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 the ‘Garden Shoppe’ Category

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.

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.

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.

 

Garden Shoppe Spotlight: Vines

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On October 12th

Following up on our recent Garden Talk on vines, we have some new additions for sale in our Garden Shoppe.

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Corkscrew/Snail Vine

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Snail Vine

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Skyblue Clustervine

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Gold Finger Plant

Corkscrew Flower: You have to smell these flowers to believe them! The corkscrew flower or snail vine, Cochliasanthus caracalla, has a very intoxicating scent and an equally interesting flower. This is a fast-growing vine that flowers in summer and late fall. It likes full sun and a moderate amount of water, so this isn’t a vine you can plant and forget about like some of our Florida native vines like coral honeysuckle. It can even bounce back after a freeze, surviving as far north as Zone 9.

Snail Vine: A similar vine, also sometimes called the snail vine, Sigmoidotropis speciosa, has purple flowers throughout most of the summer. It can thrive in sun or part sun but needs regular watering.

While both of these snail vines attract bees and butterflies, both are pollinated by ants. Each is labeled as “snail vine” in our Garden Shoppe, so look for the flower to distinguish the two.

Gold Finger Plant: If gold is more to your liking, check out the gold finger plant, Juanulloa aurantiaca. This vine is considered an aggressive grower and needs a lot of light and water. It should survive a light freeze.

Skyblue Clustervine: A reliable Florida native is the skyblue clustervine, Jacquemontia pentanthos. This twining vine requires a bit more water than most natives, but can survive short droughts. It’s blue flowers tend to bloom after rains and during the cooler winter season. It prefers full sun.

Our Garden Shoppe is open 7 days a week, 9 am – 5:30 pm.

Dwarf Poinciana: A Garden Showstopper

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 20th

Dwarf poinciana red orange yellow flower

Have you ever wanted a Royal Poinciana Tree, but in a much smaller size? Consider the Dwarf Poinciana for your next garden addition.

The Dwarf Poinciana (Caesalpinina pulcherrima) is an evergreen shrub that can be trained and pruned into a small specimen tree in frost free climate zones.

In zones 8 and 9 it can be damaged by frost, but will return in the spring and quickly re-grow.  In the tropics it is also know as Peacock Flower or Pride of Barbados and can grow up to 15 feet tall and wide. In normal garden cultivation it will grow to about 8 to 10 feet tall and wide, but tolerates pruning in order to maintain shape and form.

The foliage is very fernlike and produces many showy flower blossoms that resemble those of the Royal Poinciana tree. The flower colors vary from the common red, orange and yellow variety, an all yellow variety and another with a pinkish rose coloration.

Dwarf Poinciana Tree Shrub BushThis is a great specimen to add to your garden. The Dwarf Poinciana can also be grown in a pot or container and brought inside if there is a threat of frost or freezing temperatures.

The Edison & Ford Estates Garden Shoppe is currently selling both red and pink Dwarf Poincianas that were grown from the seeds of trees on our property. A one gallon pot is just $8, so get one of each color!

The Edison and Ford Winter Estates Garden Shoppe is open daily from 9-5:30. If you love plants, you’ll want to attend our semi-annual Garden Festival featuring hundreds of tropical and exotic plants, garden-themed arts and crafts, food, music and kid’s activities. The next festival is November 19-20, 2016. Click here for more information.

Garden Shoppe Spotlight: Pagoda Plant

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 19th

Pagoda_Flower_(Clerodendrum_paniculatum)Finding flowering plants for shady yards in Florida can be tricky. One of our Garden Shoppe’s newest arrivals, the pagoda plant, Clerodendrum paniculatum, will light up your Florida garden with brilliant red-orange flowers against dark green, round to heart-shaped leaves. The tubular flowers are attractive to pollinators, including hummingbirds.

It does best in part sun to light shade and needs moist soil. Leave some room as the pagoda plant, like many Clerodendrums, will produce suckers and spread across your garden and reach a height of three to five feet. Somewhat hardy, it will bounce back after a freeze, allowing it to grow in zones 8-11.

Visit our Garden Shoppe and bring home your own pagoda plant. Consider pairing it with some of the other new arrivals like Mojito elephant’s ear,  Colocasia esculenta ‘Mojito’, and Persian shield, Strobilanthes dyerianus , two plants that also prefer part sun to light shade and moist soil.

