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 VII ANSWER: Golden Dewdrop

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On August 5th

Last week we tested your plant knowledge and asked you to identify this plant:

Congratulations to Barbra Goodrich Justice for correctly identifying it.  As this week’s winner, Barbra will be awarded her own golden dewdrop plant!

Golden dewdrop, Duranta repens

This Florida native is very versatile – it will grow as a free-form small tree in your yard or bloom just as happily in a hanging basket.  The purple flowers of the golden dewdrop are followed by small yellow fruits, thus the common name of this plant.  It is a great butterfly plant, rated for zones 9B-11, and is drought tolerant once established.  If allowed, it may grow to 15 ft tall by 15 ft wide, but will tolerate frequent pruning. 

Although it is unclear when the Edisons first planted golden dewdrop at the Estates, in 1935 Mina led a tour of the gardens and the golden dewdrop was included.  Come see our golden dewdrop behind the Estates ticket office or view the white-flowered variety across the street next to Mina’s Moonlight Garden.  We have several flowering golden dewdrops for sale in the Estates Garden Shoppe: most are the purple variety and are $6 for a one gallon container.

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: Fringed Hibiscus

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On June 21st

by Britta Soderqvist, Estates Plant Curator

Fringed Hibiscus, Hibiscus schizopetalus

The fringed hibiscus is a fast-growing shrub native to Africa.  Like other hibiscus, it has five petals and a long stigma, but the petals of this plant are divided and the whole flower hangs down, creating a unique, lantern-like effect.

Our records show that Mina and Thomas Edison enjoyed the beauty of the fringed hibiscus, purchasing at least one plant for the Estates in 1908.  Hummingbirds are known to visit the flower and it’s likely that is one of the reasons the Edisons, both avid bird lovers, planted it on their grounds.

Fringed hibiscus will grow in full to part sun although a full day of Florida’s summer sun is probably too much.  During drought, water heavily once a week.  Individual flowers will bloom for just one or two days but the plant should be in bloom during most of the warm months.  The shrub may reach ten feet in height and spread five to six feet on average.  Mature plants should recover from a light freeze.  Fringed hibiscus may also be grown in pots or hanging baskets.

You can see our mature fringed hibiscus behind the large bougainvillea near the Moonlight Garden.  Plants in six inch pots are available for $12 at the Estates Garden Shoppe.

Orchids in Bloom

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On August 11th

by Debbie Hughes, Estates Horticulturist

Ghost Orchid

I was fortunate enough last weekend to visit the strange Ghost orchid at the Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples, FL.   The term “visit” usually describes catching up with an aunt or uncle, but this visit was more like a long lost friend.  A Dendrophlax Lindenii, botanically speaking, is a rare orchid native to South Florida composed of roots (no leaves) and an odd-shaped white petaled bloom spike.

To view the ghost orchid one had to squint through a scope. The orchid was perched in its roost, 300 feet from the boardwalk, high in the sky in an unsuspecting 600 year old cypress tree. I couldn’t believe my eyes; the orchid really existed!  My previous experience came up empty while hiking through the Fakahatchee Swamp in the Everglades years earlier.  I also discovered oodles of orchids attached to pond apple trees within naked eye view while strolling on the boardwalk.  Most people might not notice the orchids, mistaking them for tree parts.   I wonder what fate native orchids have in South Florida, as the numbers have dwindled throughout the state and the world since people began collecting them and developing the lands on which they thrive.

Every week, we attach orchids into our mango trees and other appropriate trees at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in what we call “Orchid Lane”.  Orchids were a favorite of Mina Edison; many horticulturists hunting the wilderness and friends worldwide sent her orchids.  There was even talk of the Edisons’ and Fords’ camping forays into the swamps bringing orchids home to their gardens.  The rough crevices of the bark make mango trees a perfect candidate for the orchid to establish a network of roots in.  The canopy also provides protection from strong winds and direct sunlight.

Laelias, Cattleyas, Cyrtopodium, Dendrobiums, Phaleanopsis, Schomburgkia, Psychopsis, Dendrophylax, Epidendrum, Oncidium, Encyclias, Brassavola, Vanilla, and everything in between reside in the loving arms of our tropical jungle.  We are a designated site for confiscated orchids through CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). Since we receive many rare and not-so-rare orchids, we are able to provide a chance for the public to enjoy these beauties close up. 

Each month an orchid will find a reason to bloom and continue the cycle of life.  We have a Dendrobium that has bloomed continuously since I began work here in 2007.  Just come by and walk around the property; you will be amazed at the fun you will have discovering our hidden wonders.  During the year we offer an Orchid class for those who would like to learn about their care.   Stay tuned for more info about our amazing orchids throughout the year!