Tropical Florida Gardens - What's in Bloom at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates?

Tropical Florida Gardens

What's in Bloom at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates?

Gardening for Butterflies

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On June 7th

Perhaps you’ve seen some butterflies in your garden and wondered how you could attract more of them. Debbie Hughes, senior horticulturist at Edison & Ford Winter Estates, will talk about butterflies that can be found here in Southwest Florida and which plants you need to attract them to your garden, at the next Garden Talk.

It’s important to know which butterflies already exist in and around your neighborhood. If you live in Southwest Florida, you are not going to be able to attract a butterfly that only resides in California. Once you learn which butterflies are in your area, you can concentrate on the plants that each one needs for survival.  

There are two categories of plants that every butterfly garden must have: host plants and nectar plants. Host plants are the ones that butterflies lay eggs on and the caterpillars (larval stage) eat. Nectar plants are simply plants that butterflies will visit for nectar. Both types of plants are essential for butterflies to exist.

Butterflies have very specific requirements for the host plant; some will only lay their eggs on one type of plant. Keep in mind that these plants will get eaten – sometimes every leaf on the plant will be devoured by very hungry caterpillars. Don’t worry, the plants can handle it and new leaves will form in a short amount of time.

Nectar requirements are not as specific. Some butterflies have favorite nectar sources, but generally, they will visit many different flowers for the sweet, energy-packed, sugary liquid. Some butterflies have color preferences, some like flying low across the yard and others like to fly high amongst tree tops. To attract a wide range of butterflies, it’s a good idea to offer a variety of flower colors and plants that grow at different heights, including ground covers, shrubs and trees. 

To learn about the butterflies of Southwest Florida and how to create a butterfly garden that they won’t be able to resist, come to the Garden Talk on June 9 at 10 a.m. at Edison & Ford Winter Estates. The cost of the workshop is $15 ($10 for Edison Ford members) and all participants will receive a 20% discount coupon for use toward Garden Shoppe purchases. Many different types of host and nectar plants will be available.

Garden Talk: Vegetable Gardening

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On November 1st

Planting season is in full swing now that fall is here in Southwest Florida! But did you know that you can garden year-round in the Fort Myers and Naples area and expect a good harvest? Come to our next Garden Talk on November 11, 2017 at 10 am at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates to learn about the types of vegetables that will grow well for the next few months and even year-round.

From sweet potatoes to pandan to pest-control, this talk will cover a lot of ground and isn’t your typical “How to Grow Tomatoes” presentation. Learn composting tips, companion planting recommendations and how to increase your growing success. Edison Ford Garden Specialist, Eric Francovitch, and Arlo Simonds, FGCU Food Forest president and manager of the Pine Manor Community Garden, will teach the class and answer your questions about growing edibles at your home.

Wear close-toed shoes, a hat and sunscreen and bring water to drink. A 20% off coupon will be provided for use toward Edison Garden Shoppe purchases. Cost: members: $10; nonmembers: $15.

Research Continues with Edison’s Plants

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On August 14th

Although Thomas Edison’s research of rubber plants ended long ago, the plants on his estate still assist others around the world with their botanical research. Our plants are inventoried regularly by the Plant Curator and then included in the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) PlantSearch database, the only global database of plant species in botanic gardens and formal institutions. The database allows researchers to contact gardens holding specific plants and request material. For example, in November 2016, a PhD student from the University of Campinas in Brazil contacted our Plant Curator via the BGCI database and requested seeds from strawberry guava, Psidium cattleianum ‘littorale’. In July 2017, we mailed approximately 50 seeds from two of our guava trees to the PhD student. She will use the seeds for a genetic study and update us with results when her work is completed. Edison Ford is proud to participate in the BGCI program and will continue to provide plant materials to researchers when possible.

Garden Talk: Palms in the Southwest Florida Landscape

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On July 27th

Thomas Edison was instrumental in encouraging and accomplishing the planting of the stately royal palms along McGregor Boulevard and Fort Myers is now considered the “City of Palms.” Edison planted palms throughout his estate because he enjoyed their tropical look. Of the 2,800 species of palms, several native to Florida are represented, along with ones that do equally well in our climate. Come to the Garden Talk on August 12, 2107 at 10 a.m. and learn which palms you could plant in your own landscape. Gordon Bower, an avid palm collector with more than 100 species in his yard, will present the program with our Senior Horticulturist, Debbie Hughes. Planting, fertilizing and pruning will also be discussed. A tour of the palms in the Edison Ford gardens and a hands-on demonstration will complete the program.

Participants should meet at the information booth after signing in at the ticket counter. They will receive a 20% off coupon toward Garden Shoppe purchases. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a hat, sunscreen and water.