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Persian Shield

Colocasia mojito

Mojito Calocasia

The Edison and Ford Winter Estates Garden Shoppe is open daily from 9-5:30. If you love plants, you’ll want to attend our semi-annual Garden Festival featuring hundreds of tropical and exotic plants, garden-themed arts and crafts, food, music and kid’s activities. The next festival is November 19-20, 2016. Click here for more information.

Edison Ford Garden Visitors

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On October 18th

garden bee on blue pea vine As our gardens expand, so does the variety of visitors we see here. Our Blue Pea Vine has caught the attention of the Long-tailed Skipper (Urbanus proteus) as evidenced by the eggs and larva we have found on the leaves.  Shown below, the newly-hatched larvae are no bigger than a mosquito larva.

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Long-tailed Skipper larvae on the Blue Pea Vine

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  Tropical Sage

 

Attracting butterflies to your yard is easy when you have the right larval host plants. Visit our Garden Shoppe for a variety of host plants, as well as showy nectar plants. We are open from 9:00am to 5:30pm seven days a week.

Orchids at Edison Ford

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 8th

debbie with orchid sept 14     We recently accepted a donation of 500 plus orchids from a grower in Homestead, Florida called Pine Ridge Orchids to add to our existing growing collection of orchids in the trees throughout the estates. This brings our total to slightly more than 1,000 orchids that have been catalogued.

The new collection blooms throughout the year thanks to the oversight of Senior Horticulturalist, Debbie Hughes, and a dedicated group of garden volunteers, and includes both Dendrobium (Phalenopsis), Clowesia and Cynoches.

During their lifetime, the Edisons assembled the largest collection of orchids in Florida, locating them along the trees in Orchid Lane as well as throughout their property. Henry and Clara Ford joined them as the Lane of host mango trees extended through both neighboring estates.

Debbie is leading a Garden Talk on October 11, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. to show off the orchid collection and talk about orchid propagation back in the Nursery.

orchid sept 2014      For orchid lovers, our trip to Redland on January 17, 2015 will include the nurseries in one of our favorite books, The Orchid Thief.

For more information on upcoming orchid programs contact Edison Ford at 239-334-7419 or www.edisonfordwinterestates.org.

 

 

 

 

Gerber Daisies and other Plantings for Spring

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On March 28th

Many of the flowers we are drawn to because of their bright cheery flowers and ground cover growth are actually in the Composite family (asters, daisies and chrysanthemums).

plantings for spring

Several of these great flowers grow well in Florida.   Zinnias and Sunflowers are easy to grow from seed-look for fresh seed packs with interesting names like “Teddy Bear” sunflowers or “Green Envy” zinnias.

As a general rule of thumb, don’t go by what is on the back of the seed packs when planting seeds in Florida; most seed information is written for northern climates.  We can plant zinnias in Florida any time of year and plant no deeper than the size of the seed (probably just on the surface).

planting for spring

Gazanias

Self -sow zinnias seed among your other annuals such as gazanias.  They come in a multitude of bright colors, and close-up in the nighttime waiting for the morning sun to start their day.  They are from South Africa where the flowers are used to drier days.  I like to plant mine in morning sun near my front door; when I walk the dog in the morning they are the first to greet me.

Planting for spring

Bush Daisy

Euryops, or African Bush Daisies, are also very cheerful.  The African Bush Daisy can get to be bushier (hence the name) at approximately 2-3 feet.  It will last more than one season if cut back after blooming.  Euryops does bloom frequently and for long periods of time.

plantings for spring

Gallardia

Another happy Composite plant that thrives in our Southwest Florida landscape is the gaillardiaGaillardias love to reseed themselves wherever they are planted, which is perfect for filling in an area where the sun shines bright and is very drought tolerant.

plantings for spring

Gerber Daisy

One plant that is often sold as a cut flower in the florist trade is the Gerber daisy, but they also grow in containers superbly.  Fertilize with a slow release at the beginning of planting season (winter), and continue with a weak solution of water soluble fertilizer every time you water.  Let them dry out completely before watering again, and not through overhead irrigation.  This may be the key to keeping the foliage clean (powdery mildew is a problem).   Excess water causes most of the problems, and a nutrient-rich,  good draining soil mix  (not our sandy soils) helps to keep Gerber daisies happy .

Most of these flowers will reward the gardener with blooms throughout the year so get your flower on and get planting-you won’t regret planting any of these beauties.  All of these flowers and more are available in the Edison Ford Garden Shoppe.