Bok Tower

It was already debatable whether Bok Tower Gardens, which attracts visitors both domestic and international, could be considered a best kept secret.

Even if it was, though, it likely won’t be for long — not with the Lake Wales destination among the 20 botanical gardens nominated in USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice contest for Best Botanical Gardens.

Voting is currently underway in the contest and will run through noon on April 22. At that point, the 20 nominees will be whittled down to a definitive top-10 list via a public vote.

For Bok Tower staff, though, simply being included in the original list of nominees is a pretty cool bit of recognition.

After all, that list of 20 botanical gardens from throughout all of North America was decided upon by a panel of experts — including Katy Moss Warner, currently President Emeritus of the American Horticultural Society (AHS), a national, not-for-profit, member- based organization with a bold vision of “making America a nation of gardeners, a land of gardens.”

“This list is the premiere gardens list in the world, basically,” explained Erica Smith, the Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Bok Tower Gardens. “It was a huge honor that we were able to join our sister gardens on the list.”

Other botanical gardens nominated for the 10Best contest include facilities from larger markets, including Washington D.C., San Francisco, Brooklyn, Montreal, Dallas and Chicago. And, as Smith noted, not only is Bok Tower competing with facilities in much larger markets — it is competing with several facilities that are just plain larger.

“One of the things I think about is the fact that many (of the nominees) are gigantic gardens and we are probably one of the smaller ones listed on that list,” Smith said.

Bok Tower may well be in a smaller market, but it clearly has an outsized fan base. As of April 8, Bok Tower Gardens was ranked third out of the 20 nominees in online voting.

Smith said that in addition to Bok Tower staff getting the word out about where and how to vote — supporters can vote here: 10best.com/awards/travel/best-botanical- garden-2019/ — they have been pleasantly surprised with other community organizations throughout Polk and beyond who are also encouraging people to get out the vote.

“I’ve been so thrilled seeing other community organizations sharing — it’s growing beyond just us asking people to vote,” Smith said. “It’s really gratifying to know we have other people out in the community who want us to shine.”

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