Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Gators in the Garden at the Edison Estates

The theme this year for the annual “Art in the Gardens” outdoor sculpture installation was “Gators in the Garden.” Schools from throughout Lee County participated and entered their alligators, which were lurking in the grass of the Edison Heritage Truck Garden area near the museum. Teachers were awarded funds to assemble the weather-proof, recycled materials for the sculptures, and the art was up to the students. There were supposed to be 25 schools represented, but on the day I went, May 18, there were about 15 sculptures. The exhibit started on April 7 and continued through May 25, so some of the gators must have "high walked" away.

The Edison & Ford Winter Estates, the Lee County Art Educators and Lee County Schools collaborated to bring the project to fruition. The outdoor sculpture exhibit, now in its fifth year, was supported by the George M. Cox Trust. In addition, there were informational signs about alligators sponsored by Costco Wholesale and Everglades Day Safari. (The Gator Info was taken from the signs.) The exhibit was free to the public--it wasn’t necessary to pay the usual fee to visit the Estates.


A larger-than-life-sized Mina Edison sits on a bench near the entry to the exhibition.
“Art in the Gardens” 2013 sign
 Four gators by middle school students from Veteran’s Park Academy for the Arts with teacher Jill Antonucci.

Look closely at this gator--he is covered entirely by seashells.

Gator Info: Adult males and females have an olive brown or black color. Young alligators can be easily distinguished by the bright yellow stripes on their tails.

I don’t know what the “scales” were made of on the alligator on the left, but they gave the gator hide a great texture.

This gator is a great example of flower power.

Gator Info: Female alligators can grow up to 10 feet in length, and males have been recorded at just over 14 feet in length. Alligators have osteoderms, bony plates on their backs, that act like solar panels, warming and cooling blood vessels and helping to regulate the reptile’s body temperature. Alligators have 2 sets of eyelids. One set is like a human’s eyelid and the other set is transparent and applied to see clearly underwater.

The students from Tortuga Preserve Elementary School with teacher Christina Sterrett fashioned this gator from many, many plantings in individual cans.
This gator shows a novel use for living plants and recycled cans.

Edison Park Elementary School students and teacher Karen Flanders did this pink gator made up of lots of paper ribbons.
A close-up of the pink be-ribboned gator
Gator Info: Alligators can burst out of the water toward prey at quick speeds but cannot run far. They most often “high walk, ” keeping their legs almost directly beneath them, as opposed to most reptiles which keep their legs to the sides at a diagonal and “slither.” This "high walk" results in greater elevation, allowing them to lift their tails off the ground. From the looks of it, I think this pink gator is “high walking.”
The alligator from the back.
Wire mesh is fastened to a frame, and each colored strip is laced through the mesh according to the design.
Alligator Mom and babies done by Tice Elementary School students and teacher Jill Kessler
Look closely at the bodies of the gators--they’re made of pails of graduating size.
 Mama and babies from the side
Gator Info: Baby alligators, called grunts, make high-pitched barking noises to let their mother know they are ready to break through their egg shell. I had previously learned that you never threaten a baby alligator because its frantic bark will bring its mother running. Uh-oh.

Alligator and baby fashioned by students from Challenger Middle School and teacher Sandra Rayannic
Alligator close-up
Baby gator close-up
Gator Info: The sex of the babies (about six inches at birth) depends on the temperature of the nest. Males are born from warmer parts of the nests and females from cooler parts. A distinctive characteristic of alligators among the reptilians is that mothers usually remain with their young for up to two years, protecting them from predators.
Hans Marsh Elementary School students and teacher Robert Sherry did this alligator-mobile.

A close-up of the delicately-made mobile

Gator Info: Adult alligators bellow and roar to each other. The bellow is a loud and throaty noise that can be heard from up to 165 yards (farther than a football field.)

A view back toward the entrance to the exhibit

This bright green gator was done by the students from Skyline Elementary School with their teacher Liz Beemer. Look closely at the gator’s exterior--it is made completely of plastic bottle tops.

