Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival: Blooming to Life with Fun!

by Cheryl Pendry, PassPorter Featured Columnist
Last modified 04-16-2011

Photo illustrating Walt Disney World - Touring

Every spring, Walt Disney World blossoms into life - and nowhere can that be seen more vividly than at Epcot.

It is home to the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival, and it's an event with something for everyone.

Epcot - Flower and Garden Festival photo
Epcot - Flower and Garden Festival

A shot of the Flower and Garden Show's flower beds and butterfly house. This photo was selected as Photo of the Day on 4/12/11.

Disney in the spring was a new concept to me until last year. Usually we visit Walt Disney World in the wintertime, particularly at Christmas, when all the decorations are on show and additional festive events make visiting extra special.

Having gotten used to enjoying all those additional Christmas events during our previous stays, I was keen to continue to get something more for our Disney admission price, so I started to look at what other events take place throughout the year. The Flower and Garden Festival, which runs from April 5-June 3 (2007 dates), immediately caught my attention.

Centered around Epcot, our favorite park, I was instantly transfixed by the photos I found online of the flower beds in Future World and the various topiaries throughout the entire park. Never before had I seen such a stunning floral display - and my parents are exceptionally keen gardeners. I grew up surrounded by a garden, which was home to 2,000 flowers in bloom every summer and which used to stun and amaze everyone who visited us.

But would the reality of the Flower & Garden Festival live up to the hype? When we first set foot in Epcot on a fairly busy Saturday morning in early May, I will admit that I had my doubts. The photos had sent my expectations soaring sky high, but despite this, everything we saw was exactly how I'd pictured it.

Topiaries welcome you first in front of Spaceship Earth and are scattered throughout the park. Some are old favorites and have been featuring in the Festival for many years, such as the trolls in Norway and the pandas playing in China, while others change each year. On my first visit, guests were greeted by Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto and Goofy together, highlighting the Magical Gatherings celebrations, while a new topiary of Tinker Bell took pride of place just in front of Spaceship Earth. Each year the topiaries in the front of the park change. In 2011, topiaries of Toy Story 3 appear, including Buzz, Woody, and Lotso! You'll also spot Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Pluto, Stitch, Winnie the Pooh, and Cars 2 topiaries throughout the park, but the Festival is about so much more than just topiaries.

Flowers are scattered everywhere throughout the park, but for me, the highlights from last year were the amazing flower beds between Future World and World Showcase. A riot of color, featuring Mickey and flower shapes, these are planted out overnight, in just an eight-hour period. The turf is cut beforehand in preparation and the planting schedule is computer generated, so that the Disney gardeners know exactly where every flower needs to be planting.

These were just some of the fascinating facts that we discovered on our backstage tour, exploring the work that goes into the Flower and Garden Festival. As this was to be our first visit to the Flower and Garden Festival, we booked ourselves on to the Garden Discovery Tour. This three-hour tour (9:00 am - noon) is essentially a special Festival version of the Gardens of the World tour, which runs year round at Epcot. A Disney Horticulturist give you the inside scoop on the special displays and award-winning international gardens. Costing $59, there are discounts available for both Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members, although it is worth bearing in mind that the tour name varies from year to year. This year, it is called Epcot Garden Explorations.

The tour guides are Disney gardeners, who can go into as much detail as you want about the various plants and flowers used in the displays and how each is created. Some of the topiary are temporary and are destroyed just weeks after the Festival ends. Even the permanent topiaries only have a lifetime of seven years and once the frames can no longer be used, they are melted down.

If you're not at Disney World over Mother's Day weekend, don't despair. There is plenty going on throughout the six weeks of the Festival. Everywhere you look in Epcot, there are things to see and do. The fragrance garden in France will astound you when you find out what actually goes into some of your favorite perfumes, while Farmer Mickey's Maze on the Imagination Walkway (replacing the DogGone Maze of the past couple of years) is aimed at children between the ages of two and five, but the topiaries within it can be admired by all ages. Don't miss Bambi's Butterfly House filled with hundreds of butterflies, and the Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden where you can meet some of your favorite faires in person daily between 9:30 and 5:15 pm.

