Garden Inspiration

Take-Home Tips from the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.

Epcot’s annual flower and garden festival offers no shortage of ideas for those of us looking for inspiration that translates to our own gardens. You just have to know where to look, or better yet, how to look. When it comes to its garden displays, Epcot always gets it right, so if you visit the park through May 17th this year, you’re sure to get ideas on how to improve your own landscape. 


 Inside the park’s gates, you can’t miss the impressive showing of over 100 Disney character-shaped topiaries, which are grouped near the entrance during the festival for maximum impact. While you probably don’t want a life-size Mickey Mouse topiary in your yard, a topiary itself could be a stylish addition. Most garden centers offer spiral, cone and ball topiaries that are already shaped. 

Plant Choices

 During the festival, two lakeside berms are bursting with over 75,000 bedding plants, which this year include Viola culivars, New Guinea Impatiens, Dusty Miller, Geraniums and Wax Begonias. There are a couple of takeaways here worth mentioning.

First, quantity makes a big difference when it comes to impact in your garden. When you plant your beds and borders, go big. Rather than buy just a few trays of flowering annuals each season, plant enough color to be seen from a distance. When planted en masse, flowers add more curb appeal. That’s what you want: an eye-catching display.

Second, color selection speaks volumes in the garden. Heather Will-Browne, an area manager for Epcot’s horticulture department, schedules the change-outs for all the bedding plants and hanging baskets throughout the park. “We have seasonal color schemes that inform the ordering choices for bedding plants,” she says.

The January and March change-outs emphasize pink flowers; in June the color scheme gets hotter with the weather, and red dominates the color palette; in fall there’s an appealing mix of lime green, purple, orange and black; and the December holidays call for more red. During the festival, you’ll see a lot of pink, because it’s a feel-good color that reminds us of spring. As you prepare for a new season in your yard, think about how you want to feel when you’re in your garden as well as the message you want to send to visitors. Would a swathe of bright yellow best express your style? And which plant varieties do you want to experiment with this season?

“Color is important, but I’m always looking for varieties of plants that are new or interesting. For the flower and garden festival, we’re doing more veggies now, so some of the beds have vegetables and herbs instead of blooming annuals,” says Will-Browne.

Break out of your routine by discovering plant varieties you haven’t grown before. Also, remember that some vegetable and herb varieties have ornamental qualities that make them ideal for flowerbeds. Peppers are bright and come in many colors; dill’s wispy foliage pairs nicely with low-growing flowers.   

Container plants

Even minimalists lean toward the “more is more” approach when it comes to gardening. Almost everyone is delighted by an abundance of greenery and flowering plants, and one of the ways to add more to your yard—no matter your soil or light conditions—is through the introduction of containers.

Epcot has about 100 container plantings year-round, but during the festival that number more than quadruples so that guests feel enveloped by flowers. There are plenty of paved surfaces for walkers, but hanging baskets and large planters draw the eye up toward the blooms and away from gray space. 

There’s a formula for planting an attractive container, whether it’s hanging or grounded: The tallest, spikiest plants go in the center, surrounded by softer, rounder ones. Trailing plants should line the edge and hang over the sides. At Epcot, you’ll see planters like these on top of barrier walls and pillars, beside walkways, hanging from awnings and floating in the East and West lakes. 

There are many more ideas waiting to be found at the festival—just view the displays as inspiration sources rather than short-lived entertainment. Instead of leafing through a gardening magazine or decorating book, you’ll benefit from real-life gardens that are thriving here in Central Florida. +

Categories: Gardening