What is it like to take a class at Epcot Flower and Garden Festival?
Have you ever walked through the festival center and seen the people sitting in the gardening class or wondered about the people walking through the park with plant projects and fun festival bags? Full disclosure: I do not garden and every plant to enter my home has died pretty quickly. However, I really enjoy taking the gardening classes at the fest. Each class is themed around Disney and the parks. I have learned a lot and been able to try my hand at potting a plant and trying to keep it alive!
The classes I have attended over the years follow a similar format. There are Disney horticulturists who lead the discussion. They are long-time Disney professionals with interesting stories and impressive careers. They discuss a topic and then provide a plant. It used to be a project in that you had the opportunity to pot your own plant, but the last few years you are provided the plant already potted with instructions on how to care for it at home.
This weekend I attended the Disney’s Horticultural Heritage class conducted by Lewis Brehm. His storied career was mostly based in Walt Disney World, but he also branched out to Hong Kong and Tokyo. His love of Disney and horticulture were evident in his presentation. The presentation began with the early history in Disneyland when Bill and Jack Evans were tasked by Walt Disney to bring the park alive with foliage. Together they thought the flowers, foliage and landscaping were an extremely important part of the storytelling experience. Topiaries were the forefront of Disney imagineering and horticulture. The first topiary of Dumbo was created in 1963 at Disneyland and placed outside of It’s a Small World. It was so popular for the 1971 opening of Magic Kingdom, Walt commissioned 25 topiaries for the grand opening. 50 (2 of each kind)
were erected at a cost of $10,000. Several of those still exist today.
It takes 5-7 years to grow a topiary from scratch. Since that is not always possible, moss is used to move along the process quicker and bobby pins are used to control the growth and help with shape. They are boxed for easy moving of the
root systems and irrigation systems. When Walt was surveying his land to build WDW in Orlando, the long standing tradition of moving trees to preserve meaning and obtaining the perfect tree began. The oak tree in Liberty Square was moved from a different location, the tree that anchors the island in Port Orleans was a transplant and the Hero Tree installed in the new Harambe Marketplace at Animal Kingdom was also moved. When the perfect tree is found, Disney is not afraid to move it to the perfect place and it is a huge undertaking!
Over the years, Disney Horticulture has grown and grown. The nursery consists of 40 acres and 12 greenhouses. Over 3 million colorful flowers are planted each year. Flower and Garden alone utilizes 210 floaters and 41 flower towers among many, many others. Disney has its own weather centers around the World for water management and uses 80% reclaimed water for irrigation. They have their own Pest Management technicians who answer over 27,000 service calls per year on property. These are just a few of the interesting facts discussed during this particular class. It only lasted about 40
minutes and we were given the beautiful parting gift of a Dwarf Peace Lily. It is from South America, should be kept in low light and evenly moist soil. Only time will tell if I can utilize my new gardening knowledge!