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?

Grow cut Flowers to Enjoy Indoors

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On July 3rd

Summer is a great time of year to snip flowers from the garden and bring inside to enjoy all day long! They can add both a lovely fragrance and cheerful colors to your home, and if you’re feeling patriotic, a vase full of red, white and blue blooms will complement your holiday décor!

There are countless plants that can be used for cut flowers. The demonstration gardens in the Garden Shoppe at Edison & Ford Winter Estates includes a wonderful display of annuals in raised beds. Many of these flowers are long-time northern favorites, such as Zinnias, Marigolds, Sunflowers and Snapdragons.

Flowers for cutting can be grown all year long in Southwest Florida, and many provide repeat blooms in a variety of colors. Because our winters are generally mild, seeds can even be sown in prepared soil during the cooler months, so by springtime the garden is full of beautiful blooms.

Cut flowers don’t have to be grown in a garden spot reserved just for them – seeds can be mixed in with vegetables and herbs. For example, Cosmos seeds can be grown between rows of beans and tomatoes to add a splash of color. Gardening from seed is also very economical, as a packet of seeds usually only costs a few dollars and the amount of flowers harvested is well worth it!

To make sure your garden will be successful, it’s important to prepare the site properly before planting seeds. With raised beds, the best soil possible can be used for plants that require a rich, loamy growing medium. Florida’s sandy soil is not conducive to holding the amount of water or nutrients that most cut flowers require. It’s a good idea to fill garden beds with a mixture of compost, planting mixes, worm castings and cow manure to employ nutrient and water-holding capabilities.

Raised beds can be made with 4×4 or 6×6 pressure-treated wood boards (the wood is now treated with copper instead of arsenic) stacked on top of each other to create a place to sit down. If you don’t want to build a flower bed, you can use Smart Pots made of a geo-textile material that’s BPA free. There are many reasons for using this system of diverse containers that are available in many sizes and shapes. Long beds with built in partitions can perform just like a wooden raised bed for half the cost. Fabric-made pots are also breathable, flexible and lightweight.

When choosing what to grow, it is important to select seeds from a reputable seed catalog or garden center. Many seed catalogs offer seeds from flowers that are not readily available as potted plants. For example, Dara (a flower similar to Queen Anne’s Lace) is not sold in pots, but grows easily from seed.

The Edison Ford Garden Shoppe has Johnny’s Selected Seeds and Renee’s Garden Seeds for sale all year long. Native Florida wildflower seeds also are regularly available. A ticket is not required for the Garden Shoppe area, so you can stop by as often as you like to see the cut flower and butterfly demonstration gardens and get ideas for your own little piece of paradise!

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.

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.

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.

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’

Garden Talk: Fragrant Plants

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On January 13th

Jan 2011One of the best characteristics gardeners enjoy is the fragrance and sweet odors in the garden. Besides the beautiful flowers visible to the eye, scent allows our other senses to come alive. Our sense of smell operates a powerful reminiscence of memories in our brain. Interestingly, we remember how something smelled from the past when we smell that plant again. Often when in the garden, an individual will take a whiff of a flower here at the Edison Ford Gardens and respond fondly, “That smells like the flowers in my Grandmother’s garden.”

Start your own fragrant garden after touring and learning about the plants that grow well from some of the historical plants Mina Edison enjoyed. 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.

Date: Saturday, January 14, 2017. 10 am. Meet at the Information Booth outside the ticket office.

Cost: Edison Ford Members $10; non-members $15. To register contact Leeanne Criswell, Edison Ford Program Registrar at lcriswell@edisonfordwinterestates.org

Upcoming Garden Events and Talks:

February 11 & 12 – Edison Garden Festival (Free)

March 11 – Garden Talk: Growing Orchids in Trees

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

May 13 – Garden Talk: Using Fertilizers & Amendments

Holiday Craft Using Items Found in Nature

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On December 20th
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Reindeer craft made from sticks, acorns and seeds.

Need to entertain the kids for a bit during the holidays? Send them outside on a treasure hunt to make this simple but cute reindeer craft from sticks, seeds, acorn caps or other items from nature. All you’ll need is some glue, markers and a bit of imagination.

For the reindeer pictured here, I found everything I needed on the ground of the Edison Ford gardens. Seeing as we are five days from Christmas and it’s 81° F right now, this won’t be hard for those of you in south Florida. If you live in one of those cold places that we Floridians hear about on the news, you might have to wait for the snow to melt.

I collected a few sticks of similar diameter, the tops from two acorns that had fallen from a laurel oak tree and a bright red seed found in some leaf litter. I selected two branches that were bare at one end and had several smaller branches at the other end. I placed the two bare ends together to form a “V” and then placed a small bare branch a few inches above that. Once I had those in a position that looked good, I glued the sticks in place with Mod Podge®. I glued the seed at the end of the V to form a red nose. Using a black marker, I colored the acorn caps for the eyes. You may have to prop up the acorn caps or use some string to keep the V together while the glue dries.