The gator’s nest
Gator Info: Female alligators begin mating in mid-April through May. Breeding takes place during the evening and in shallow waters. To get a female’s attention, males will bellow, rub, touch, blow bubbles; they may raise their heads out of the water, exposing their necks and sometimes even push one another under water to judge each other’s strength. Once mating concludes, females build a nest in late June or early July and lay 35 to 50 eggs. The eggs are then covered with vegetation and develop over a 65-day incubation period.


This gator was the most menacing. The ridges on its back are made of a household cast-off: an egg carton turned up-side-down. Its head is the base of a palm tree frond turned up-side-down.


Chicken wire covers its body.


I could find no sign to identify the school whose students did this gator. The design is simple but was executed very effectively.
Gator Info: Alligators once numbered approximately four million in the state of Florida. Due to poaching and water management practices, the number declined to more than 10,00 in the 1970s. Today, American alligators are still listed as threatened due to their similar appearance to American crocodiles, which are endangered.Alligators can be differentiated from crocodiles because the alligator jaw is broad and rounded.

The students of Lexington Middle School with teacher Katharine Bruns did these mosaic-type gators

Mosaic gators with bottle noses

Gator Info: Alligators are an important part of the environment for multiple reasons and, therefore, are considered a “keystone” species. They are important because they control populations of prey species; after alligators leave their holes, the burrows become a habitat for other creatures, such as turtles and fish; and alligators are indicators for environmental factors, such as toxin levels in water (measuring mercury using blood samples taken for research purposes) and water levels.
Varsity Lakes Middle School students with teacher Marjorie Resler did this snappy-looking gator in pink with a black and white top hat. A cane would be a nice accessory for this gator.


Close-up of this out-on-the-town gator

Gator Info: Alligators can live to well over 70 years due to an excellent dental plan. When one hollow, cone-shaped tooth falls out, another is underneath, ready to grow in its place. Alligators have between 70 and 80 teeth.

This monolith was done by James Stephens International Academy elementary school and their teacher Alisha Koyanis. I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but the frogs on the lily pads were wonderful.


Top of the monolith

Frog on a lily pad
Gator Info: When it is time to eat, alligators are neither hunters nor gatherers. They are lurkers. They wait for something edible to swim or walk nearby and they lunge at it with incredible speed. When lurking in the water, only the eyes and nostrils are above the waterline. An alligator can sit like this for hours waiting for something edible to wander nearby. When its prey gets close enough, the alligator moves with startling speed. Alligators will eat almost anything they can capture -- fish, turtles, frogs, birds, small mammals, and sometimes even larger mammals like deer. The moral of this story: never underestimate the lightning speed of this seemingly slow and ponderous animal.

Kiddie pool and sun chair by the students from Trafalgar Elementary School and their teacher Helen Garcia-Valdez.


All the little gators inside the kiddie pool look like they are parts of some kind of cactus plant.

Gator Info: The American alligator usually lives in a freshwater pond, marsh, swamp, river or lake. These smaller bodies of water are believed to attract American alligators because they are calmer bodies of water which makes it easier for the gator to breathe. In calm waters, the gator only needs to keep its nasal disk above water, but in deeper, rough waters the gator has to keep the snout at a steeper angle to breathe.

A close-up of a baby gator on a moss basket
This is the back part of the Heritage Garden. I have been to the Estates several times in the last few years, but I have never wandered back to this exquisite garden site. Now I’m doubly glad I came to see the gators.
Another view of the garden
“Art in the Gardens” Collaboration Sign

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Fort Myers-Lee County Garden Council Flower Show

La Florida-The First 500 Years

“La Florida” was a Standard Flower Show presented by the Fort Myers-Lee County Garden Council. The theme was "Honoring Our State’s History Through Its People and Plants." The show took place on March 1 and March 2, 2013, at the Eco-living Center at Rutenberg Park in Fort Myers, Florida. It was open and free to the public. Several organizations were represented at the entrance to the Rutenberg Park building. Among them were:

Sue Moore, a board member of the Lakes Park Enrichment Foundation, was on hand to give visitors information about the work the foundation does to enhance the park’s native Florida environment and to provide services and cultural events for the community to enjoy.

Wendy Sprague, President of the Alva Garden Club, had information about the services of the University of Florida/ Lee County Extension Office

David Hamera was a representative of the Bonsai Society of Southwest Florida.