Cost: Edison Ford Members $10; non-members $15. Contact Leeanne Criswell, Edison Ford Program Registrar at 239-334-7419 or Pre-registration requested, but not required.

Fort Myers: City of Poincianas?

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On May 31st

Royal poinciana blooming on the Edison Ford property in Ft. Myers.

Have you noticed the bright orange-red flowers adorning many trees in Southwest Florida lately? That’s probably the royal poinciana, Delonix regia, that you’re seeing. Did you know that these trees might have lined our beloved McGregor Boulevard instead of today’s royal palms?

Soon after Thomas Edison purchased his Fort Myers property in 1885, he sketched a landscape plan for the grounds, which was bisected by a dusty cattle trail that is now McGregor Boulevard. As you can read on the sketch above, he wrote, “Royal Poinciana shade trees both sides of street”. However, royal palms were planted at Edison’s expense starting in 1907. Additional royal palms were planted and currently extend about eight miles along McGregor Boulevard. Today, Ft. Myers is known as the “City of Palms” but had Edison been able to carry out his original plan, McGregor Boulevard might be lined with royal poincianas instead. Why the change? We don’t know for sure. But one theory is that while the royal poincianas are beautiful in full bloom, they usually drop their leaves during winter and don’t start blooming until late May. Edison and his family typically visited his Ft. Myers home during the winter, right when the royal poincianas look their worst, and he would have returned to New Jersey before the red blooms put on their show in late spring.

Close-up of the red flower of the royal poinciana, a common bloom in many trees in southwest Florida during May and June.

The royal poinciana is native to Madagascar, where it is endangered. It is a fast-grower and is accustomed to our poor soils and winter droughts. If you’d like one for your landscape, we have several for sale in our Garden Shoppe. For more info on selecting and caring for a royal poinciana, visit this page created by the scientists at UF/IFAS. If you don’t have room for a large tree, consider the dwarf poinciana, which matures to 15ft in height. We carry the dwarf poincianas in our Garden Shoppe as well.

Mother’s Day Flowers

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On May 5th

Instead of buying cut flowers this year, give mom a present that will live until next Mother’s Day! Our Garden Shoppe in Ft. Myers is full of color right now and we are sure to have your mom’s favorite. Our hanging baskets are bright and cheerful and packed with a variety of blooms. If you need something that can grow indoors, you can’t go wrong with an orchid. If mom is the planting kind, or has willing children (hint, hint), she might love one of every color groundcover we have in stock. Stop by our Garden Shoppe, open daily 9-5:30, seven days a week except Thanksgiving and Christmas.









Partners for Plumeria

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On April 24th

‘Pompano Pink’ plumeria

Come meet some of the newest members of our garden: Princess Maria Tia, Maui Beauty, and Nebel’s Rainbow are three of 20 unique cultivars of plumeria, also known as frangipani, to join our landscape. They were planted at Edison Ford in late 2016 and early 2017 and serve as back up specimens in the country’s only National Plumeria Collection, based at the Naples Botanical Garden (NBG).

NBG earned the National Plumeria Collection distinction in 2011 from the Plant Collections Network, a program organized by the American Public Gardens Association and the USDA Agricultural Research Service. The NBG’s holdings include more than 580 species and cultivars of frangipani. In order to mitigate potential losses from a catastrophic event at NBG, sites like Edison Ford are hosting duplicate specimens of some cultivars.

Some trees in the collection are now blooming for the first time since being transplanted to Edison Ford. You can see them near our succulent garden, across the driveway from the Banyan Cafe.

Plumeria ‘Cerise’

Plumeria ‘Tillie Hughes’

Plumeria ‘Black Tiger’

Plumeria “Nebel’s Rainbow’

Butterfly Spotters Needed

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On March 28th

A monarch butterfly enjoying the pentas in the Estates Garden Shoppe. A lot of monarchs are attracted to the milkweed plants we have for sale.

For the first time, the Edison and Ford Winter Estates will participate in the North American Butterfly Association‘s (NABA) Annual Butterfly Count. We’ll need volunteers to help us complete the survey and we hope that you’ll consider helping us in the field! The butterfly count helps researchers monitor population trends throughout the USA, Canada and Mexico.

Teams of volunteer butterfly spotters will spread out in the Ft. Myers and Cape Coral area to count butterflies as part of NABA’s 42nd annual count. While an official date has not been set, we’re planning on a day in July.

On Saturday, June 10, our monthly Garden Talk will include butterfly identification and, depending on volunteer interest, we will have follow-up identification workshops before the official count day in July. If you’d like to volunteer to be one of our spotters, please leave a message for Britta at 239-334-7419. Want to get a jump start on butterfly identification? Search for online quizzes like this one from The National Wildlife Federation.

