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?

Planting and Caring Tips for Your Lychee Tree

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On June 7th

The season is upon us for harvesting the fruit of the Lychee tree. Despite the fruits addictive flavor, it remains one of China’s best kept secrets. Lychees have a rough outer skin that separates easily leaving you with a flesh that is sweet to sub-acid, aromatic and tastes unlike anything else on earth.

In SW Florida, fruit is ready for a short time in late May through early July and has a very short shelf life.

The trees were introduced to Florida in the 1930’s and some of the larger commercial groves are in an area southwest of Miami. They grow best in the subtropical climates where temperatures are cool and dry for a short time in the winter months.

Lychees do not like wet feet, so be sure to plant your tree in well drained soil. Trees can also be planted on a mound to ensure proper drainage. The native soil of Florida is fine for successful growing.

Tips for Growing & Caring for Lychee trees:

  • Temperature: Thrive in subtropical environments. Heavy tropical environments may result in no fruit production. Mature trees can withstand a light frost, but prolonged temperatures below 32 degrees may result in damage or even kill the tree.
  • Best Dooryard Varieties: Hak Ip, Sweet Heart, Kwai Mai Pink and Mauritius. Commercial varieties such as: Brewster and Emperor are larger trees that may not be suited for a smaller yard.
  • Avg. Height and Width: Varies with the variety, Lychee trees range from about 20 to 40 feet tall. Average is 25’ X 25”.
  • Native Range: Common in areas of Southern China. Commercial plantations are common in Hawaii and Florida.
  • Fertilize established trees regularly 1 to 2 times during the growing season from spring to the end of summer.
  • Water: Lychees need regular watering during the growing season. Soils with too much salt in them, especially in the Southwest require regular watering to prevent salt build-up. Lychees should not be in standing water, as it will stunt their growth. Newly planted trees should be watered 2 to 3 times a week during the first weeks of planting, but can be reduced once the tree is established
  • Prune mature trees to help control the size and shape. The University of Florida Extension office recommends not cutting branches that are larger than 1 inch, or you risk having less fruit production.

During Lychee season, we will be selling Lychee fruit at the Downtown Farmers Market at Centennial Park Thursdays from 7am to 1pm.

Visit the Edison & Ford Winter Estates Garden Shoppe to see some of the varieties we have available. The horticulture staff is available to assist you and to answer any questions you may have.

Plant Spotlight: Purple Firespike

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On February 3rd

If you’re looking for a tall, winter-time butterfly plant, purple firespike, Odontonema callistachyum, is a good choice for southern Florida. Growing up to six feet tall, it starts blooming in autumn and the blooms may last through winter in Zone 10.  It will die back in a hard freeze but should re-sprout in the spring in Zones 8-9.   Although it’s rated for full sun to partial shade, it may wilt during the intense summer sun in southern Florida.  You may prefer to trim it back in the summer to keep it in check.  Once established, firespike is drought tolerant and should attract many winged visitors to your yard.

Cardinal flower, Odontonema stictum, is a close relative and has red flowers.  It was included in a list of plants grown on the Estates from 1901-1941.  Given the Edisons’ interest in nature, it’s likely the cardinal flower was one of many species planted to attract butterflies and birds.

Our Garden Shoppe sells purple firespike in two gallon pots for $12.  We also carry a variety of butterfly and hummingbird plants to complement the firespike.  Don’t forget, Estates members save 10% on all purchases, including plants!

Britta Hanson Soderqvist, Plant Curator

Garden Puzzler Answer: Mango and pickle

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On January 21st

We finally have a winner to our garden puzzler:

This fruit’s name was once used as a verb describing a specific way to preserve food.

In the 1700’s, the word mango was used as a verb meaning to pickle.  For a time, anything pickled was called a mango, including peppers. Read an interesting account of the history of the word in America here.

As any visitor to the Estates knows, both the Edisons and the Fords loved mangoes.  It’s likely that mangoes were planted soon after Edison purchased his Fort Myers property in 1885 because by 1892, the caretaker of the Estate was already shipping mangoes to Edison at his New Jersey home.  By 1917, thirty mango trees were recorded on Edison’s property.  Most of the trees bordered the fence line along what is now McGregor Boulevard.  Henry Ford’s property, which was nicknamed The Mangoes because of the line of mango trees in front of the house, together with the Edisons’ mangoes, formed “Mango Lane”, a shady walkway that remains today.

Not just for looks: Edison’s interest in poinsettias

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On December 14th

In his search for a source of latex rubber, Thomas Edison experimented with hundreds of species of plants at his Fort Myers estate, including the poinsettia, Euphorbia pulcherrima.  Our records indicate that 150 poinsettias were planted in the research gardens in April and May, 1927.  However, like many plants Edison tried, poinsettias were quickly ruled out as a reliable source in favor of other plants like goldenrod.  Our records also show that poinsettias were purchased for the home in 1908, long before Edison and his crew began their rubber research.  It’s likely that the Edisons just wanted to admire the plant’s brilliant red leaves against its dark green foliage, as we do today.

Poinsettias, native to Mexico and Central America, are named after Joel Roberts Poinsett who was the U.S. Minister to Mexico when he introduced the plant to the U.S. in 1828.  In southern Florida, we can grow poinsettias in the yard although they can quickly grow to ten feet or more. Check our Garden Shoppe: we get regular shipments of poinsettias during the winter holiday season.

Blooms, birds and dolphins at the Estates

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On December 3rd

Take a look at some of our recent blooms and visitors…

What's Blooming at the Estates

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On November 1st

Here’s a peek at some of the plants currently blooming and fruiting at the Estates.  Check back tomorrow for more photos of additional flowers!

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Name That Plant V ANSWER: Coppperleaf

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On July 14th

Last week we asked you to identify this plant.  Not a single one guessed correctly.  The answer is Copperleaf.

Copperleaf, Acalypha wilkesiana

The multi-colored leaves of this tall accent plant are quite distinct and add a year-round splash of color to the landscape.  Reaching 15 feet in height and 8 feet or more in width copperleaf generally requires occasional trimming to keep it in check.  Copperleaf plants prefer moist soil but will tolerate short droughts once established.  Native to Fiji and the Pacific Islands, it is rated for zones 10-11 but is sometimes grown in colder climates as an annual.  Smaller plants can do well indoors, especially in bright light.

A cultivar of this plant, A. wilkesiana ‘Miltoniana’ was purchased for the Edison’s property in 1908 and was recorded as late as 1936, so the Edisons probably enjoyed this plant for many years at their winter home.  Today, there are many cultivars of the plant and we sell a few cultivars in the Estates Garden Shoppe.

Butterflies Abound!

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On July 2nd

With all the flowering plants in the Estates Garden Shoppe, herb garden and butterfly garden, now is a good time to be a nectar-seeking insect at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates!  We are seeing quite a few species of butterflies and moths on the grounds, especially in the area around our Garden Shoppe.  Mina Edison loved butterflies and would probably be happy to see all the activity in her gardens today.