The 21st Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot officially kicks off Wednesday, March 5, 2014, but last week I had an opportunity to get a behind the scenes look at the topiaries, learn more about that’s new for 2014 and learn from the pros what it takes to put on the massive display. And for the 20th year in a row, I am positive guests are going to say, “This year was even better than last.”
Our tour was led by festival horticulture manager Eric Darden and horticulture manager Heather Will-Browne, and I was completely fascinated listening to them describe the thought and care that goes into each plant display within the park. I have to admit that I never gave that much thought to all of the intricacies involved in the plant displays, but after meeting with them I have a new appreciation for the smallest details.
More than 100 topiaries are on display throughout the park, but the festival is so much more. From sprawling displays of 45,000 plants lining the water to potted plants flanking food stands and stores and even editable plants — no detail is over looked.
We were taken behind the scenes, hard hat and all, to get a look at the displays in construction and learn more about what the Flower & Garden Festival has to offer for the whole family.
Flower & Garden Festival is not just a time to stop and smell the roses (although you will certainly miss out if you do not take that moment). There are unique menus available at outdoor kitchens throughout the World Showcase with incredible food that compliments the floral display. A few things I want to go back to try include the piggylicious bacon cupcake topped with maple frosting and a pretzel crunch and the rum pineapple Dole Whip.
Although the entire park is filled with photo opps, the Goofy and Donald Soccer Topiary display is not to be missed. Located between Future World and World Showcase, guests can pose as a soccer goalie as Goofy tries to score. It’s a cute set up, and I even convinced Eric Darden to demonstrate the set up for me.
Also for families, there are several interactive displays that include coloring areas, playgrounds and plenty of opportunities for hands-on learning.
Heather Will-Browne, one of the very first Walt Disney World cast members who has been with park for 43 years, took us behind the scene into her favorite new exhibit, Gardener’s Palette. Filled with color, the garden is a teaching garden where children can learn about the color wheel. Fittingly, it is also home to a coloring station.
My favorite new garden is Mike & Sulley’s Monstrous Garden. Not only does it feature a 3,000 pound Sulley and his 1,000 pound pal Mike, but they are watching over two monster-sized playgrounds (one for ages 2-5 and another for all ages).
Fun Fact – Do you see those books behind Mike? They aren’t just there to look pretty, they support Mike. His spindly legs could never support that giant head of flowers.
One of the most amazing topiaries this year is Snow White. For the first time ever, a princess has a face — with realistic detail. (For those who don’t know, princesses have always had blank faces.) She is remarkable.
And, of course, she is followed closely by her Dwarf friends.
Also new this year, which was unveiled the morning of our tour, Kermit and Miss Piggy! (Aren’t they sweet, and check out her bling!)
Other must see exhibits within the Flower and Garden Festival include:
- Tinker Bell’s Butterfly House with a brand new glass sculpture and pixie-sized fairy houses
- Flower Power Concerts concerts throughout the season add to the festive atmosphere
- Hummingbirds at Home is an opportunity to learn about how to build your own garden to attract hummingbirds
- Florida Fresh this showcase of Florida produce is also a culinary treat
- And so much more!
Fun Fact – Although the 2014 Flower & Garden Festival officially begins Wednesday, the flower displays begin arriving for guests to enjoy weeks before the start and the final topiaries are installed Monday night after the park closes. So guests visiting the park the day before the Festival begins can enjoy all of the flowers.
Epcot’s 2014 Flower & Garden Festival takes place March 5 – May 18, 2014.