Landis Membership Away from Home

By Sue Tricario

A membership at the Landis Arboretum is your passport to over 360 public gardens and arboreta in North America. Landis’ participation in the American Horticultural Society’s (AHS) Reciprocal Garden Network entitles you to free or reduced admission and discounts at these gardens.

This year, while spending the winter in Florida, I planned a trip to Bok Tower Gardens, an easy hour’s drive south of my location. With my Landis Arboretum membership, I was able to get in free, as the $20 entrance fee was waived.

These gardens were made possible through the efforts of Edward W. Bok, an immigrant from Denmark. In 1919, Mr. Bok retired from a successful career in publishing to Lake Wales, FL, and in 1922, he purchased 14 acres atop Iron Mountain. It became his mission to turn an arid sandhill into “a spot of beauty second to none in the country.” And Bok did just that. Over five years, he managed to create a sanctuary with food and shelter for migrating birds and other wildlife.

Bok Tower
Bok Tower

As I walked up to the Bok Tower and Gardens, I saw an elegant 205-foot tower surrounded by lush foliage. Farther up the path is the Visitors Center with a theater, museum, and a display of the garden’s current blooms.

Southern Camelia
Southern Camellia

After enjoying the center, I continued through the gardens to the Bok Singing Tower to hear the bells. Along the way, I passed through the Pollinator Garden and the Wild Garden. Varieties of azalea, camelia, dianthus, bromeliad and parrot flower were just a few of the species on display. The Tower is the highlight of the Gardens. It contains 60 bells with a musical range of 5 octaves.

The neighboring estate, El Retiro, which means “The Retreat”, was the winter home of Charles Austin Buck from 1932 until his death in 1945. The home and land were acquired by Bok Gardens in 1970. Mr. Buck was President of Bethlehem Steel, and the opulent furnishings of the house reflect his wealth. Like the Tower and Gardens, it is on the National Register of Historic Places. A separate ticket is required to tour the home.

The gardens are well worth the trip, featuring many plantings that flourish in a subtropical climate in which temperatures range from the warm to the very hot. In both flora and terrain, it is a world very different from Landis’ lush green fields and temperate plantings of trees and shrubs. Both gardens provide the beauty and tranquility which, in today’s stressful world, nourish the spirit.

For more information on using your Landis membership at other public gardens and arboreta, visit the American Horticultural Society (AHS) webpage at (

Spring 2024

Volume 42 , Number 1

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