If you can’t find a red seed, you could always color an acorn cap with black or red marker or paint. Warning: bright red seeds are usually a sign that they are poisonous. Don’t encourage kids to pick up any seed if you’re not certain that they can keep from eating it!

Share photos of your completed craft! What other Christmas characters or holiday symbols can you create using items from nature?

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Stick, acorns and seeds before they were crafted into the reindeer.

 

 

How to Care for the Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow Plant, Brunfelsia grandiflora

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On December 8th
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The Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow plant with Thomas Edison’s home in the background in Ft. Myers, Florida.

One of the most beautiful flowering shrubs you can plant in Southwest Florida is also pretty easy to please. The Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, Brunfelsia grandiflora, starts its show with a purple bloom that fades to lavender and then white over the course of a few days. And as long as you can provide some dappled sunlight and regular water, the YTT (as we sometimes call it) will provide years of enjoyment and create a conversation piece in your landscape.

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The purple, lavender and white flowers of the Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Ft. Myers, Florida.

If you’re lucky enough to find one of these shrubs (hint: check our Garden Shoppe), select a location that is bright but not in the full sun all day. We have two YTT bushes in the gardens off the Edison and Guest Home porches and they receive quite a bit of full sun but do get some relief in the early and late parts of the day. For the most blooms, select a site that gets morning sun but is shaded later in the day. Water yours regularly until it is established and then check the soil above the roots on occasion, keeping the soil moist when possible. The YTT can tolerate some drought, but if it’s forming buds, you’ll get better blooms if you water during the dry season. Depending on the size of your plant when you install it, it might take two years or so before it produces copious blooms. You can try to encourage earlier blooming with fertilizer, like a 6-8-10 to help with roots and blooming, but it’s not necessary.

Our Garden Shoppe is full of native and tropical plants for sale, including the Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. Open seven days a week, it’s your one-stop-shop for your Southwest Florida gardening needs.

 

 

Unique Gifts from the Garden

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On November 15th

As you start making your list

and checking it twice,

you’ll soon remember

that holiday crowds aren’t nice.

So come to the Garden Shoppe

at the Edison Ford

Where we have lots of gifts

and no one ever gets bored.

No Black Friday camp-outs

No pushing or shoving

Just unique garden gifts

That everyone is loving.

From orchids to herbs,

soaps, ornaments or a book,

we have something for everyone

just come by and take a look!

The Edison Garden Shoppe is open daily from 9 am – 5:30 pm. Visit Edison Ford on November 19 or 20 and you’ll be here for our Garden Festival with hundreds of gift ideas from Florida plant vendors, artists, crafters and more. During Holiday Nights, the Garden Shoppe will be open from 9 am to 9 pm. Holiday Nights begins November 25 and runs every night except Christmas Eve and Christmas until January 1, 2017.

Poinsettias of all sizes, including these cute miniature plants.

Miniature plants and wreaths to brighten up any holiday. Stop by our Ft. Myers Garden Shoppe for unique gifts.

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Unique gifts in our Garden Shoppe and Museum Store in Fort Myers.

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Christmas ornaments and holiday decor for sale at Edison Ford in Ft. Myers.

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Large selection of gardening and botanical books in our gift shop at the Edison Ford in Fort Myers.

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Jellyfish Tillandsia ornament and a light bulb terrarium ornament with an air plant. Low maintenance plants that make your holiday decor come alive at Edison Ford in Ft. Myers.

 

 

 

A Vine by Many Names is a Sweet Addition to a Southern Garden

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On November 9th
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Costa Rican butterfly vine, Dalechampia dioscoreifolia, for sale in our Garden Shoppe at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Florida.

What plant is related to poinsettia but vines and has colorful bracts like a bougainvillea but no spines? Its botanical name is Dalechampia dioscoreifolia, but it’s commonly known as winged beauty, Costa Rican butterfly vine, bow tie vine, and purple wings vine. If you’re looking for an interesting vine for your South Florida garden, consider this vine of many names.

It’s thin stems stretch up to twenty feet and will twine around most anything in it’s path. Each flower is surrounded by two purple pink bracts about five inches in length, which gives each bud a butterfly appearance. It thrives in full sun or light shade but needs a moderate amount of water to bloom regularly. It can tolerate some cold temperatures and might even bounce back from 20ºF temperatures with good care. Flowers might appear year-round but should at least bloom in summer and fall.

If you’re looking for other vines for your garden, check out this recent post. Visit our Garden Shoppe in Ft. Myers for winged beauty vine and a large selection of flowering plants, trees, vegetables and herbs.