If all this fires your imagination and you want to return home to create water features and topiaries in your own garden, then help is on hand from the Master Gardeners from IFAS at the University of Florida. And on certain days throughout the Festival, you can enjoy interactive demonstrations at 11:00 am, noon, 2:00 pm, and 3:00 pm at the Festival Center inside the former Wonders of Life pavilion.

But the Festival isn't all about Flowers and Gardens, despite its name. It also features a liberal dose of "Flower Power," with concerts every night at the America Gardens Theater taking you back in time to the 1960s and 1970s. With three shows nightly at 5.15 pm, and 7:45 pm, this year's line-up includes Chubby Checker, Juice Newton, Paul Revere & The Raiders, The Guess Who, Starship, Davy Jones, Ricky Nelson, and Herman's Hermits.

Then there are the theme weekends, including "Fresh From Florida" (April 29-May 1), which lets you discover Florida's natural bounty with featured growers are available to chat about fresh items from throughout the state, including produce and honey. The following weekend (May 13-15) is a Disney-Pixar Weekend to Celebrate Cars 2, which debuts in theaters on June 24, 2011. Kids will love the Cars 2-themed scavenger hunt around World Showcase.

The Festival showcases Epcot at its brightest and best. It's fun and full of activities, with lots of extras to see and do. For full details of the events being planned for the annual Epcot Flower and Garden Festival, which runs from March 2 - May 15, 2011, visit the special events section of the Walt Disney World web site or call 407-WDISNEY.

Epcot - Flower and Garden Festival photo
Epcot - Flower and Garden Festival

Bambi topiary during the Flower and Garden Festival. This photo was selected as Photo of the Day on 3/27/11.

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About the Author:
Cheryl and husband Mark live in England and love to travel, particularly to Disney, and they have made numerous visits to destinations across America and Europe. They recently completed their tour of every Disney theme park around the world, which culminated in their visit to Japan, including the Tokyo Disney Resort. Click here to view more of Cheryl's articles!

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Reader Comments:

that its THE BEST time to be there!!!!!!! Our advice, slow down. taking it all in takes time

     Duckmom on February 1, 2011 @ 1:10 pm
The topiary displays are all throughout Epcot, and are well marked on the festival map. I would also recommend devoting some time to the butterfly enclosure, it's just really beautiful. The fairy displays around there are also really cute. Last year they had a contest for kids to build fairy homes and they were displayed throughout the area. I would also check out the Flower Power concert series and see who is playing while you are there. I had no interest in gardening/landscaping so I didn't attend any of the lectures.

     unewillow on February 1, 2011 @ 1:17 pm
I loved the butterfly garden at Epcot. I just wish I had brought more Sudafed/Benedryl with me (tissues, too). There was more pollen then I expected and I felt it in a big way.

     JoanneS on February 1, 2011 @ 2:20 pm
We loved the kids playground (Pirate's Adventure Zone) in the World Showcase, there were lots of great little shops to look at and special displays. I have the guide from last year and these are some of the events we enjoyed that may be repeated - topiary scavenger hunt (pick up at festival information desk), fragrance garden in France, English Tea Garden, and the sand sculpture art from Disney nature. Also the bromeliad dragon in China was incredible!! I would grab a guide at your resort as soon as you arrive to review, but you should have no problem catching everything and still enjoying the regular Epcot with two days. Have fun!!

     justinefellows on February 1, 2011 @ 2:31 pm
Thank you! That all sounds wonderful! I cannot wait to see it!

     stubekis on February 2, 2011 @ 11:14 pm
You do need to dedicate time to explore Epcot fully, as the displays are throughout the park. It's a beautiful time of the year to visit Disney and you'll love it. smiley for :waytogo:

     chezp on February 3, 2011 @ 2:54 am
I read this year will have a Toy Story theme, Tangled theme, and I think the Fairies new M&G will be there. Butterfly pavilion is supposed to be bigger.

