Hello Friends and Family,

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

Edison & Ford Winter Estates: Part 3

Back outdoors, we see the exterior and surroundings of Edison's Little Office in the Moonlight Garden area — the interior of which led off last week's issue. You can see why this would have been one of Edison's favorite spots to work — looking out at the tropical gardens and the Caloosahatchee River beyond.

For example, he could stroll outside and pick a mango from the nearby tree and savor its sweet taste as he thought through some technical problem. And we must put it in perspective — today we are spoiled with tropical fruits shipped or flown in to our grocery stores so that they seem an everyday thing. But in the late 1800's and early 1900's this was impossible — and the impact of such visual and gastronomical treats on a northerner spending the winter in Florida cannot be overstated.

Just steps away is the central fountain. The water jet is small but the sound of water in a garden just adds to that peaceful feeling.

And who doesn't love bougainvillea? It has always been one of my favorites. This is a spectacular specimen with purple bracts — at least some 15 feet tall.

Nearby is a magnificent stand of bamboo. Perfect for the spontaneous walk to the river, offering a bamboo rod for a little fishing.

Do you recognize this fruit? It is litchi — also spelled lychee or lichee. If you have never eaten one, you've missed out on quite a treat. Beneath the bumpy red shell (the skin is thick and thus qualifies as a shell) is the soft white flesh surrounding a large stone or seed. It has a texture somewhat like a grape but a sweet exotic taste.

What tropical garden would be complete without bananas? This is another treat that most people living outside tropical and semi-tropical areas do not fully appreciated. For most of us in the US, the "things" we know as bananas are picked green in a central American country, shipped to your area then gassed to make them turn yellow. However, even if the color looks right, taste has been left behind. The next time you are in Hawai`i, the Caribbean or some other tropical area, look for local bananas (in Hawai`i the most common variety will be labeled "Apple Bananas" — if you don't see them in the local grocery store, check with a farmer's market). You will discover exquisite taste that you never knew bananas were capable of producing.

Can you imagine how Edison and Mina would have enjoyed the sight of orchids? In those days, they must have been truly exotic for folks from New Jersey. Yes, we are spoiled in our modern times.

Competing in tropical splendor are the blossoms from the Royal Poinciana Tree. Bright red and tinged with yellow, they bring fire and passion to this landscape...

especially when thousands of them grace a huge tree. Sorry, the photo doesn't do it justice. When you're there in person, your jaw will drop as you try to soak it all in.

Edison and Ford had enough property in their adjoining winter estates to plant a parallel row of royal palms. It frames a pathway to the river, providing greater elegance than any old fence could possibly equal.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com