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 February, 2011

Name That Plant Answer: Jackfruit

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On February 17th

What can reach three feet in length, weigh up to 60 lbs and smell like decaying onion? A jackfruit, the largest tree-borne fruit in the world.

Sometimes called jakfruit, it is edible and despite its unpleasant odor when mature and unopened, the flesh is said to smell like pineapple and banana.  Many people prefer to eat the fruit before it ripens.  The seeds are also edible and prepared a variety of ways according to local customs worldwide.  The wood is quite strong and termite-proof – it is used in a variety of applications including furniture and home construction.

Although the tree’s exact origins are unknown, it is likely native to India and has been introduced to tropical locations worldwide.  In south Florida, the jackfruit tree is evergreen and grows well in frost-free areas, up to a height of 40 feet.  There are several cultivars available that can be kept much shorter, even under ten feet.  More information on the cultivars and planting and care of jackfruit can be found courtesy of the UF IFAS Extension Service here.

The Edisons, who had a great interest in unique tropical trees, had at least one jackfruit on their property in 1931.  Mina Edison also included the tree on her tour of the gardens in 1938.  Our jackfruit, located between the Guest House and McGregor Blvd, recently started producing its fruit.  During the next 4-5 months, it will be fun to watch the fruits grow!  Will they reach 60 lbs?  Stay tuned or come by and see for yourself!

Britta Hanson Soderqvist, Plant Curator

Unique Art and Floral Design Event Returns!

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On February 14th

During the afternoon of Sunday, Feb 27, the Estates will once again host Art in Bloom, a showcase of art interpreted as floral design.  Local gardeners and floral designers select a piece of artwork from the Estates and create a unique flower arrangement that reflects their interpretation of the artwork.  Click here to view photos from last year’s event.

This event is a collaboration between the Edison and Ford Winter Estates and the Fort Myers-Lee County Garden CouncilThis event is free to Estates members and $5 for others.  All attendees receive a ballot and can vote for their favorite design.  Prizes are awarded to the top three designers.  We hope to see you there!


Local gardening classes

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On February 14th

Check out some of the upcoming classes sponsored by our friends at the Lee County Extension Service, including:

  • Project Budburst training – become a citizen scientist in this national program by tracking bloom times and bird migration in your area
  • Tropical fruit tree propagation
  • Ethnobotany and the Calusas – learn how the Calusas used local plants
  • Flowering tree seminar

Click here for more details – sign up by calling the Extension office at                      (239) 533-7514.

How to quickly add some color to your garden

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On February 11th

We’d all love to have this magnificent display of color in our yard, wouldn’t we? This is a recent  photo of the bougainvillea behind our ticket office.  We sell a variety of bougainvillea in our Garden Shoppe but if you don’t have the patience to wait for yours to reach the size pictured, consider some of the following flowering plants that will make your yard “pop” for the next few months.

We have bulbine – a South African clumping perennial with orange and yellow flowers that is extremely drought tolerant.  Choose from several colors of kalanchoe – a drought-tolerant succulent that may even flower year-round if you’re lucky!  Crown of thorns is always a good bet for winter-time color.  Mandevilla (formerly Diplandenia) is a woody vine with showy pink flowers that are usually out in the summer but may bloom year-round.  We also have plenty of Florida-friendly butterfly plants like plumbago and pentas.  Many citrus trees bloom now so if you have room for a small tree, consider one of the many varieties we have for sale.

If you do have a bit of patience, you might also consider queen’s wreath (Petrea volubis) – a spectacular vine with purple flowers.  The queen’s wreath covering the pergola between the Edison Home and Guest House is blooming right now.  We have a few small individual vines for sale – they were hard to come by so don’t wait hoping to find a larger plant!  If you plant one this spring, it should have a few blooms by next winter.

Britta Hanson Soderqvist, Plant Curator

Name That Plant, Win a Plant!

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On February 10th

The first person to correctly name this plant wins a free purple firespike plant, which was featured last week.  Contest ends Feb 15 – we’ll add a few more clues over the next few days if no one guesses correctly.  If you sign up for the email alerts (top right of the blog), you’ll be the first to know when new clues have been added!

Contest Rules: Leave a comment on Facebook or the Garden Blog with your answer.  The person with the first correct answer will receive a free purple firespike plant.  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.

Plant Spotlight: Purple Firespike

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On February 3rd

If you’re looking for a tall, winter-time butterfly plant, purple firespike, Odontonema callistachyum, is a good choice for southern Florida. Growing up to six feet tall, it starts blooming in autumn and the blooms may last through winter in Zone 10.  It will die back in a hard freeze but should re-sprout in the spring in Zones 8-9.   Although it’s rated for full sun to partial shade, it may wilt during the intense summer sun in southern Florida.  You may prefer to trim it back in the summer to keep it in check.  Once established, firespike is drought tolerant and should attract many winged visitors to your yard.

Cardinal flower, Odontonema stictum, is a close relative and has red flowers.  It was included in a list of plants grown on the Estates from 1901-1941.  Given the Edisons’ interest in nature, it’s likely the cardinal flower was one of many species planted to attract butterflies and birds.

Our Garden Shoppe sells purple firespike in two gallon pots for $12.  We also carry a variety of butterfly and hummingbird plants to complement the firespike.  Don’t forget, Estates members save 10% on all purchases, including plants!

Britta Hanson Soderqvist, Plant Curator