     Mommy2alittleprincess on February 3, 2011 @ 8:09 am
We love the F&GF and go each spring during my Spring Break (elementary librarian smiley for ;) ) Once the festival gets closer you'll be able to find the program for the festival online. I like to download it and print it out so I can highlight the things I want to look for while we're there smiley for :) Like others have said, it's all over the park and you do want to take time to explore all the little additions smiley for :)

     mestitch on February 3, 2011 @ 8:16 am
JoanneS;3555152 >. I just wish I had brought more Sudafed/Benedryl with me (tissues, too). There was more pollen then I expected and I felt it in a big way.

This is a GREAT tip. I am going on my first trip to the flower garden festival and I didn't even think to bring extra allergy meds

     tylerdylansmom on February 3, 2011 @ 6:41 pm
I'm so excited for this! I will be in Disney when it just gets started and can't wait based on what I saw of the last bits of it in 2009!

     Mgmgal on February 3, 2011 @ 7:05 pm
I have done some of the gardening sessions, and I'm not a gardener. Some examples of "non-gardening" ones I've done are:

Make your own nosegay (a little bouquet of dried flowers and herbs)

The art of perfume (sponsored by the company in the French pavilion)

Water conservation at Disney

Recently they located the festival center in the old Wonders of Life pavilion, so it's a little out of the way. But it's a nice place to relax and cool off. They have a video showing how they make the topiaries which is on a continuous loop.

And definitely check out the concerts. Last year DD and I saw Chubby Checker and he was REALLY good!

     tkd lisa on February 4, 2011 @ 6:16 am
We will be there for the first time this March. Thanks for asking the question! I loved reading the responses!

     2princessmom on February 5, 2011 @ 11:06 am
We go ever year during the Flower and Garden Festival because it always happens to fall during mine and DH anniversary. The topiaries are beautiful and they are throughout all of Epcot. There are several through out Future World and there are some beautiful ones in the World Showcase and leading up to the World Showcase. Do not miss the butterflies they are beautiful. And there are some stands leading to the World Showcase that have garden themed and garden stuff for sale.

I have pictures of some of the topiary but it has already been but in my scrapbook. And it is difficult to scan.

     Feisty Fairy on February 5, 2011 @ 12:30 pm
I've gone twice during the F&GF. The first year I went I did the Gardens of the World Tour that is only offered during the festival. I think it costs $59 per person, but you can get discounts if you have AAA, and AP, Disney Visa or are a DVC member (usually about 15% off). They pointed out many of the details it is sometimes easy to over look and it was led by a Disney horticulturist so she was able to answer any questions you had about the plants. I really enjoyed it! smiley for :waytogo:

     WDWfan on February 5, 2011 @ 1:25 pm
2princessmom;3560230 >We will be there for the first time this March. Thanks for asking the question! I loved reading the responses!

Ditto!! Thanks for asking! We will be there in March as well!smiley for :D

     fiferpig on February 5, 2011 @ 6:15 pm
JoanneS;3555152 >I loved the butterfly garden at Epcot. I just wish I had brought more Sudafed/Benedryl with me (tissues, too). There was more pollen then I expected and I felt it in a big way.

We bring the Benedryl melt strips they are fast and pack small. I also bring Zyrtec.

     niccole on February 5, 2011 @ 6:47 pm
fiferpig;3560505 >Ditto!! Thanks for asking! We will be there in March as well!smiley for :D

Ditto squared! smiley for :D We are going in April and are very excited about exploring the F&G Festival...especially DH. :thewave: Great question and very informative answers. smiley for :yes:

     tdhc on March 6, 2011 @ 10:45 am
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Updated 04-16-2011 - Article #628 

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