I’ve been working in Epcot a lot since we’ve last talked! Last night I worked the night shift for the first time! I’ve also been going to an extra employee garden specialist class. It has been really nice because, as a pest management intern, I don’t get to work with plants… So far in the internship program we’ve had a few classes talking about Epcot, the Flower and Garden Festival, and topiaries. Here’s a little summary of what we’ve learned…
EPCOT stands for “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.” It was initially designed by Walt Disney as a utopian city that would test and showcase new materials and systems of urban living. Disney hoped the ever improving city would be an inspiration of innovation to corporations and guests. Epcot was Walt’s ideal focus of Disney World. However, after Walt died in 1966, the company directors decided city planning was too risky and built Magic Kingdom first.
In 1982, the “EPCOT Center” theme park finally opened. To this day it consists of Future World (inspired by Walt’s EPCOT vision) and the World showcase (inspired by the World’s Fair). In 1993 the park was renamed just “EPCOT” and the Living with the Land tour was opened. In order to attract more guests, especially Florida residents, seasonal festivals were introduced in EPCOT. Flower and Garden, International Food and WIne, and Holidays around the World debuted in 1994, 1995, and 1996.
The Flower and Garden Festival has improved a lot in the past few years.This year there were about 100 topiaries, 10 mini gardens, seminars, workshops, concerts, great food, tours, play grounds, etc. The topiaries have come a long way since the first elephants in 1963 and the plastic imposters. In the early years, topiaries had one color with no extra details. Now they have multiple colors, details, and accessories. The standard of detail was raised immensely after the addition of Pixar’s topiaries.
There are 3 types of topiaries: geometric, shrub character, and sphagnum moss character. Fast growing shrubs like Podocarpus and italian cypress are constantly trimmed, pruned, tied, and weeded for 3-10 years to produce shrub topiaries. For faster vegetative growth, the shrubs are given fertilizer high in nitrogen.
Topiaries are living sculptures; combining art and horticulture together. Both shrub and sphagnum character designs begin as clay models called “mickets.” The approved mickets are then used by welders as a scale of measurement for building the topiary’s metal skeleton. Next, the irrigation systems are arranged. (The narrow extremities are the first parts to dry out.) The structure is then stuffed with sphagnum moss and secured with netting.
Years ago, Disney horticulturists thought “face” character topiaries would be impossible. However, nothing is impossible in Disney World! Anna, Elsa, and Snow White have specially sculpted faces. Airbrush artists paint on the details and plugs are planted into the sphagnum. Sphagnum topiaries are grown much quicker than shrubs.
To keep the festival interesting, new things are added every year. Mini gardens scattered around the park offer unique storytelling experiences for guests. Some of the new gardens included this year were the healing & health garden, the pepper garden, the dinosaur-plant garden, the Shakespeare garden, and the English tea garden.
There are still some things that have never changed since the first festival in 1994. The floating gardens in the lake are the originals Styrofoam containers. You will also find that the front entrance display always contains the fab five: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto, and Goofy.