Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Around the World's Gardens at Epcot

Before you know it, the end of May will be here, and with it, the end of the International Flower & Garden Festival at Epcot. If you haven’t seen this colorful compilation of flower fun at Walt Disney World, you definitely should – there’s plenty to see and hear, from the whimsical character topiaries and beautiful gardens to the sounds of the Flower Power concerts. We’ve been covering highlights of the festival throughout its duration, and as its last few weeks approach, we bring you one more – the gardens of the World Showcase.

At the Flower & Garden Festival, one of the most fun activities is spotting your favorite characters and Disney films represented through displays like the Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden and the “Cinderellabration” topiary. But Disney has also taken special care to pay tribute to different landscapes around the world, and guests can see this when they visit the 11 pavilions of the World Showcase. There, gardens tell each country’s story in blooms and provide continuity and transition from one nation to the next.

At the Mexico pavilion, for example, landscaping represents the country’s two regions, the jungle and desert. Facing the Mayan temple, guests will see tropical plants and flowers commonly found in the jungle, such as the floss silk tree, often endowed with springtime blossoms and oddly-shaped fruit. Epcot gardeners have been careful to make this garden look “unmaintained” to make it appear more like a genuine jungle.

“We wanted to steer clear of creating a ‘perfect’ landscape and use irregular spots of colorful flowers to give it a more exotic look,” says Eric Darden, Walt Disney World horticulturist.

A similarly natural look has been created in the China pavilion, where the grass isn’t mowed and plants are more haphazardly placed than in Western landscapes, in accordance with Chinese gardening. Water is an essential element in every Chinese garden, and at Epcot, ponds lie still with water lilies blooming atop. Older looking trees, like a weeping mulberry, have also been added to give the garden a mature look, which the Chinese appreciate.

By contrast, the garden at The American Adventure pavilion is much more organized and formal, designed in the style of old colonial architecture and landscapes. A predominant color scheme of red, white, and blue flowers abounds, accompanied by sycamore trees whose branches interlace overhead.

“This pavilion is by far the most formal, with its soldier-like rows of magnolias, boxed hedges and precisely planted annuals,” Darden said.

Meanwhile, at the France pavilion, guests will enjoy light and airy gardens reminiscent of Parisian park. An allee (avenue or pathway) of trees has been created with Natchez crape myrtle, similar to the linden trees they’re originally composed of in France. And in Le Notre Garden, 985 shrubs have been crafted into the shape of a French symbol, the fleur-de-lis.

The international gardens of the World Showcase are maintained by a horticulture staff of more than 50 gardeners and experts. And if you want to see all of them while learning about the process behind their assembly, check out the “Gardens of the World” tour. A three-hour walking tour through the World Showcase for guests 16 and older, it provides an in-depth look at the styles of landscaping in each pavilion.

Be sure to check out the International Flower & Garden Festival soon before it ends on May 31. The festival is open to all guests with regular Epcot admission, so get your Walt Disney World tickets here on DWTickets.com to begin exploring the world’s gardens at Epcot.


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