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?

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.

Name That Plant VI ANSWER: Shell Ginger

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On July 21st

Congratulations to Patricia Travis for winning this week’s Name That Plant!

Shell ginger, Alpinia zerumbet

A tall landscape plant, shell ginger (or one of the many other gingers available), provide striking background foliage in the landscape.  It may grow up to six feet tall and will continue to spread if given adequate space.  It is rated for zones 8-11 but may not flower if affected by frost.  However, our shell ginger is flowering nicely this year after more than a week of freezing temperatures in January.  Part shade and moist soils are best for this plant.  Although it will tolerate full sun, it is not drought tolerant and may require even more water than a shaded plant.  Shell ginger also makes an attractive house plant.

Like all gingers, shell ginger is native to Southeast Asia.  Although it is in the same family as the ginger we commonly use for cooking, the rhizome (or root) of Alpinia zerumbet is not typically used as a spice: the rhizome of Zingiber officinale is what you typically find in stores.  However, the leaves of Zingiber officinale are not particularly showy, and the plant seems to grow poorly in southwest Florida, so it is not marketed as a landscape plant.  The Estates Garden Shoppe sells shell ginger as well as a variety of other gingers, ranging from variegated forms to gingers with purple leaves and unique flowers unlike anything you’ll see on other plants.  There are several large clumps of shell ginger behind the Henry Ford Statue near the Ford estate and several other examples of ginger on the grounds, mainly by the Edison pool.

Globba Ruby Ginger is currently for sale 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.

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.