Florida’s Surprising Spring Plants – Cathy Dunn

Florida's Surprising Spring Plants

April 8, 2021
By Cathy Dunn - Garden Club of Cape Coral (Special to The BreezeCape Coral Breeze

Click Here for full article in the Cape Coral Breeze

As a new Florida gardener, I was excited to think that I had landed in a spot where everything bloomed year-round. It was quite a surprise to learn that there are many plants that are dormant or drop their leaves and appear to die during the cool winter season. I actually discovered this quite by accident!

During my first summer here, I couldn’t resist purchasing a curcuma plant that was lush and flowering beautifully. As the summer progressed, it began to look a little less wonderful, so I did some research and decided I had placed it in a pot in too much sun on my lanai. So off to the shaded bed it went, protected by a palm tree’s shadow. But this didn’t appear to be a solution – the plant looked more pathetic with each passing day.

Being a total garden perfectionist, I finally lopped off the few remaining pitiful leaves and dutifully planted another specimen in its place to avoid a hole in my garden.

The following spring, I was shocked to find tightly furled leaves emerging around the bromeliad I had planted in what I thought was an open spot – it was the curcuma re-emerging! The bromeliad was quickly dispatched to another location and the curcuma was beautiful all summer, and in the fall, I happily cut it back knowing that it would emerge again in the spring.

I have several other plants that follow this pattern: a button ginger that is just now poking a few spikes up through the ground, a curcuma variety commonly known as “Siam Tulip,” and a fabulous Black Flamingo (Chrysothemis Pulchella), which is featured in the Edison Ford Gardens. These plants are so striking that I can endure an empty space for a few months while anticipating beautiful new growth each spring.

You have no doubt noticed plants and deciduous trees that go dormant and lose their leaves during the winter months. Plants such as caladium, canna, eucomis (pineapple lilies), goldenrod, plumeria and some varieties of ginger will die back in the cooler months, and emerge again when the temperatures warm, usually in early April. Deciduous shrubs and trees such as spirea, crape myrtle, beautyberry, sweetgum and red maples will lose most of their leaves, and burst back in March and April.

Many of our most beautiful flowering trees begin blooming in early winter, then lose their leaves and put on a final show of spectacular blossoms when all the leaves have fallen. The Hong Kong Orchid (Bauhinia), Trumpet Tree (Tabebuia), Silk Cotton Tree (Kapok), Golden Rain (Cassia), Jacaranda and Royal Poinciana are among our most exotic trees that drop their leaves, but the reward of long lived tropical blooms is well worth the brief leafless period.

Since we don’t often experience the dramatic temperature changes between seasons that we were familiar with in more northern climates, you might wonder what triggers dormancy in Florida plants. Most of our plants respond to the changing length of daylight hours, or the photoperiod, rather than a drastic change in temperatures. As the days shorten in November and December, plants respond by changing color or dropping leaves; even turfgrass growth slows in response to shorter days. Many of our landscape plants slow their growth in response to the shorter daylight hours as well; “annual” flowering plants in my mixed containers will shed many of their leaves and reduce blooming but are now filling out again in response to the longer days.

Bulbs are among the most familiar dormant plants that emerge in spring. Florida’s climate is well suited for a variety of tropical and subtropical bulbs, including Agapanthus, Amaryllis, Crinum Lilies, Crocosmia and Hurricane, Rain and Spider Lilies. Unlike bulbs such as daffodils and tulips that are planted in northern climates for spring blooms, these bulbs do not need to be pre-chilled. Bulbs can be divided or planted in fall, and you can also give bulbs a head start by planting them in pots in early spring and transplanting them to your garden beds after blooming.

The University of Florida has excellent detailed information on growing bulbs in Florida: https://ufdc.ufl.edu/R00002886/ 00001 and https://gardeningsolutions.ifas. ufl.edu/plants/ornamentals/bulbs-for-florida.html

Gardening in Southwest Florida is a fascinating hobby that offers surprises and new discoveries for even seasoned gardeners! Our abundant sunshine and warmth provide a wonderful tonic for the soul, and the best news is that these ideal growing conditions are not limited to spring and summer as in northern areas. We are fortunate to have a wide variety of plants that ensure that something is always blooming in our landscape, and an excellent resource in the University of Florida to guide us as we explore the wonders of our subtropical climate!