Edison and Ford Winter Estates Horticulturist Debbie Hughes

Lovely designs were displayed on the way into the show.

Barbara Murza and The Southwest Florida Orchid Society table

Sandy Kavouras, Suzy Valentine and Laura Jibben

Sandy did the Staging for the Flower Show; Suzy was the Flower Show Chairman and wore an old-time pioneer costume; and Laura was the President of the Fort Myers-Lee County Garden Council.

The native plant display was in the entryway at Rutenberg

Since this show is historical and retrospective, the designs reflect components appropriate to the era.

The Captain’s Table is a place setting for one person. A sea captain provided his own tableware and by necessity dined by candlelight. Fruit was usually available on ships, and sea ports on the Florida coast may have provided some interesting plant life.

The Captain’s Table place setting with a hurricane lamp in a nest of vines


The Captain’s Table place setting with a little something extra to lift one’s “spirits”


The Captain’s Table place setting by Terry Pinck won the Award of Design Excellence.

These Designs  reflect Florida‘s capability of “Growing Flowers and Vegetables for the Country.”

This design won the “People’s Choice” award

Sandy Kavouras and her winning design

A free-standing design: Growing Flowers and Vegetables for the Country

A free-standing design: an assemblage related to the Space industry at Cape Canaveral

Growing flowers and Vegetables for the Country


Growing Flowers (especially gladiolus) and Vegetables for the Country


An assemblage with a business and technology theme


Railroad lines made Florida accessible as a winter playground, and men like Edison, Firestone and Ford  stimulated economic activity. These designs associated with this period of growth are of any style, honoring Edison’s work.


Thomas Edison and Friends design

Thomas Edison and Friends design

Thomas Edison and Friends design


Early Florida tourism was based on fishing, hunting and playing golf: a Stretch design with golf clubs.


Florida tourism featuring water activities:
 a Stretch design with sponges.

A Stretch design with cattails and duck-hunting, a pastime for Florida tourists

Old Florida Still Life design on the “Cracker” life
(so named because they cracked whips at the cattle.)
Old Florida Still Life design: cattle ranching and a rustic life style

Old Florida Still Life design: pioneer practices

Container Grown Cacti and Other Succulents

Container Grown Succulent

Florida Friendly landscape outside of Rutenberg
The Master Gardeners of Lee County under the direction of Tom Becker created this garden of native plants.

Suzy and Laura by the garden

Cut Specimens and Container Grown Specimens



A view of 3 exhibits: Container Grown Flowering Plants (foreground), Florida Native Plant Material and the Jesuit Missions Still Life design (on the left)


Traditional designs featuring Florida native plant material
La Florida native plant material
La Florida native plant material


La Florida native plant material

Laura and Florida native plant material design


The Jesuit Missions Still Life design

The Jesuits established mission settlements and introduced to native Americans crops from the Spanish empire, such as sugar cane and citrus.



Close-up of the Jesuit Missions Still Life design
Container Grown Foliage Plants

Container Grown Flowering Plants

Tropical fuzzy bloomer

A “Peek at the Past” Petite design
A “Peek at the Past” Petite design

A “Peek at the Past” Petite design
A “Peek at the Past” Petite design
A “Peek at the Past “ Petite design

Early explorers in Florida discovered certain peculiar plants that seemed to grow on air or hang from trees.

A Hanging Design with Florida epiphytes

A Hanging Design with epiphytes

A Hanging Design with epiphytes

“One foot in the Past” novice designs
Newer designers are asked to think of Florida's past history, while creating something of their own, within a "one square foot" space.
Novice “One Foot in the Past” design
Novice designs
Novice designs

Novice design

Cut Decorative Foliage

Philodendron frond

Orchid plants



A Picnic Table for Six

A Picnic Table for Six
A Ton of Tomatoes Picnic Table for Six

"Tomatoes" Centerpiece

Florida ladies kept the tradition of afternoon tea, using their fine china and linens and creating floral centerpieces from their own gardens.

Afternoon Tea Centerpiece

Afternoon Tea Centerpiece

Afternoon Tea Centerpiece

Hanging design - Orchid plant

Hanging design- Bromeliads

Cut Flowers

Cut Flower

Cut Flower

End of Show