|Edison ordered agaves in 1886, soon after moving in. [source]|
And now that I have been so fortunate as to say goodbye to the university and establish my own laboratory (in the midst of finishing my book on garden history), I think of Edison alot.
After Menlo Park, there was Seminole Lodge, in Fort Myers, Florida. He purchased property there in 1885, next door to Henry Ford, and together they experimented with plants that might become a domestic source for rubber. The Edison Botanic Research Corporation was formed, commissioning botanical collectors far and wide to seek out promising varieties. He had seedlings sent from foreign countries and tramped around in the swamps himself looking for specimens. Over 17,000 plants were tested. In the end, a giant version of the common goldenrod, dubbed Solidago Edisonia, was deemed the best candidate. Alas, we drive not on golden tires because of the invention of synthetic rubber.
|Specimens from the Edison Botanic Research Corporation are still held at the New York Botanical Garden. [source]|
He used soil from the adjacent Caloosahatchee River to enrich his fourteen acres, and one of the reasons he originally bought the property was that it was already established with bamboo. Carbonized bamboo was one of the first lightbulb filaments, lasting over 1200 hours before burning out. Other specimens planted by Edison and Ford for their research still grow on the property, some having reached huge proportions in Florida's plant-friendly climate: a 57 foot sausage tree, a 97 foot royal palm (Edison loved royal palms), a 102 foot ficus, and one of the largest banyans in the United States, now adorned with Edison's likeness.
Edison's second wife, Mina, was the one who went in for ornamental gardening; hiring society designer Ellen Biddle Shipman to make for her a 'Moonlight Garden' of antique roses, datura, plumbago, pentas and bougainvillea, and contributing to the beautification of the public landscape of Fort Myers.
|Milan, Ohio floral arrangement honoring Edison, 1929 [source]|
Thomas Edison had 1,093 patents. I have four. I think about him alot.
Wikipedia's article on Edisonian techniques is a good summary of his practical approach to scientific research.
The Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers are open to the public.
Don't miss the NYBG article on rediscovering an Edison letter.
See also an article on the Edison gardens in the Tampa Bay Times.