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?

Archive for September, 2010

Name That Plant, Win That Plant XIV

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 29th

Be the first to identify this plant and win that plant or a peace lily!  The correct answer will be announced Wednesday, October 6.

Contest Rules: Leave a comment on Facebook or the Garden Blog with your answer.  The person with the first correct answer may choose to receive the mystery plant (if available) or a peace lily.  The winner will be announced on the Estates Garden Blog and on Facebook.  Plants must be picked up from the Edison & Ford Winter Estates within 7 days of contest end (and, no, we can’t ship them!).  If you have won previously, please wait 60 days before guessing again.

Botanical Tours on Tuesdays & Fridays at 10 AM

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 17th

Beginning October 1, 2010, the botanical tour at The Edison & Ford Winter Estates will be on Tuesdays and Fridays at 10 AM.  This tour includes a walk through the historical gardens of the Edison and Ford Estates with a behind-the-scenes tour of the Estates Propagating Nursery.  The tour is never the same twice as it changes frequently to highlight plants currently blooming or fruiting.  With the change in flowers and fruits comes a variety of aromas for tour goers to experience, from Chanel No. 5 to buttered popcorn to bubblegum.  Participants will learn about the historical and cultural significance of the plants, including the world famous banyan tree, the 90-foot kapok tree, and the sausage trees. 

During the botanical tour, visitors will learn why Thomas Edison purchased his Fort Myers property in 1885 and how he and his family developed the landscape over the years.  Edison’s original design for his winter estate included areas for a research laboratory, family gardens, and work areas.  Each of these areas is visited on the tour and the relevant history is detailed.  Several trees that were planted during Edison’s time still stand and garden features, as well as Mina’s Moonlight Garden, which have been carefully restored to reflect the look, feel and scent of the historic landscape, are visited.

The Estates gardens contain more than 1,700 plants representing more than 400 species from six continents.  The collection includes tropical fruit trees such as mango, citrus, papaya and sapote, as well as orchids, bamboo, bromeliads, cycads, and more than 50 species of palms.

“Whether you are an avid gardener, are just starting your own garden, or simply have an interest in botanicals, the Estates tour is a must-see for Southwest Florida gardeners,” says Britta Soderqvist, the Estates Plant Curator.  “On the tour, you will get an up-close look at thriving fruits, flowering plants and palms that can be easily grown in our area, as well as the opportunity to ask questions about Florida gardening.”

The Estates Garden Shoppe is open daily from 9 AM – 5:30 and offers a variety of heritage plants, herbs and other tropicals for purchase. The cost of the botanical tour is $24 for adults, $10 for children 6-12, and FREE for Estates Members.  Visitors may upgrade their ticket for $6 to include a self-guided audio wand tour of the historic buildings and museum. Group botanical tours are available at a discounted price and may be scheduled throughout the week based on availability.    To schedule a group botanical tour call the Estates at 239-334-7419.

Garden Blog readers save 10% on Garden Shoppe items in September.

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 16th

In appreciation of our garden blog readers, we are offering you a 10% discount on your Garden Shoppe purchases for the rest of September, but only if you tell the cashier the phrase of the month.  In honor of all the falling figs at the Estates, this month’s phrase is, “It’s raining cats and figs out there!”   Garden Shoppe items include not just plants but also the wide variety of books and gardening supplies (eco-friendly insecticides, hats, fertilizers, etc.) available in our gift shop.  If you’re already a member of the Estates, you always receive a 10% discount on all gift shop items, so there’s no need to remember the secret phrase!

Thank you for making our blog so successful!  We hope you continue to follow what is happening in the Estates’ gardens.

Name That Plant, Win That Plant XII Answer: Tamarind

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 15th

Tamarind, Tamarindus indica


Did you know you can grow one of the ingredients in Worcestershire sauce right in your backyard?  The fruits of the tamarind tree are used throughout the world in chutneys, drinks, candy and sauces.  In the US, tamarind is sometimes used in barbeque sauces and can be found in sweetened drinks available at ethnic restaurants and stores.

Although native to tropical Africa, this tree is now grown worldwide.  In Florida, it is rated for zones 10-11, may grow up to 90 feet, and will be evergreen except during long droughts.  Our horticulturist, Debbie, loves the weeping form of this tree and says the tamarind makes an excellent shade tree.  Flowers are produced in the summer and the fruits that follow may hang on the tree for several months.   Our tamarind tree is next to the friendship walk on the Edison property.  It is flowering now and produced more than 50 fruits last year, even though it was planted just six years ago.

Our friends at the University of Florida extension service compiled a few recipes for tamarind, including “Tamarind Chicken with Mangoes”.   Lucky for you, our Garden Shoppe sells tamarind and mango trees.  Sorry, no chickens.

Britta Soderqvist, Plant Curator

Have you seen the flower of a ficus tree?

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 13th

You probably haven’t, but you’ve eaten one if you’ve eaten a fig!

