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?

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Research Continues with Edison’s Plants

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On August 14th

Although Thomas Edison’s research of rubber plants ended long ago, the plants on his estate still assist others around the world with their botanical research. Our plants are inventoried regularly by the Plant Curator and then included in the Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) PlantSearch database, the only global database of plant species in botanic gardens and formal institutions. The database allows researchers to contact gardens holding specific plants and request material. For example, in November 2016, a PhD student from the University of Campinas in Brazil contacted our Plant Curator via the BGCI database and requested seeds from strawberry guava, Psidium cattleianum ‘littorale’. In July 2017, we mailed approximately 50 seeds from two of our guava trees to the PhD student. She will use the seeds for a genetic study and update us with results when her work is completed. Edison Ford is proud to participate in the BGCI program and will continue to provide plant materials to researchers when possible.

Partners for Plumeria

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On April 24th

‘Pompano Pink’ plumeria

Come meet some of the newest members of our garden: Princess Maria Tia, Maui Beauty, and Nebel’s Rainbow are three of 20 unique cultivars of plumeria, also known as frangipani, to join our landscape. They were planted at Edison Ford in late 2016 and early 2017 and serve as back up specimens in the country’s only National Plumeria Collection, based at the Naples Botanical Garden (NBG).

NBG earned the National Plumeria Collection distinction in 2011 from the Plant Collections Network, a program organized by the American Public Gardens Association and the USDA Agricultural Research Service. The NBG’s holdings include more than 580 species and cultivars of frangipani. In order to mitigate potential losses from a catastrophic event at NBG, sites like Edison Ford are hosting duplicate specimens of some cultivars.

Some trees in the collection are now blooming for the first time since being transplanted to Edison Ford. You can see them near our succulent garden, across the driveway from the Banyan Cafe.

Plumeria ‘Cerise’

Plumeria ‘Tillie Hughes’

Plumeria ‘Black Tiger’

Plumeria “Nebel’s Rainbow’

Holiday Craft Using Items Found in Nature

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On December 20th

Reindeer craft made from sticks, acorns and seeds.

Need to entertain the kids for a bit during the holidays? Send them outside on a treasure hunt to make this simple but cute reindeer craft from sticks, seeds, acorn caps or other items from nature. All you’ll need is some glue, markers and a bit of imagination.

For the reindeer pictured here, I found everything I needed on the ground of the Edison Ford gardens. Seeing as we are five days from Christmas and it’s 81° F right now, this won’t be hard for those of you in south Florida. If you live in one of those cold places that we Floridians hear about on the news, you might have to wait for the snow to melt.

I collected a few sticks of similar diameter, the tops from two acorns that had fallen from a laurel oak tree and a bright red seed found in some leaf litter. I selected two branches that were bare at one end and had several smaller branches at the other end. I placed the two bare ends together to form a “V” and then placed a small bare branch a few inches above that. Once I had those in a position that looked good, I glued the sticks in place with Mod Podge®. I glued the seed at the end of the V to form a red nose. Using a black marker, I colored the acorn caps for the eyes. You may have to prop up the acorn caps or use some string to keep the V together while the glue dries.

If you can’t find a red seed, you could always color an acorn cap with black or red marker or paint. Warning: bright red seeds are usually a sign that they are poisonous. Don’t encourage kids to pick up any seed if you’re not certain that they can keep from eating it!

Share photos of your completed craft! What other Christmas characters or holiday symbols can you create using items from nature?


Stick, acorns and seeds before they were crafted into the reindeer.



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.

Monday Morning Walk Through the Gardens

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 20th

Something is always blooming at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. Take a virtual walk through our gardens to see some of the amazing plants putting on a show in mid-September. Now is your chance to see the Devil Tree, in the first parking lot by the banyan tree, in bloom.

False Rubberwood tree. The flowers smell like buttered popcorn.

False Rubberwood tree. The flowers smell like buttered popcorn. Find it next to the big kapok tree near the Banyan Cafe.

orchid purple

Purple orchid in one of our trees near the succulent garden.

dynamite tree

Male flower of the dynamite tree, Hura crepitans, near our succulent garden.

princess dwarf flower

Princess Dwarf Flower off the porch of the Edison home.

sausage tree

Sausage Tree next to the Edison Guest Home.

night blooming cereus

Night Blooming Cereus on the Ford property.

red powderpuff

Red Powderpuff on the Ford property.

red orchid tree

Red Orchid Tree for sale in our Garden Shoppe.


Devil tree flowering2016

Our Devil Tree is full of white blooms.

Devil tree flower2016

Flowers of the Devil Tree.




A Face Only a Mother Could Love

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On April 8th

IMG_20150408_150055It is spring here in Southwest Florida and our gardens are abuzz. Our garden shoppe is growing and many items in our garden shoppe and adjacent butterfly garden attract quite a crowd. Here are a couple of youngsters we found in the garden today. Can you identify them?

Bromeliads Add Color to Your Garden

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On January 13th











We decorated our Christmas Tree this year for Holiday Nights with 2 types of Neoreglias called ‘Tres Colores’ and ‘Roots and Roots’. It was great fun to see them used in a way we don’t usually use them.  We have been planting them in our gardens here at the Edison Ford Winter Estates, but we are offering them to gardeners here in SWFL at Buy One Get One.

Bromeliads 006








There are many types of Bromeliads.   You may be familiar with sweet Pineapples-surprise they are a bromeliad or Spanish Moss-those air plants are a bromeliad.   Most grow  in a semi-shaded area adding great color to your low maintenance garden, but there are a few varieties that need sun to give them the great coloration.  Some are grown for their form, for their bloom spikes that can last for months, or or unique colors.  Why not add them to your garden this season.





Thomas Edison Gets Top Garden Award

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On May 28th

    At the annual Florida Federation of Garden Clubs Conference Thomas Edison was honored with their top award recognizing his leadership in the development ofedison goldenrod horticulture and agriculture in Florida.

      Edison created the headquarters for the Edison Botanic Research Corporation at his Florida estate in Fort Myers, conducting botanical research on more than 17,000 plants to find a successful source for natural rubber. Edison also contributed to ground-breaking research with Luther Burbank as it pertained to the hybridization of plants, leading to the Plant Patent Act of 1930. During this time, Edison hybridized strands of Goldenrod, more than doubling the size and latex production of the plant.

      The Edison Botanic Research Corporation Laboratory is the most recently restored structure at Edison Ford, having been completed in 2012. Through extensive research, the lab was restored back to its original appearance and is furnished as it would have been in 1929 and is a proud landmark of his successful research!