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 X ANSWER: Lipstick Tree

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On August 19th

Congratulations to Colin Brenner for correctly identifying this week’s mystery plant!

Lipstick Tree, Bixa orellana

If you’ve eaten cheddar cheese, you’ve eaten the product of this plant. The seeds of the lipstick tree, or achiote tree, are used to make annatto, a common food coloring. It was once used as body paint, insect repellant, and ink for hundreds of years by people living in the Caribbean and Tropical Americas. Today it is mostly used to add a reddish yellow color to food and you can find annatto in the spice aisle of your local supermarket.

The seeds from the lipstick tree grow within a bright red hairy seed pod on the branches of the lipstick tree. The tree may reach a height of 20 feet if left untrimmed. It is rated for zones 9B-11 and does best in full sun. Although the pink flowers are quite pretty, it’s the seed pods that will really attract attention to your garden. And if you’re a chef, the seeds can easily be processed at home for use in your recipes. The Estates recently lost a large lipstick tree in the severe January freeze but two small ones managed to survive and are behind the large bougainvillea on the Edison property. We also have a few lipstick trees available in our 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.

Plant Spotlight: Candlenut Tree

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On August 20th

by Dick Dutton, Estates Plant Curator

 Candlenut Tree

Candlenut Tree, Aleurites moluccana, Euphorbiaceae, Old and New World Tropics

The Candlenut tree is the state tree of Hawaii. It is one of the few trees that has a motto: “Peace, Security and Enlightenment.” The Candlenut tree can grow to 75 feet tall, bears walnut-size nuts and has evergreen leaves resembling the maple in shape.

Parts of the nut are used for cooking, traditional medicine, and soaps. Ancient Hawaiians used the nuts to provide light by stringing them in a row on a palm leaf midrib, lighting one end, and burning them one by one approximately every fifteen minutes. This led to their use as a measure of time, as one could instruct someone to return home before the second nut burned out.

There are three trees growing on the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. Candlenut trees are available for sale at the Garden Shoppe.

The Edible Garden

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On July 20th

by Debbie Hughes, Estates Horticulturist

The Estates has many edible plants this time of year, such as curcuma (turmeric), shampoo ginger, galangal, lemongrass, allspice, okra, eggplant, roselle, and pepper seedlings.  When the season cools down, the palette will change into more traditional herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme, chives, rosemary, mints etc.

Once a gardener has made the decision to use a little piece of land to grow something useful, the fun begins.  Getting started is the hardest part, but don’t be dismayed.  Thomas Edison once said, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration;” nowhere is this more evident than in the garden.  Consider starting an edible garden near your door for easy access in maintenance and utilization.  Besides, when you brush past the herbs, you can’t help becoming inspired by their enticing aroma.

There are some easy techniques one can employ to make growing your own herbs easier and become a genius in the kitchen.  One technique I have found successful for growing herbs is the mound or lasagna method.

A “No Till Garden” consists of:

  • layer of newspaper
  • layer of compost
  • layer of potting mix
  • layer of worm castings
  • last layer of food approved mulch

How to make your own Herb Mound

The hill can vary from 18” to 24” in height, allowing for planting room on the sides and top.  Mounds, raised beds, or container gardens allow less bending over, easing your back and knees.  Containers allow freedom to move the herbs where they may be the happiest depending on sun and water conditions.  Place the herbs near a hose or a rain barrel for easy watering.

If you would like to see an example of this type of garden, there is a demonstration for public view in the Estates’ Heritage Garden next to our newly dedicated Mina Edison Statue.  Come to the Garden Shoppe at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates during the week.  Our hours are 9-5 every day.  Estates Members receive a 10% discount on all Garden Shoppe merchandise.