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 ‘gardening’ Category

Garden Talk: Vegetable Gardening

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On November 1st

Planting season is in full swing now that fall is here in Southwest Florida! But did you know that you can garden year-round in the Ft. Myers and Naples area and expect a good harvest? Come to our next Garden Talk on November 11, 2017 at 10 am at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates to learn about the types of vegetables that will grow well for the next few months and even year-round.

From sweet potatoes to pandan to pest-control, this talk will cover a lot of ground and isn’t your typical “How to Grow Tomatoes” presentation. Learn composting tips, companion planting recommendations and how to increase your growing success. Edison Ford Garden Specialist, Eric Francovitch, and Arlo Simonds, FGCU Food Forest president and manager of the Pine Manor Community Garden, will teach the class and answer your questions about growing edibles at your home.

Wear close-toed shoes, a hat and sunscreen and bring water to drink. A 20% off coupon will be provided for use toward Edison Garden Shoppe purchases. Cost: members: $10; nonmembers: $15.

Garden Talk: Palms in the Southwest Florida Landscape

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On July 27th

Thomas Edison was instrumental in encouraging and accomplishing the planting of the stately royal palms along McGregor Boulevard and Fort Myers is now considered the “City of Palms.” Edison planted palms throughout his estate because he enjoyed their tropical look. Of the 2,800 species of palms, several native to Florida are represented, along with ones that do equally well in our climate. Come to the Garden Talk on August 12, 2107 at 10 a.m. and learn which palms you could plant in your own landscape. Gordon Bower, an avid palm collector with more than 100 species in his yard, will present the program with our Senior Horticulturist, Debbie Hughes. Planting, fertilizing and pruning will also be discussed. A tour of the palms in the Edison Ford gardens and a hands-on demonstration will complete the program.

Participants should meet at the information booth after signing in at the ticket counter. They will receive a 20% off coupon toward Garden Shoppe purchases. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a hat, sunscreen and water.

Cost: Edison Ford Members $10; non-members $15. Contact Leeanne Criswell, Edison Ford Program Registrar at 239-334-7419 or Pre-registration requested, but not required.

Blooms on the Street, March 2017

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On March 17th

If you’ve traveled through Southwest Florida lately, you’ve probably noticed a plethora of blooms in trees and home gardens. Here’s a look at what you might have seen and where you can find the ones you haven’t yet spotted. If you would love one of these plants in your yard, stop in our Garden Shoppe and take one home. Need some tips on planting and caring for your new tree? Register for our next Garden Talk, How to Plant and Establish Trees and Shrubs on April 8, 2017 at 10 am.

This list was compiled March 17, 2017 and is based on locations within the City of Ft. Myers. Let us know if there’s a showy flower you’ve been wondering about!

Yellow flowers:

yellow-tabSilver or yellow tabebuia, Tabebuia aurea – a tree native to the Bahamas, Caribbean and Central and South America. Like the related pink tabebuia, it produces trumpet shaped flowers. You can find several yellow tabs at the Edison Mall and there is a large tree in Jefferson Park. We have a young tree near Mina’s Moonlight Garden that was planted in honor of Berne Davis, a Ft. Myers philanthropist and garden lover.

Red flowers:

shaving-brush-tree-flowerShaving brush tree,  Pseudobombax ellipticum – a tree native to Mexico, Guatemala and Cuba. These aptly-named trees produce vibrant red clusters of stamens that resemble an old-fashioned shaving brush. We have two trees, both visible to the general public. One is just inside our east entrance gate off Marlyn Rd and the other is visible from McGregor Blvd between the Edison and Ford properties.

Orange flowers:

african-tulip4African tulip tree, Spathodea campanulata – a tree native to tropical Africa. It produces orange flowers that are lined with yellow and resemble tulips. There is a large tree in full bloom just south of the Ft. Myers Country Club on the east side of McGregor, just north of Jefferson Ave.

