Home+Garden: Big as All Outdoors
Walt Disney world’s Epcot theme park promises three full months of blooming fun.
The Belle topiary gets a garden touch-up before joining her Beast in the France Pavilion.
david roark/walt disney world resort
An annual rite of spring, the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, has definitely hit its prime at 25. From its initial duration of a little more than a month, the fest has tripled in length to three months, filling the whole spring season with blooms, music, and food, satisfying all the senses. Avid gardeners, plant lovers, or those who simply enjoy seeing Disney characters rendered in greenery, flock to discover what the imaginative gardeners have wrought.
The topiaries found throughout the park burst with whimsy and color, beginning at the main entrance, where iconic renditions of Mickey, Minnie and Goofy greet guests. Donald Duck frolics with nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie next to Spaceship Earth, and Daisy Duck and Chip and Dale can be found at Future World West, not far from Buzz Lightyear, of Toy Story fame, who stands in verdant glory near Mission: SPACE.
Many of the topiary groups are themed to specific land pavilions. Norway features Anna and Elsa from the popular film Frozen. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs pose in Germany, while Beauty and the Beast appear in France.
Other lands showcase splendid gardens and inventive floral displays. China features a bromeliad dragon and topiary pandas. At the Japan Pavilion guests can view the glorious art of bonsai—living miniature tree sculptures created over decades by bonsai masters. The United Kingdom Pavilion features an English tea garden where guests can explore the history of tea blending.
A bounty of butterflies at The Goodness Garden Butterfly House encourages visitors to observe several species in detail, learning about their life cycles and possibly observing as they emerge from chrysalises.
New attractions this year include a play garden for children, featuring a climbing net and a musical maze. A “how-to” garden in Future World West encourages guests to create butterfly houses and other garden crafts. Spike’s Pollen Nation Exploration combines education and fun, with a scavenger hunt around the park that includes information about the importance of bees and other pollinators to the growth of plants.
A festival favorite for years, the Purple Martin Garden gives guests a chance to see the migratory birds who fly more than 3,000 miles from Brazil, just like their human counterparts, to visit Epcot. They even have their own version of Disney Vacation Club: special gourd-shaped purple martin houses.
Fifteen outdoor kitchens offer tasty sustaining bites and libations, including shrimp and grits at the Sunshine State station between Morocco and France, and asparagus frittata, crispy shrimp and Maine Lobster ravioli at Primavera Kitchen in Italy.
The Garden Rocks Concert Series completes the sensory excursion, offering the perfect way to close out a spring evening. April concerts include The Orchestra, starring members of ELO, Foghat, Survivor, Smash Mouth, Rick Springfield, and Blood, Sweat and Tears. May brings Herman’s Hermits, The Village People, and The Spinners. If guests book breakfast, lunch or dinner at one of the park’s many restaurants, they are guaranteed seating at one of the three concerts that evening. epcotinspring.com
- The comprehensive Gardens of the World Tour is available at Epcot only during the festival. $85 per person.
- The English Tea Garden Tour (complimentary) and the Royal Tea Garden Tour ($18 per person includes tea and scones at the end) also occur only during the festival.
- The Behind the Seeds tour takes place all year long.
EPCOT HISTORICAL TIMELINE:
- 1994 Flower & Garden Festival premiered; 38 days long.
- 1996 Festival expanded to 45 days.
- 1999 Flower Power Concert Series added to the festival.
- 2004 Festival expanded to 52 Days.
- 2007 Festival expanded to 60 Days.
- 2009 Festival expanded to 75 Days.
- 2013 Gardens first illuminated at night.
- 2013 Food and beverage garden marketplaces debuted.
- 2015 Concerts renamed Garden Rocks Concert Series.
- 2016 Festival expanded to 90 days.
- 2018 15 Outdoor kitchens.