The fruits of most ficus trees (like the Estates banyan) are called figs.  The fig is made up of stem tissue and the flowers of the tree are inside the fig.  All figs are pollinated by a female wasp that enters the fig through a tiny hole at the end of the fig.  Once inside, she lays her eggs and dies but the pollen she collected (from the fig she hatched in) is deposited on the flowers inside the fig.   Other wasps may also lay eggs inside the fig.  When the larvae hatch, the males mate with the females and then dig a tunnel through the fig for the females to exit.  The females have collected pollen during their time inside the fig and seek out another fig tree to deposit their eggs.  The pollinated figs will ripen and produce seeds, which are eaten by other animals and dispersed; thus, the cycle continues

Many figs can only be pollinated by one species of wasp.  For example, the strangler fig (Ficus aurea), a Florida native, can only be pollinated by Pegoscapus mexicanus.  Fig wasps are very small, about the size of a fruit fly, and most people will never see one.  They do not sting.  By the time a fig is ripe, the flowers inside have broken down and the crunchy parts you eat are the seeds of the fruit.

Britta Soderqvist, Plant Curator

Name That Plant, Win That Plant XIII

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 9th

Be the first to identify this plant and win it!  The correct answer will be announced Wednesday, September 15.  Here’s a hint:  It’s a tree.


Contest Rules: Leave a comment on Facebook or the Garden Blog with your answer.  The person with the first correct answer may choose to receive the mystery plant (if available) or a peace lily.  The winner will be announced on the Estates Garden Blog and on Facebook.  Plants must be picked up from the Edison & Ford Winter Estates within 7 days of contest end (and, no, we can’t ship them!).  If you have won previously, please wait 60 days before guessing again.

Evening air heavy with Ylang Ylang fragrance!

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 8th

Last night after the heavy rain I rode my bike along McGregor Blvd and as soon as I got near the Estates, the air was thick with the scent of the Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata) tree’s flowers.  The Ylang Ylang is near McGregor Blvd in front of the Edison guest house but the scent was traveling past the Ford home.  You may recall from a previous post that the fragrance of the Ylang Ylang is used to make Chanel No. 5.   If you live near the Estates, be sure to come by sometime soon to experience this unique scent!

Britta Soderqvist, Plant Curator

Name That Plant XII Answer: Cherries Jubilee Allamanda

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 8th

Congratulations to Deborah Aldridge for correctly guessing this week’s Name That Plant!

Cherries Jubilee Allamanda, Allamanda cathartica ‘Cherries Jubilee’

Need a summertime bloomer for your garden?  The allamandas are always a good choice and the ‘Cherries Jubilee’ variety provides a rosy pink flower against dark evergreen foliage.  This is a fast growing vine that does best in full sun, is drought tolerant and is rated for zones 9B-11.  It may grow to 8 feet or more and will need a trellis or other support to maintain some form, so consider its location before planting.  Some gardeners have been able to train this plant into a shrub and Cherries Jubilee should do well in a hanging basket.

If you know any Latin, you probably recognized that this plant has medicinal properties.  The species name “cathartica” should give you a hint.  The leaves, roots and flowers of this plant are used in some countries to make a cathartic and all parts of the plant are considered toxic if eaten.  The milky white sap may irritate the skin of some gardeners but this shouldn’t stop you from considering this easy, prolific bloomer for your yard.  The Estates has a Cherries Jubilee on the trellis next to the Shaving Brush tree between the Edison and Ford homes and our Garden Shoppe has several Cherries Jubilee plants for sale.

Britta Soderqvist, Plant Curator

Name That Plant, Win That Plant XII

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 3rd

Be the first to identify this plant and win it!  The correct answer will be announced Wednesday, September 8.  This one might be a little tough so we’ll give you some clues in the next few days if no one guesses correctly.

Contest Rules: Leave a comment on Facebook or the Garden Blog with your answer.  The person with the first correct answer may choose to receive the mystery plant (if available) or a peace lily.  The winner will be announced on the Estates Garden Blog and on Facebook.  Plants must be picked up from the Edison & Ford Winter Estates within 7 days of contest end (and, no, we can’t ship them!).  If you have won previously, please wait 60 days before guessing again.

Queen’s Wreath is Back!!!

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 1st


Due to high demand, we sold out of our queen’s wreath, Petrea volubilis, a few months ago.  Ever since, Garden Shoppe visitors have asked when it will be back in stock.  We now have one gallon containers available for $10.   Stop by our Garden Shoppe at the Estates or visit Debbie at the Farmer’s Market in downtown Ft. Myers on Thursdays from 7 am to 1 pm to purchase one for your home!  Our supply of queen’s wreath is not yet blooming but chances are we will be  sold out once again by the time they do bloom.

This beautiful twining vine is native to the Caribbean basin.  Full sun is preferred but it will tolerate part shade.  It is rated for zones 10B-11, has a moderate drought tolerance and the leaves are evergreen.  Queen’s wreath flowers sporadically but it is most showy in spring.  It’s fast growing with its height and spread determined by its supporting structure.  The purple flowers are similar in appearance to wisteria but queen’s wreath is not related and not known to be invasive like wisteria.