Purple flowers:

jacaranda3Jacaranda, Jacaranda mimosifolia – a tree native to Bolivia, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. Although the jacaranda’s flowers may be small, it makes up for it in sheer numbers. Some trees are ablaze in shades of purple this week. Check out the jacarandas in the medians along Cortez Blvd near Ft. Myers High School.

queens-wreath3Queen’s wreath, Petra volubilis – a vine native to Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. This popular vine’s flowers resemble wisteria, but is not related. We have it in Mina’s Moonlight Garden and on the pergola between Edison’s home and the guest house. Driving around Ft. Myers, you can see a great specimen on Woodford Ave. There’s also a nice queen’s wreath on a pergola overhanging the entrance to the Ft. Myers Lee County Garden Council building. Park near their entrance on Larchmont Ave and walk to the gate to see it.

White fluff:

silk-cottonIf you’ve spotted odd-looking puffs of white on the ground or oval-shaped pods of fluff in trees, those are the product of the silk cotton tree. There are several types of these trees within the Ceiba genus. Many of the trees had pink flowers earlier this year in the Ft. Myers and Naples area. Pick up one of the puffs from the ground and you’re likely to see a small black seed attached. You can get a close up look at the silk cotton tree if you drive by 2153 Larchmont, which is adjacent to the overflow parking at Edison Ford.

Stay tuned! There are sure to be many more beautiful blooms this spring!




Garden Talk: Attaching Orchids in Trees

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On February 28th

dendrobium-aggregatum4Join us for our next Garden Talk, March 11 at 10 am and learn about Florida orchids and how to attach them to trees.

Orchids are one of the most popular plants in the gardens and attaching orchids to the trees is a technique not new at the Edison Ford gardens. In the early 20th century, the Edisons and Fords explored the Everglades in a Model T, finding orchids in the swamps. Mina adopted the practice of planting orchids in the trees in the Edison gardens, and we continue the tradition today.

During the talk, we will demonstrate how to attach different species of orchids and how decisions are made for where they should be located. Included in this garden talk is a tour of the hundreds of orchids on the trees throughout the site.

Details: Saturday, March 11, 2017 at 10 am. Edison Ford Members $10; non-members $15. To register contact Leeanne Criswell, Edison Ford Program Registrar at or 239-334-7419. 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. Meet at the Information Booth (after checking in at the ticket counter to get your wristband.)

Upcoming Garden Events:

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

May 13 – Garden Talk: Using Fertilizers & Amendments

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

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

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

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On December 8th

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.


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.



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

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On November 9th

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.


Golden Rain Tree: Pretty But a Potential Pain

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On October 28th

Many visitors of the Edison and Ford Winter Estates have noticed our trees with what appear to be salmon-colored flowers. In fact, these are the seed pods that followed yellow flowers of the golden rain tree, Koelreuteria paniculata, which started blooming in early October. While quite attractive in the fall, the seeds are plentiful and determined, with hundreds of new seedlings sprouting up wherever they fall.

In southern Florida, the tree is considered a Category II invasive plant, which means it has the potential to crowd out native species if not planted wisely. For example, planting a golden rain tree in a heavily landscaped suburban lawn is probably not going to lead to nuisance trees as the seedlings will be destroyed during lawn maintenance. However, planting one near wooded areas is not recommended as the tree is likely to spread into the natural landscape.


Seed pods of the golden rain tree, Koelreuteria paniculata.

Stop by our Garden Shoppe and find flowering trees and other great garden plants for your yard. We will be starting some golden rain tree trees from seed, so check back in 2017 if you want one for your home.


The salmon-colored seed pods of the golden rain tree.


Golden rain tree with peach-colored seed pods over our Garden Shoppe in Fort Myers, Florida.

Gardening Up, Not Out: How Vines Add Drama to Your Landscape

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On October 4th

Did you catch our Horticulturist’s latest article in the News-Press? Debbie Hughes explains how vines can help you grow your garden up and not out. Click here to read the article.

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.