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…

Watch as art is created under the banyan

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On November 17th

Megan Kissinger, an award-winning local artist, will be creating a new botanical illustration during the Edison Garden Market on Saturday.  Megan is the featured artist for this year’s Holiday Nights.  She’ll also be teaching several botanical illustration courses at the Estates this winter.  Her work was recently featured in the News-PressShe’ll start drawing at 10 am on Saturday – feel free to come by and talk to Megan as she works.

Roses that bloom well in Florida?

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On November 15th

Pam Greenewald, owner of Angel Gardens, explains why a lot of people have difficulty growing roses in Florida.  She will be selling roses at the Edison Garden Market this weekend and teaching  short classes on the proper care of roses.

Pam says,

“Most people have had negative experiences with growing roses. This is because most roses grown commercially are offered to the public on grafts (another rose) that are not suited to our area, grown this way because they are able to be produced faster when taken to market. These roses have been fed a continuous diet of chemicals since they were born. People do not understand how much stronger and healthier and happier a rose can be when grown on its own roots, nurtured organically and loved like a child. There are more than 65 classes of roses (of which Hybrid Teas and Floribundas are only two) representing over 26,000 varieties of roses. Roses ARE so easy to grow when one is given the knowledge, choosing varieties that are right for the location and understanding the need for sun, water and regular feedings.”

Come meet Pam and many other vendors selling a variety of unique and hard-to-find plants at the Edison Garden Market on Nov 20 and 21. Pam will be teaching a class titled, “Rooting rose cuttings” on Saturday and another class, “Own root roses versus grafted roses” on Sunday.  Both classes start at 2 pm.  Pam is also offering a 20% discount to the first 10 customers at her booth on Saturday.  The market is FREE and open from 9-5 on Saturday and 9-4 on Sunday.  Free parking also available.

MORE great deals and free goodies at the Edison Garden Market!!!

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On November 10th

We’ve had a few more Garden Market vendors offer special discounts and free giveaways for Garden Market “early birds” on Nov 20 and 21.

Hunter’s Leaves, Flowers & FeathersA one gallon elephant ear “Pink China” free with $10 purchase to the first 20 customers on Saturday. Selling apple, peach, plum and other fruit trees, jams, jellies, unique garden art, pottery, and butterfly plants.

Rege Malone Horticulture Saturday: Get 3 one gallon butterfly plants for $10 (normally $4-5 each) to the first 20 customers.  Sunday: 2-for1 special on bromeliads while supplies last.  Normally $10 for one gallon, $25 for three gallon size.  Selling flowering tropicals, bromeliads, edibles, butterfly and garden plants.

Calusa Palm Nursery – Free one gallon Hispaniola palm, Sabal domingensis, with purchase to first 25 customers on Saturday.  Selling potted palms and heliconias.

Louisiana Iris Nursery – by 5 get 1 free – offered Saturday and Sunday.  Selling irises native to Florida – perfect for rain gardens or irrigated areas of your yard.  Can survive as far north as New York!

Lee County Compost – first 20 buyers of a 25 lb bag of compost (just $2!) will receive a free set of gardening tools – offered Saturday and Sunday.

Angel Gardens – 20% off for first 10 buyers on Saturday only.  Selling a variety of roses including Old Garden roses and shade-tolerant roses.

Garden Market hours: 9-5 on Saturday, Nov 20, 9-4 on Sunday, Nov 21.  Helpful gardening demonstrations will be held throughout the day.

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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Botanical Tours on Tuesdays & Fridays at 10 AM

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 17th

Beginning October 1, 2010, the botanical tour at The Edison & Ford Winter Estates will be on Tuesdays and Fridays at 10 AM.  This tour includes a walk through the historical gardens of the Edison and Ford Estates with a behind-the-scenes tour of the Estates Propagating Nursery.  The tour is never the same twice as it changes frequently to highlight plants currently blooming or fruiting.  With the change in flowers and fruits comes a variety of aromas for tour goers to experience, from Chanel No. 5 to buttered popcorn to bubblegum.  Participants will learn about the historical and cultural significance of the plants, including the world famous banyan tree, the 90-foot kapok tree, and the sausage trees. 

During the botanical tour, visitors will learn why Thomas Edison purchased his Fort Myers property in 1885 and how he and his family developed the landscape over the years.  Edison’s original design for his winter estate included areas for a research laboratory, family gardens, and work areas.  Each of these areas is visited on the tour and the relevant history is detailed.  Several trees that were planted during Edison’s time still stand and garden features, as well as Mina’s Moonlight Garden, which have been carefully restored to reflect the look, feel and scent of the historic landscape, are visited.

The Estates gardens contain more than 1,700 plants representing more than 400 species from six continents.  The collection includes tropical fruit trees such as mango, citrus, papaya and sapote, as well as orchids, bamboo, bromeliads, cycads, and more than 50 species of palms.

“Whether you are an avid gardener, are just starting your own garden, or simply have an interest in botanicals, the Estates tour is a must-see for Southwest Florida gardeners,” says Britta Soderqvist, the Estates Plant Curator.  “On the tour, you will get an up-close look at thriving fruits, flowering plants and palms that can be easily grown in our area, as well as the opportunity to ask questions about Florida gardening.”

The Estates Garden Shoppe is open daily from 9 AM – 5:30 and offers a variety of heritage plants, herbs and other tropicals for purchase. The cost of the botanical tour is $24 for adults, $10 for children 6-12, and FREE for Estates Members.  Visitors may upgrade their ticket for $6 to include a self-guided audio wand tour of the historic buildings and museum. Group botanical tours are available at a discounted price and may be scheduled throughout the week based on availability.    To schedule a group botanical tour call the Estates at 239-334-7419.