Peter Pan and Hook topiaries at Flower & Garden
(photo by Brandon Glover)
This week’s SATURDAY SIX covers Six Reasons We Love Epcot’s 2014 Flower and Garden Festival. While there are a lot of annual events in Orlando that are near and dear to us for varying reasons (the wild party atmosphere of Mardi Gras, the scares of Halloween Horror Nights, the incredible parade and fireworks of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, the food and, uh, wine of Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival), one event stands out from all the rest because it stresses the fact that we should - literally - stop and smell the roses.
That’s right, Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is back, and this year just may be the best yet. What really makes Flower & Garden special is how amazing it is just to walk around Epcot and take it all in. Most events in theme parks are limited in the size and scope of their overall effect on the individual park, but you can see the beauty and tranquility of Flower & Garden everywhere you go.
This week’s Saturday Six is going to look at six of our favorite parts of this year’s festival, and we’re going to start with one of our favorite subjects: food.
# 6 – The Outdoor Kitchens
Beijing-Style Candied Strawberries, Lotus House ($4.25)
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All photos by Seth Kubersky
Right now at Walt Disney World, the 20th annual Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is in full swing, attracting tourists from far and wide to admire the park’s painstakingly pruned foliage. But while this Orlando attraction may get the lion’s share of agricultural attention, Disney’s left coast parks don’t need a special occasion to shine in the shrubbery department.
With the spring season officially started (as of the vernal equinox on March 20), it’s appropriate for us to take a moment to stop smell the roses… along with the irises, violets, sunflowers, and other assorted horticultural spectacles seeded around the Disneyland Resort. For today’s photo gallery, I’ve selected a variety of snaps that I took last month during an Anaheim research expedition, highlighting the vibrant colors and rich textures you can currently find in flowerbeds around the Happiest Place on Earth.
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Image copyright Disney
Between the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and its newly expanded Flower & Garden Festival, it seems like Walt Disney World gets to have all the fun where cultural celebrations are concerned. But last week the Disneyland Resort announced that it would soon be getting some international excitement of its own.
For the weekend of May 25-27 (10am to 6pm daily), Opa! A Celebration of Greece will bring authentic Greek music, dance, art, food, history, and more to both parks at the Disneyland Resort. Activities will take place in both “it’s a small world” Mall in Disneyland park and Paradise Gardens in Disney California Adventure park.
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It’s almost time to stop and smell the roses at Walt Disney World. The Epcot Flower & Garden Festival is taking root at the park from March 7 to May 20, 2012. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this will be the best Festival ever.
My most vivid childhood memory of Disney is seeing a giant topiary hippo and wondering, “How do they DO that?” I still find these larger-than-life living sculptures endlessly fascinating. More than 100 topiaries are scheduled to be on display this year, including plants representing characters from Toy Story (strawberry-scented Lotso!) and Cars.
HGTV is again sponsoring the festival, lending many of its TV personalities to the proceedings. Here’s who you’ll be able to see:
- John Gidding, HGTV’s Curb Appeal: The Block—presenting March 9 – 11
- Sabrina Soto, HGTV’s The High/Low Project—presenting March 16 – 18
- Jason Cameron, DIY Network’s Desperate Landscapes and Man Caves—presenting March 23 – 25
- Camille Styles, HGTV.com Entertainment contributor—presenting March 30 – April 1
- Dan Faires, HGTV.com’s DanMade, Fan Favorite HGTV Design Star Season 5—presenting April 6 – 8
- Brandon Johnson, host of HGTV’s My Yard Goes Disney—presenting April 13 – 15
- Meg Caswell, HGTV’s Meg’s Great Rooms—presenting April 20 – 22
- Monica Pedersen, HGTV Dream Home Tour 2012 and Designed to Sell—presenting April 27 – 29
- Antonio Ballatore, HGTV’s The Antonio Treatment—presenting May 4 – 6
- Genevieve Gorder, HGTV’s Dear Genevieve and HGTV Design Star—presenting May 18 – 20
The only repeat presenters this year are Gorder and Gidding, so there should be lots of new material for annual guests.