Cathy Dunn is a Lee County Master Gardener Volunteer and Garden Club of Cape Coral member.

The Queen of the Night – Cathy Dunn

The Queen of the Night

October, 22 2020
By Cathy Dunn - Garden Club of Cape Coral (Special to The BreezeCape Coral Breeze
Click Here for full article in the Cape Coral Breeze
Growing up in southern Virginia, I remember hearing my grandmother and mother talk about a magical plant – the night blooming cereus. The plant took on a mysterious aura for me, especially since I never saw one either at a friend’s home or for sale in a garden center. But recently a friend acquired a cutting from a fellow Garden Club member, and when she was giving away plants before moving back North, she asked if I wanted any of her plants. I excitedly said “I’d love a piece of the night blooming cereus!”

I inherited the entire plant, which I promptly put into a very large pot to keep on my lanai. Then I added a trellis to the pot because the plant seemed to be growing overnight and it appeared intent on climbing. I knew the plants usually flower after several years in a pot, so I somewhat ignored my new treasure, other than watering it regularly.

Imagine my surprise when 5 buds appeared! The buds were tiny at first, then seemed to grow exponentially. Three buds didn’t progress very well and dropped off, so I was left with 2 buds to observe. Each day I was amazed at how much the buds grew overnight; pale pink “tendrils” embraced the growing white inner flower. After about 3 weeks, the buds were 6 inches long and one morning I noted a slight “opening” of the buds. I wasn’t sure how long it would take the buds to fully open, but I suspected that it would be within a day or two. During the day I marked the progress of the buds and decided that they would open that night. At dusk, the flowers were beginning to swell and open, and by 9 p.m. they had opened. The scent was intoxicating! By midnight the flowers were fully opened, and when I walked through the sliding door to the lanai, the sweet scent from those two blooms was overwhelming.

The next morning, the flowers were closed and over the following days they slowly wilted and fell off the plant. (I have since learned that you can pick the flower at night and store it in the refrigerator so you can admire it the next morning!) Since I had seen the beautiful “show,” which I believed was an annual event, I decided that I would place the rapidly growing plant in the garden so it could expand at will. Then I noticed more emerging buds! I now have 3 buds that should probably flower in the next 10 days and I’m looking forward to another spectacular evening performance.

The night blooming cereus is a type of orchid cactus native to rain forests, where it grows high in the trees. As it grows in a riot of tangled “leaves,” the plant can reach 10 feet, which is why a trellis is often recommended. As a member of the cactus family, the cereus plant does not have true leaves. The plant produces pencil-shaped stems that allow the plant to climb, and flattened stems that resemble and function as leaves. “Leaves” that have been on the plant for two active seasons produce the flower buds, which form on the indentations of the notched “leaves.” In most areas the cereus is a houseplant that enjoys summers outside, but here in Southwest Florida it thrives year-round in our subtropical climate. The plant requires bright light, preferably morning sun as the stronger afternoon rays can burn the “leaves.” The cereus should be planted in well-draining soil and allowed to dry between regular watering. A water-soluble fertilizer is recommended during the spring, although I have never applied fertilizer and my plant is growing at warp speed. The cereus is a classic “pass-along plant” and can be propagated by easy to root cuttings.

The night blooming cereus has proven to be a highlight of my gardening adventures here in Southwest Florida. After hearing of this mystical plant for my entire life, I am elated to have finally acquired a cereus plant and to be rewarded with blooms so quickly. I hope that you will ask for a cutting if you know of a fellow gardener with a night blooming cereus; you will undoubtedly be as fascinated as I have been watching the progression of this magical plant!

Cathy Dunn is a member of the Garden Club of Cape Coral and a Lee County Master Gardener Volunteer.

Edison and Ford Winter Estates Newsletter November 2019

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Upcoming Events and Programs
November 8, 2019

Black Maria Film Festival Returns 
November 8, 6 p.m. 
 
Join Edison Ford, in partnership with Florida Southwestern State College, in welcoming the 38th annual Black Maria Film Festival. Films will be screened after sunset on the historic Ford lawn and FSW students will facilitate discussion. Refreshments will be available for purchase. Limited seating is available; visitors are advised to bring a folding chair. 

