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?

Name That Plant XI Answer: Lady of the Night

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 1st

Lady of the Night, Brunfelsia americana


You’ll want to find the perfect spot for this plant so you can enjoy its wonderfully fragrant nighttime blooms.  The fragrance has been compared to jasmine but with a hint of cloves and cinnamon.  Native to the Caribbean, it is rated for zones 9A-11 and produces more flowers in humid conditions.  Lady of the Night  is typically classified as a shrub but may resemble a small, thin tree at maturity.  It can be grown in full sun or part shade and should be protected from wind and late afternoon sun if possible.  Lady of the Night may also be grown indoors, but it is a member of the nightshade family and all parts are toxic, so keep away from children and pets.

Our Garden Shoppe has one gallon containers of Lady of the Night for $10.  Some of the plants are already blooming so you will smell the aroma that first night.  And don’t forget, Estates members receive 10% of all their purchases, including Garden Shoppe items.

Name That Plant VII ANSWER: Angel's Trumpet

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On July 28th

Congratulations to Megan Kissinger for guessing correctly, a mere 5 minutes after the contest began!

Angel’s Trumpet, Brugmansia spp.

The large pendulous flowers of this large shrub will surely attract attention in your Florida yard.  Growing to a height of 15 feet, angel’s trumpet makes a great accent plant for homes within zones 10-11 and have been reported to survive in zones 8B-9B.  As natives of South America, they require regular watering and do best in full sun or light shade.  There are several species of Brugmansia and many hybrids have been developed, each with a different color including white, peach and yellow.  Blooms are at their largest at night and tend to “perk up” a bit as the sun goes down.

In a 1931 survey of the Estates, Angel’s trumpet was noted in the gardens. However, the flower color wasn’t recorded so we don’t know which species of Brugmansia the Edisons enjoyed.  Today,  white and peach varieties are on the grounds near the Edison Caretaker’s House.  The Estates Garden Shoppe has a few angel’s trumpets for sale if you wish to plant them in your garden.  Please note that all parts of the plant are toxic if ingested and some people do have skin reactions to the plant material.

Name That Plant ANSWER

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On May 10th

On Friday, we asked our fans if they could identify this plant:

The plant is the fruit of the pin cushion tree (Sarcocephalus latifolius), sometimes called African peach.  The tree is in the public gardens near the ticket office at the Estates.  The fruit will turn a rosy pink as it matures and it resembles a pin cushion.  Fruits are edible but not very tasty.

In Bloom! April at the Estates

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On April 12th

Here’s just a taste of what is in bloom currently at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates:

Protecting Your Plants from the Cold

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On February 23rd

by Debbie Hughes, Estates Horticulturist

The recent frost and continued cold weather in Southwest Florida  gave some insight into what the rest of the country has been experiencing all winter.  Some of the foliage at the Estates, such as the soursop tree, didn’t fare too well in this weather.  

The best way to see if there is still life in your frost-affected plants, is to cut a cross section and analyze the center of the stem; the pith should be yellowish-white.  When examining the Estates’ soursop tree, the stem was blackish-brown.  Cutting into the stems further down the stems was necessary because it may just be the tips that are dead. 

Though it may be tempting to get rid of the dead growth once it has been damaged by the cold, you must resist!  Pick the dead leaves off the stems and wait!  The danger in trimming it off now is that there may be another cold spell to come.  Trimming plants, shrubs and trees encourages tender new growth and susceptibility to more cold damage.  Once spring-like weather is imminent, trim and fertilize to your heart’s delight.  The warmer and longer days will bring most of your plants back to life. 

A good rule of thumb for protecting plants that reside on the edge if their appropriate growing zone, is to stop trimming and fertilizing in October.  Every plant has an optimum growing zone where it flourishes.  For example, the soursop is a tropical fruit tree growing best in Zone 10 and 11.  The Edison & Ford Winter Estates is located on the edge of Zone 9b and 10. 

The only exception to this rule is made when fertilizing winter vegetables.  Most of the vegetables at the Estates made it through the cold with the exception of basil and some tomatoes.  Staff covered the tomatoes, and only a few had to be replanted.  Now, our tomatoes are showing great promise with a few yellow flowers ready to burst into red ripe tomato fruit.  Several varieties of our tomato plants are for sale in the Estates Garden Shoppe for only $4.

You Say Tomato, Part II

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On November 21st

In the September Estates blog post, You Say Tomato, I Say…, I discussed how to start tomato plants.  Already, the tomatoes are sprouting and are big enough to leave the greenhouse flats.  They are now in 4” pots and available for purchase.

Many people don’t realize, but the tomato is actually a fruit.  They are low in fat and packed with fiber, Lycopene, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Potassium, Iron, Calcium, and Folate. 

When you plant the varieties of tomatoes I have chosen for our Florida climate (Bella Rosa, Floralina, Homestead, Florida Basket, Snow White, and Cherokee Purple) there are some techniques you should employ to increase your chance of success:

  • Plant in raised beds, mounds, containers, or buckets with holes drilled for drainage
  • Use the best good draining soil possible
  • Place in full sun
  • Water when the soil is dry
  • Incorporate organic fertilizers
  • Insert a tomato cage

Tomatoes are what you call “heavy feeders,” needing a balanced fertilizer throughout the growing season (September through April). The Estates uses worm castings, sea kelp, fish emulsion, bone meal, and Espoma brand fertilizer on ours.  We spray a soap solution once a week to keep insects at bay, and hand- pick the caterpillars off the leaves. Tom’s Plant Soap is available in the Estates Museum Store.  Other insecticides include neem oil, hot pepper spray, and pyrethroids.  As always read the label directions.  Beware of blossom end rot (caused by a calcium deficiency) and fungal diseases, such as early blight and light blight (soil borne fungi). Copper fungicide is labeled for tomatoes and can help control fungal diseases.

Cultural practices highly affect the outcome of tomatoes.  Hand watering at the root zone or using drip irrigation in the morning hours can help prevent withering.  Wetting the soil roots rather than the foliage decreases the chances of fungal diseases. Put dead leaves and rotting fruit in your regular garbage (you don’t want to risk contaminating your compost). High nitrogen fertilizer should be avoided as well. 

You can purchase Estates sprouted tomato plants, fertilizers, insecticides, and fungicides at the Estates Garden Shoppe, open daily from 9AM-5PM, or at the Downtown Farmers Market on Thursdays from 7AM-2PM.  We will keep you posted on the progress of our tomato plants.