The great inventor Thomas Alva Edison was also an impassioned amateur botanist and enthusiastic gardener. Edison and his wife Mina began gardening soon after arriving in Fort Myers, Florida. Today, gardens at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates encompass 20 acres and contain more than 1,700 plants. The collection includes more than 400 species from six continents. These gardens are on every “must see” list for SW Florida, and a visit is easily incorporated into a stay at a Cape Coral or Bokeelia Bed and Breakfast vacation.
Edison approached his gardens as he approached his work, methodically and with purpose. Ever the inventor, Edison constantly researched the uses of plants. He used bamboo in his lightbulbs, and by the late 1920′s was known throughout the world for his work with rubber trees. Yet he and his wife also loved nature; many of the flowers were planted to attract birds and butterflies, and many fruit trees were planted for their fruit.
The results are phenomenal. There are always plants in bloom at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. Look for star-shaped white flowers on African Buttered Popcorn Trees in January and small fragrant pink or white flowers on the Indian Torch Tree in June. The enormous Banyan Tree is particularly lovely in May, and the Zulu Fig Lagos Rubber Tree bears fruit in October.
It is said that Fort Myers, Florida, would not be what it is today had Edison and Ford not chosen to winter there. Certainly it has greatly changed since Edison purchased the property in 1885, when cattle and cows roamed freely throughout the dusty landscape. It is hard to imagine the city today without the lush oasis of the Winter Estates.
Botanical tours are offered every Thursday and Saturday. For additional information, please visit Edison and Ford Winter Estates.