Edison Ford members: $5; non-members: $10. Tickets will be sold at the ticket office on the evening of the event. Proceeds will benefit Hurricane Dorian relief in the Bahamas. 

Visit FREE When You Become a MEMBER! 
Click here to learn more

Creating a Hypertufa Mounting Board for Orchids and Other Air Plants 
November 2 and 9, 9 a.m. 
 
Create a one-of-a-kind living garden sculpture using Hypertufa, a mixture of Portland cement, peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, and water. Retired art teacher, Jim Hopton will instruct this two-part class in the Edison Ford greenhouse and demonstrate various uses of hypertufa in the garden.

Edison Ford members: $50; non-members: $75. Limited to 10 participants. Both classes must be attended. Participants will meet at the Information Booth. Register online today. 

YOMASSAGE™
November 9, 11 a.m. 
Class held in the South Florida Water Management Lecture Hall, 2301 McGregor Blvd.
 
Yomassage™ is a fusion of relaxing and supported restorative yoga positions with hands on massage therapy. Students hold each position for around 8-10 minutes while a massage therapist performs manual massage techniques. The classes are limited to 5 participants per class and lasts for approximately 90 minutes. Classes are led by Dolores J. Gozzi, a Licensed Massage/Alternative Therapist (MA37360), who has completed a 16-hour Yomassage™ certification. 

Cost: Edison Ford members: $55; non-members: $65 per class, tickets can be purchased at the membership desk, the ticket counter or online. Advanced reservations are encouraged as space is limited. Admission to the site is not included. 

Full Moon Meditation 
November 9, 1:30 p.m. 
Class held in the South Florida Water Management Lecture Hall, 2301 McGregor Blvd.
Relax, breathe, release and enjoy this personal journey through sound vibration with singing bowls and drums.

The class is taught by Dolores J. Gozzi, a Licensed Massage/Alternative Therapist (MA37360). Bring something to lie on like a yoga mat or towel, water, and a small pillow.

Cost: Edison Ford members: $20; non-members: $25, tickets can be purchased at the membership desk, the ticket counter or online. Admission to the site is not included. 

Garden Class: A Fresh Look at Holiday Plants for Southwest Florida
November 9, 1:30 p.m.

Class held in the Lee County Garden Council Building, 2166 Virginia Avenue
Karen Maxwell will teach the first class of the season, " A Fresh Look at Holiday Plants." In this class, we will explore some of the history, lore, mistakes, gardener's favorites and introduce new plants and ideas, that will hopefully help you with your holiday gift list! A wonderful selection of the plants discussed will be available for sale in the Garden Shoppe. Participants may enter a drawing to win a copy of "Poinsettias- Myths & Legends," a fun collectible holiday book for any gardener! 

Edison Ford members: $35; non-members: $50. Limited to 25 participants. Register online today. 

Garden Talk: Growing Hibiscus 
November 9, 10 a.m. 
If you would like to grow Hibiscus in your garden, come to the next Garden Talk. Nancy Kopp from the Hibiscus Society will speak on the "Culture of Growing Great Hibiscus." With hundreds of hybrid colors and some of the tried and true varieties, we are sure there is one suited just right for your garden, Wear comfortable shoes, sunscreen, and a hat, as we will walk around the property to see many beautiful Hibiscus varieties. Participants will receive a 20% off coupon for use toward plants from the Garden Shoppe. 

Edison Ford members: $10; non-members: $15 

Free Admission for Veterans! 
November 11 
To honor the men and women who have served our country, veterans and one guest will be admitted free on Veterans Day. Free admission includes an audio tour of the historic homes, gardens, laboratory, and museum. To receive free admission, veterans must present a VA identification card or their DD214 papers. Current servicemen and women presenting an active military ID are admitted free all year long. 
 

Volunteer Meeting and Lecture Series 
Along the Caloosahatchee River 
Southwest Florida Water Management Lecture Hall 
November 12, 10 a.m. 
Our November meeting features Amy Bennett Williams, author of "Along the Caloosahatchee River." Amy, a journalist for The News-Press, tells the Caloosahatchee's story of the ancient animals that once roamed its shores, the 19th-century entrepreneurs who bent it to their wills, and the celebrities who have relaxed on its waters. Copies will be available for sale and signing by the author after the meeting for a special volunteer rate of $18. 

