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

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.

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

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On December 8th
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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.

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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
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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.

 

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.

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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.

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

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

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.

So Many Mangoes, So Little Time

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 19th

mango treeIf it’s summer in southwest Florida, you’ll hear a lot of residents ask, “When will this heat end?”, “When will it stop raining?” and “What do I do with all these mangoes?”

While many of us year-round Floridians are enduring the heat and humidity, the mango trees are thriving and producing fruits. After more than 100 years of cross-breeding, resulting in numerous varieties that can ripen at different times, fresh mangoes are available from spring through fall in Florida, but July to September is peak time for fruit production.

If you have a tree near your house, you are familiar with that “Thud!” signaling another mango has fallen to the ground.  Unfortunately, many of those that fall are either under-ripe, over-ripe or suffer damage from the fall that makes them inedible. The flesh of large, under-ripe mangoes is green and can be tried in savory dishes like chutney. Or you can try one of Henry and Clara’s Fords favorite recipes for green mango pie here, although trying to make unripe fruit sweet is often tricky. Ripe mangoes are often eaten fresh or added to a refreshing summer salad. Check out our recipes for mango and black bean salad, mango smoothies, and mango salsa.

Visit our Garden Shoppe, where we sell a variety of delicious mango varieties that you can grow in your yard. Currently, we have the ‘Carrie’ and ‘Mahachanok’ varieties in stock. Both are free of the fibers common in many mango fruits. The ‘Carrie’ only reaches a height of 20 feet. The ‘Mahachanok’ fruits twice a year.

If you have too many mangoes, or don’t care for them but hate to see them go to waste, call your local food bank and ask if you can donate mangoes. Many organizations will accept fresh fruit from individuals. The Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida is one of many charities that accepts fresh mangoes.

Growing Your Own Tomatoes

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On January 22nd

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by Debbie Hughes, Horticulturist

January is a great time to plant tomatoes in  raised beds or large pots in Florida.

Tomatoes have difficulty growing in the poor sandy soil laden with nematodes

(microscopic worms that eat the roots of plants), it is best to grow in amended organic

soils. Seedlings can be started in early August-October in peat

pots then potted into larger pots.  When the plants have grown to at least  1-2 feet in

height, it is time to plant in the amended soil.  Seedlings are also available for sale ready

to plant if you missed the seed stage.   Many varieties of cherry tomatoes are grown in Florida because they take fewer

days to mature, and are easier to just pop in the mouth.   Edison Ford Winter Estates sells heirloom seeds from Bakers

Heirloom Seed Growers or look for interesting seeds  from Tomato Growers Supply.  Look forward to eating varieties

this year of, “Snow White” , “Sun Gold”, and “Sun Sugar” during the springtime.

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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.