Also keeping to tradition is the return of the Flower Power concert series, with artists that will make you nostalgic and your kids confused. During the Festival you can hear:
- March 9 to 11, Jose Feliciano, Light My Fire
- March 16 to 18, Starship Starring Mickey Thomas, We Built This City
- March 23 to 25, The Guess Who, American Woman
- March 30 to April 1, The Spinners, Cupid
- April 6 to 8, Chubby Checker & The Wildcats, The Twist
- April 13 to 15, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Good Thing
- April 20 to 22, The Turtles Featuring Flo & Eddie, Happy Together
- April 27 to 29, Chuck Negron Formerly of Three Dog Night, Black & White
- May 4 to 6, The Orchestra Starring Former Members of ELO, Don’t Bring Me Down
- May 11 to 13, Herman’s Hermits Starring Peter Noone, I’m Henry VIII, I Am
- May 18 to 20, Davy Jones, I’m a Believer
The new performers this year are Three Dog Night and ELO. Personally, I’m always most excited to see Davy Jones because it takes me back to the days when I wished I was Marcia Brady. Sigh.
Shows are on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 5:15 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. in the America Gardens Theatre.
Bushels of Gardening Information
In addition to the HGTV presenters, there will be gardening experts making scheduled appearances each day at the Greenhouse Stage in Festival Headquarters in Future World. Many of these presenters will be representatives from the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida. Along with planned lectures and demonstrations, experts will be available from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day to chat and take individual guest questions. This is a great opportunity to get your children interested in gardening; they will have a chance to have an adult expert take time with them.
The standard gardening talks will be supplemented by weekends dedicated to special topics:
- Art in the Garden Weekend: See nature through the eyes of “plein air” artists and behold one-of-a-kind works of art. At World Showcase from March 23 through 25, 2012.
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Specialists: Meet the experts and learn about incredible indigenous insects that are part of our world. At the Festival Center from April 13 through 15, 2012.
- Florida Federation of Garden Clubs: See amazing arrangements that defy description. At the Festival Center from April 27 through 29, 2012.
- Fresh from Florida Weekend: Discover the bounty of Florida—from Apalachicola to Zellwood! At the Festival Center from May 4 through 6, 2012.
Special, Fun, and Everything Else Under the Sun
Among the other offerings at Epcot during the Festival are:
- Bambi’s Butterfly House, presented by HGTV: Experience hundreds of native butterflies and see some of your favorite characters from Bambi, presented in topiary. Located at Imagination Walkway.
- Sustainable Beauty, presented by HGTV: This unique garden showcases sustainable gardening ideas that you can try at home.
- English Tea Garden, presented by Twinings of London Tea: Discover the art and history of tea blending during a 20-minute tour of this elegant English Tea Garden, featuring classic tea blends and new herbal teas for 2012. Tours are held Monday through Thursday at 4:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., and Friday through Sunday at 2:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Register for your guided tour at The Tea Caddy. Located at the United Kingdom Pavilion.
- Bonsai Collection—located at the Japan Pavilion.
- Festival Blooms, Presented by Syngenta—located at Future World East and West Lake.
- Children’s Garden, Presented by Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association
- Orchids—located at the Mexico Pavilion.
- Spice and Herb Garden—located at the Morocco Pavilion.
- Let’s Get Moving: Unique play structures for ages 2 through 5. Located at Imagination Walkway.
- Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden: Explore the garden world of Pixie Hollow and find some of your favorite fairy characters presented in topiary. Play structures are designed for ages 2 to 5. Located at Test Track Walkway.
- Sounds of Nature, Presented by Nature Conservancy: Relax as you listen to the soothing sounds of nature. Located next to Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden at Test Track Walkway.
Access to the Flower & Garden exhibits and activities is included with your regular Epcot park admission ticket. There is a supplemental Epcot Gardens of the World Tour available in which a Disney horticulturist hosts a 3-hour, guided tour designed especially for garden enthusiasts. The Gardens of the World Tour is available Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. Register at Guest Relations or call (407) WDW-TOUR. Cost is $60.00, including tax, and theme park admission is required. The tour is available to Guests ages 16 and up only.
So folks, are you blooming with excitement about the Festival? Did you visit the Festival last year? Do you think Disney rose to the occasion? Do you like the offerings this year, or do you think they’re yucca? Do you carrot all? Let us know in the comments below.
Thanks to Tom Bricker for many of the brilliant photos of last year’s festivities.