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?

What's Blooming in June?

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On June 16th

There is always something blooming at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates.  Take a look at what’s in bloom right now:

Plant Spotlight: "Buttered Popcorn" Tree

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On June 9th

by Britta Soderqvist, Estates Plant Curator

There is a tree at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates whose small white flowers smell like buttered popcorn!  It just started blooming in late May.  The plant’s name is False Rubberwood (Mascarenhasia arborescens) although the common name is not really used much.  We typically refer to it as the “buttered popcorn tree”.  It grows to about 20 feet high and although the online resources say it prefers full sun, ours is growing in partial shade.  The False Rubberwood is native to tropical regions of Africa and requires a moderate amount of water . 

Visitors can smell the flowers on the tree that is next to the kapok tree behind the Banyan Café.  It’s fairly difficult to find these in Florida but the Estates Garden Shoppe has a few of these trees for sale in pots.

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.

Choosing the Right Tree

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On July 9th

by Debbie Hughes, Estates Horticulturist

Everyone needs a tree in their yard to provide some shade, and our summer rainy season is a perfect time for planting.  I am going to tell you a little secret to help you decide on what tree to choose. The most important mantra you should repeat to yourself is “Right plant in the right place.”  If you want to be happy with your choice for the lifetime of the tree, do the research.

  • Determine the mature height and spread, the flower, fruit, or leaf drop, and the wet, cold and salt tolerance.
  • Size matters – especially if you don’t want the tree to take over your property (or your neighbors).
  • A tree with flowers that fall on your driveway and car can be messy, but perfectly acceptable over the middle of the grass.
  • Most tropical fruit trees won’t survive in cold winter temperatures in northern regions of the county.
  • If you only live in Florida in the winter months and want a fruiting or flowering tree, make sure it blooms while you are in town.
jacaranda tree

jacaranda tree

Most people buy plants and then decide where it should go in the landscape. This is a no-no.  You will end up with the wrong tree for your situation and have to spend the money to cut it down later; not to mention losing all those years of growth only to be back where you started.

Some great choices for trees include (but there are many more):

  • SMALL: East Palatka Holly, Crape Myrtle, Orange Geiger, Bahama Strongbark, Sweet Acacia, Senna Surattensis, Tabernaemontana Orientalis (blooms smell like buttered popcorn)
  • MEDIUM:  Foxtail Palm, Shady Lady Black Olive, Tabebuia (Golden Trumpet and Caribbean Queen)
  • LARGE: Live Oak, Royal Poinciana, Jacaranda, Mahogany, Royal Palm

As the Edison & Ford Winter Estates restores the botanical gardens of the historical property, we invite you to commemorate your marriage, celebrate the birth of a child, or honor a passed away loved one by planting a tree in the gardens or sponsoring a memory bench. For more information on donating a Celebration Tree to the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, please visit http://www.edisonfordwinterestates.org/events/celebration-tree-plantings.