in portions to be used later during the year.

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Kale from the Garden

This morning we picked some Kale from the garden.

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We love Kale salads.  The reason is that you can put whatever you like on it.

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Today’s Kale salad had the fresh Kale we picked as well as fresh cucumbers from the garden.  We also added tomatoes, quinoa, feta cheese, olives, and a Meyer Lemon dressing (the lemon was also from the garden).  The dressing was 1 part lemon, 2 parts olive oil, salt, pepper, and a dash of pomegranate molasses.

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