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 December, 2010

Trial Run of the Botanical Illustration Course Creates Beautiful Artwork

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On December 20th

One of the perks of being a volunteer at the Estates (besides free admission to  the Estates and other gardens around the country) is the opportunity to participate in a lot of fun events, like Holiday Nights.   Last Friday, some of our volunteers brought their paintbrushes and artistic inclination to the gardens and received free art instruction during a trial run of Megan Kissinger’s Botanical Illustration Course.

[slideshow]I started the day off by giving the group an hour-long botanical tour of the gardens.  Then Megan took over and gave illustration instruction for an hour before the group split up and found “their” plant in the butterfly garden.  As the group worked, Megan visited each artist to check on their progress and offer helpful suggestions.  After lunch, the group moved into the gardens in front of the Edison Home and started a new drawing.  To end the class, each artist brought their drawings up to the porch of the home for a short critique.


All the participants had a great day in the gardens and created some beautiful pieces of work.  And thanks to our volunteers for being the guinea pigs for this class!  If you’re interested in taking one of the classes in January or March, click here for details.  No experience necessary!

Britta Hanson Soderqvist, Plant Curator

Nothing says "Merry Christmas" to a gardner like…

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On December 16th

Our gift shop (which is open until 9 pm every night until Dec 23!) is full of beautiful and unique gifts.  We’ve come up with a list of interesting ideas for the gardener or plant lover on your list  – all of which will certainly be remembered for a long time:

1) Estates Membership – members receive free admission all year to not only the Estates and its 20 acres of gardens, but other gardens across the U.S. including Marie Selby Botanical Garden in Sarasota and Fairchild Gardens in Coral Gables.

2) Pottery and other artwork inspired by flowering plants.

3) A fruit tree like  mango or citrus. No yard? Most citrus can be kept in a pot and will produce a few fruits a year.

4) Does your gardener like to cook?  Mango BBQ sauce, orange marmalade, and pineapple preserves are just some of the edibles available.  Local honey too!

5) Wind chimes and wind spinners with bird and dragonfly designs

6) Painted rain barrel.

7) Has someone on your list been bad?  Instead of coal, why not worm castings? This all organic fertilizer is what every plant needs!

8) Botanical illustration class – no experience required! Buy your gardener a seat in one of the upcoming classes held in our gardens.


9) Know an aspiring gardener?  We have a nice variety of children’s books in an array of topics: bugs, science, nature, etc.

10) Gardening books: Browse through our large selection of gardening and natural history books.  There’s something for everyone here!

Don’t forget, Estates members save 10% on all gift shop purchases.

Not just for looks: Edison’s interest in poinsettias

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On December 14th

In his search for a source of latex rubber, Thomas Edison experimented with hundreds of species of plants at his Fort Myers estate, including the poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima.  Our records indicate that 150 poinsettias were planted in the research gardens in April and May, 1927.  However, like many plants Edison tried, poinsettias were quickly ruled out as a reliable source in favor of other plants like goldenrod.  Our records also show that poinsettias were purchased for the home in 1908, long before Edison and his crew began their rubber research.  It’s likely that the Edisons just wanted to admire the plant’s brilliant red leaves against its dark green foliage, as we do today.

Poinsettias, native to Mexico and Central America, are named after Joel Roberts Poinsett who was the U.S. Minister to Mexico when he introduced the plant to the U.S. in 1828.  In southern Florida, we can grow poinsettias in the yard although they can quickly grow to ten feet or more. Check our Garden Shoppe: we get regular shipments of poinsettias during the winter holiday season.

How did Edison protect his plants from cold weather?

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On December 9th

Now that cold temperatures have arrived at the Estates, our garden staff has to keep a close eye on the weather and take action to protect some of the plants we have in the gardens.  We use a high-quality frost cloth to cover the tropical and sub-tropical plants whenever freezing temperatures are predicted.

But how did Thomas Edison protect his vast array of plants?  Actually, in much the same way we do today.  Here’s a note Edison wrote to the Estates caretaker in 1886:

The note reads, “I will send you about 1000 yards of common print cloth, which you can place around the more tender shoots when a freeze approaches.  This cloth will prevent radiation if run through boiled linseed oil and hung out until dry…

The “radiation” Edison refers to is the radiating heat of the plants and the ground – the cloth traps that heat and protects the plants overnight.  Linseed oil was probably used to give the cloth a thicker, semi-waterproof coating to trap more heat.  Linseed oil, which is made from flax seeds, is no longer used for that purpose, in part due to its flammable nature.

For tips on how to protect your plants this winter season, check out this website created by the University of Florida Extension Service.

Britta Hanson Soderqvist, Plant Curator

Estates won't be at the Farmer's Market tomorrow

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On December 8th

We won’t be at the Farmer’s Market  in Fort Myers tomorrow, December 9, 2010. If you are in need of plants or even gardening advice, please visit our Garden Shoppe at the Estates.  While you’re here, be sure to visit the Tree Trail, a trail of Christmas trees decorated by local school children.  It’s right next to the Garden Shoppe and it’s FREE!


Stop inside the gift shop to browse (and warm up!) –  lots of unique Florida-themed gifts, artwork, ornaments, history books, and more.

Blooms, birds and dolphins at the Estates

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On December 3rd

Take a look at some of our recent blooms and visitors…