Gardens galore are in store for the interested visitor to Walt Disney World in Florida, as Maryalice Koehne was delighted to discover…

All winter and spring, folks flock to Florida to enjoy warm weather and lush greenery. Taking advantage of this climate, Walt Disney World in Orlando is a horticulturist’s delight, even though it’s known more for the fun and fantasy than flowers. But if Victorian gardeners were to view the 3 million bedding plants (showcasing hundreds of cultivars from around the world) planted in perfect patterns and changed seasonally throughout the various areas, they’d have swooned dead away.

During the holiday season, all who are young at heart relate to the whimsical topiaries that blend horticulture and innovative technology besides the baskets and containers of plants. Where else would you see a resplendent living topiary of Mickey Mouse waving a fibre-optic wand?

Those who prefer keeping the past and future in separate compartments might prefer the World Showcase gardens around the Lagoon at Epcot. There, they may explore on their own or join an international exploration of horticultural principles and practices in settings ranging from the wild jungles of Mexico to an orangery inspired by the fęte des citrons in Menton, France.

Homesick visitors might want to duck into the traditional English cottage garden or travel the maze modelled after that at Somerleyton Hall and Gardens in Suffolk, England.

Other international features include a dynamic Chinese dragon topiary made entirely of bromeliads (boldly colourful tropical plants) and a precise miniature Railway Garden where plants and structures are all in scale. It takes a good deal of looking to absorb all the details in this display. The Railway Garden will even feature a miniature German village festival to complement Epcot’s eighth annual Flower & Garden Festival (20th April to 3rd June 2001).

“We have a horticultural philosophy that something phenomenal should always be blooming,” said Kim Warneke, area manager of the horticultural services department that’s responsible for the festival. “There’s a bounty of trees, baskets, topiaries and programmes to satisfy the horticultural cravings of all our guests.” A gardening information gazebo, special signage and plant labels throughout the gardens answer many questions for inquisitive visitors.

During the festival, a variety of programmes, workshops and demonstrations by national garden experts are staged. They cover everything from ‘Lasagne Gardening’ to ‘Making Herbal Dream Pillows’. Special programmes for kids include the ‘Bug Bowl’ that shows children how bugs help the environment. Another exclusive festival offering is a tour of the Town of Celebration’s parks and gardens to gather ideas for your own yard. (Fees are charged for some events.)

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