Volunteer meetings are free and open to the public. Contact Bobby Feldman or Holly Shaffer, Program Managers at 239-335-3694 for information. 

Museum Musings 
Clara Ford: the matron of Dearborn 
November 13, 11:30 a.m. 

 
Join Alexandria Edwards, Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator, as she explores the life and times of the woman they called the "Believer."

Included with admission; free for Edison Ford members. 

Homeschool Science Scholars    
Simple Machines
     Grades 1-3: November 14, 9:30 a.m.
Grades 4-6: November 14, 1 p.m.
   Grades 7-8: November 13, 10 a.m.  
 
Challenge your mind and foster collaboration with our popular ongoing homeschool series! The focus is on history, simple machines, and mechanics. Register online today. 
 
Edison Ford members: $15; non-members: $25 per class. Includes one adult and one child. $5 for each additional child (subject to availability). 

 Silk Scarf Workshops with Artist Marie Dyer 
   November 16, 9:30 a.m.
 
A variety of techniques will be taught that will inspire painters of all levels to create their own one-of-a-kind scarf. The scarves can be worn or displayed as art! Participants may book a single date or return for multiple sessions. 
 
Edison Ford members: $95 per class; non-members: $105 per class 

Emerging Inventors (Ages 1-5)
Build-it! 
November 19, 10 a.m. 
 
 
Children and parents will learn, play and gain valuable social skills while exploring the homes, gardens, and museum.
 
Edison Ford members: $10; non-members: $15 per class. Includes one adult and one child. $5 for each additional child (subject to availability). 

Rhythm on the River
Peace of Woodstock 

November 22, 6 p.m. 
 
Dig out your tie-dyed shirts and bell bottoms and travel back in time with Edison Ford as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. Peace of Woodstock pays tribute to the famous three-day festival that was held in upstate New York in 1969. Bring a lawn chair and a sweater if the weather is chilly. There will be a cash bar and refreshments available for purchase. No coolers permitted. Visitors should park in the main Edison Ford parking lot. 
 
Tickets can be purchased online or at the ticket counter. Edison Ford members: $20; non-members: $25 per class. Includes one adult and one child; all tickets purchased at the door: $30. 

Edison Ford Fall Garden Festival 
November 23-24, 9 a.m.
 
For anyone who enjoys gardening, this is a must-see event! Dozens of plant and garden vendors will have booths under the Banyan and other historic trees all around the museum and lab. This is an opportunity to shop for hard-to-find plants that grow successfully in Southwest Florida. The Edison Garden Shoppe will also have many plants, trees, herbs and garden-related items available for sale. Plant vendors and Edison Ford horticulturalist will be on hand to answer gardening questions and help you with your selections. 
 
Food trucks and live music will be on site too, so come out and spend the day shopping for plants! This free event does not included tours of the homes or admission to the museum and laboratory. 

Veggies Available for Sale in the Garden Shoppe! 
It's planting season in SWFL! Our Garden Shoppe just received a large order of lush veggies and herbs ready to be planted in your garden. Veggies available include tomato, eggplant, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, lettuce, celery, chives and arugula. If you don't have the space for a garden at home, you can rent a raised bed in our community garden. To learn more about renting a raised bed, call Eric or Debbie at 239-334-7419.

Edison Ford Community Garden 
 
Can you believe that it is time to think about Florida's vegetable growing season again? Edison Ford's community garden has raised beds that are being prepared by Eric Frankovitch, Horticulture Specialist. There is also a new shed that can be used by gardeners for tool storage. New this year, Eric will hold meetings for community garden members. 

The community garden membership runs from October through May. Prices are $100 for non-members, $75 for members. For more information, please call 239-334-7419 or email Eric at Efrankovitch@edisonford.org

Rare Wood Slabs
Almost Gone!
If you haven't had chance to get a wood slab yet, now is your chance! Wood slabs from rare Shaving Brush and Mango trees are available. Call Sherri Muske at 239-335-3677 to make an appointment to view the wood. 

For additional information about programs, classes or events, visit EdisonFord.org or call 239-334-7419. Tickets may be purchased online and online registration is available for children's classes. 

Copyright © 2019 Edison & Ford Winter Estates, All rights reserved.
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