Blooms on the Street, March 2017

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On March 17th

If you’ve traveled through Southwest Florida lately, you’ve probably noticed a plethora of blooms in trees and home gardens. Here’s a look at what you might have seen and where you can find the ones you haven’t yet spotted. If you would love one of these plants in your yard, stop in our Garden Shoppe and take one home. Need some tips on planting and caring for your new tree? Register for our next Garden Talk, How to Plant and Establish Trees and Shrubs on April 8, 2017 at 10 am.

This list was compiled March 17, 2017 and is based on locations within the City of Ft. Myers. Let us know if there’s a showy flower you’ve been wondering about!

Yellow flowers:

yellow-tabSilver or yellow tabebuia, Tabebuia aurea – a tree native to the Bahamas, Caribbean and Central and South America. Like the related pink tabebuia, it produces trumpet shaped flowers. You can find several yellow tabs at the Edison Mall and there is a large tree in Jefferson Park. We have a young tree near Mina’s Moonlight Garden that was planted in honor of Berne Davis, a Ft. Myers philanthropist and garden lover.

Red flowers:

shaving-brush-tree-flowerShaving brush tree,  Pseudobombax ellipticum – a tree native to Mexico, Guatemala and Cuba. These aptly-named trees produce vibrant red clusters of stamens that resemble an old-fashioned shaving brush. We have two trees, both visible to the general public. One is just inside our east entrance gate off Marlyn Rd and the other is visible from McGregor Blvd between the Edison and Ford properties.

Orange flowers:

african-tulip4African tulip tree, Spathodea campanulata – a tree native to tropical Africa. It produces orange flowers that are lined with yellow and resemble tulips. There is a large tree in full bloom just south of the Ft. Myers Country Club on the east side of McGregor, just north of Jefferson Ave.

Purple flowers:

jacaranda3Jacaranda, Jacaranda mimosifolia – a tree native to Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Although the jacaranda’s flowers may be small, it makes up for it in sheer numbers. Some trees are ablaze in shades of purple this week. Check out the jacarandas in the medians along Cortez Blvd near Ft. Myers High School.

queens-wreath3Queen’s wreath, Petra volubilis – a vine native to Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. This popular vine’s flowers resemble wisteria, but is not related. We have it in Mina’s Moonlight Garden and on the pergola between Edison’s home and the guest house. Driving around Ft. Myers, you can see a great specimen on Woodford Ave. There’s also a nice queen’s wreath on a pergola overhanging the entrance to the Ft. Myers Lee County Garden Council building. Park near their entrance on Larchmont Ave and walk to the gate to see it.

White fluff:

silk-cottonIf you’ve spotted odd-looking puffs of white on the ground or oval-shaped pods of fluff in trees, those are the product of the silk cotton tree. There are several types of these trees within the Ceiba genus. Many of the trees had pink flowers earlier this year in the Ft. Myers and Naples area. Pick up one of the puffs from the ground and you’re likely to see a small black seed attached. You can get a close up look at the silk cotton tree if you drive by 2153 Larchmont, which is adjacent to the overflow parking at Edison Ford.

Stay tuned! There are sure to be many more beautiful blooms this spring!




Garden Talk: Attaching Orchids in Trees

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On February 28th

dendrobium-aggregatum4Join us for our next Garden Talk, March 11 at 10 am and learn about Florida orchids and how to attach them to trees.

Orchids are one of the most popular plants in the gardens and attaching orchids to the trees is a technique not new at the Edison Ford gardens. In the early 20th century, the Edisons and Fords explored the Everglades in a Model T, finding orchids in the swamps. Mina adopted the practice of planting orchids in the trees in the Edison gardens, and we continue the tradition today.

During the talk, we will demonstrate how to attach different species of orchids and how decisions are made for where they should be located. Included in this garden talk is a tour of the hundreds of orchids on the trees throughout the site.

Details: Saturday, March 11, 2017 at 10 am. Edison Ford Members $10; non-members $15. To register contact Leeanne Criswell, Edison Ford Program Registrar at or 239-334-7419. Wear comfortable shoes, hat, and sunscreen for a tour of the fragrant plants found in the Edison Ford Gardens. Participants will receive a 20% discount in the Garden Shoppe. Meet at the Information Booth (after checking in at the ticket counter to get your wristband.)

Upcoming Garden Events:

April 8 – Garden Talk: How to Plant & Establish Trees & Shrubs

May 13 – Garden Talk: Using Fertilizers & Amendments