Monday, March 11, 2019

Bok Tower Gardens

Bok Tower Gardens is one of Florida's gems. With 126 different species of birds, 50 acres of gardens to explore and fascinating architecture, the Gardens are an outdoors enthusiast’s dream. I wish Bok Tower Gardens was closer to Orlando. It is an hour and a half drive west from Downtown. Douing this sketch was a major challenge since mosquitoes were out in force. I spent more time swatting them that putting makes on the pace. If there is a noticeable frenetic energy to this sketch, that is the reason.

Edward W. Bok immigrated to America from Den Helder, Netherlands at age six, not understanding the language, customs or culture. Through determination and hard work, he became a highly successful publisher, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, respected humanitarian and an advocate of world peace and the environment.  in 1921, the idea came to him to preserve this hilltop and create a bird sanctuary – a place of beauty, serenity and peace.

Integral to his idea was the availability of a famous landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. who also designed Central park in NYC. Having made arrangements to buy land on the hilltop, Bok commissioned Olmsted to change this arid sand hill into “a spot of beauty second to none in the country.” The first year was spent digging trenches and laying water pipes for irrigation, after which thousands of truck loads of rich black soil were brought in.

With the proper conditions for a subtropical garden in place, the planting of bushes and trees began to provide food for migrating birds. Today, these plantings provide shade to visitors as well as refuge for squirrels and 126 bird species. I quickly sketched the giant floating water lilies.

The Singing Tower was designed by famed architect Milton B. Medary and ornately crafted by noted stone sculptor Lee Lawrie, the Tower houses one of the world’s finest carillons. Concerts from the 60-bell carillon fill the garden every day at 1p.m. and 3 p.m.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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