One of the highlights of our trip last year was a visit to the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers. The famous American inventor, Thomas Edison, and the auto industry tycoon, Henry Ford, spent their winters in very comfortable quarters there. The place is rich in history, and is now a National Register Historic Site.
There's something for everyone there, including their historic homes, Edison's laboratory, lots of antique cars (including Ford's Model T), displays of both men's patents, and much more. Edison and Ford were both complex characters--Ford, especially, as revealed in this episode of the PBS "The Titans" miniseries. Edison was a Rennaissance man. Beyond his primary occupation as an inventor, he also was a businessman, chemist, astronomer, engineer, and botanist.
Edison, along with his talented and underappreciated second wife, Mina, created a botanical wonderland at their winter estate. Here are a few of the highlights:
Greeting us at the entrance was a life-size statue of Edison, surrounded by one of the largest Banyan trees (Ficus benghalensis) in the continental U.S., which was planted in 1925. It was a gift from Harvey Firestone, founder of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Co.
One of the first things that caught my eye in the gardens was this pergola/arbor that connects the Edisons' home with their guest house.
From a distance I thought it was Wisteria.
But on closer inspection and after reading the plant marker, I found out it was Queen's Wreath (Petrea volubilis), a tropical plant.
Other tropical delights included Dwarf Poinciana (Caesalpinia pulcherrima), Spiral Ginger (Costus scaber), and Bananas (Musa acuminata).
This gorgeous Snowbush (Breynia disticha) lined one of the walkways.
Epiphytes of many varieties were in abundance.
While the Roses weren't at the peak of their beauty, I had to stop and capture a few of the best blooms.
This historic Pier once led to a dock, where Edison apparently spent many hours fishing.
But for me, the highlight of the place was the Moonlight Garden, created by landscape architect Ellen Biddle-Shipman for Mina Edison in 1929. We saw it during the day, when it was exquisite, but it was designed to be appreciated at night--when the reflecting pool and bright flowers would reflect the moonlight.
Edison used the little building that borders the pool as one of his offices. The combination of the modest building, the Water Lilies, the Bougainvillea, bright blue planters, garden benches, and the reflecting pool was magical.
Definitely a must-see if you're anywhere near Fort Myers, Fla.