My Hard Hat Tour of the 2014 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

epcot spaceship earth

The 2014 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is in full swing.  Last week I got a hard hat tour from the festival’s horticulture specialists Eric Darden and Heather Will-Browne.  I loved chatting up Heather during lunch at Spice Road Table (review to follow). She’s worked for the company for over 40 years! In fact, she was the first woman on the horticulture team. Back then, there were only men’s costumes available hence why she has sworn off pants and rocks a skirt now whenever she can.

You could really see the passion for plants that these two had during the tour.  Disney sure knows how to pick the right cast member for the job.

epcot flower garden festival Eric Darden and Heather Will-Browne

The tour started at the main entrance of the park. Eric and Heather explained the process by which they select the main entrance topiaries.  These characters are the very first thing guests see when they enter the park and need to make an impact and set the tone for what’s to come.  Heather and Eric told us that there will always be Disney Classic characters in this section and the theme is usually based on one of Walt’s Classic Shorts.

2014 epcot flower and garden festival goofy soccer

Next we (Zannaland and The Suburban Mom) donned our hard hats and prepared to go behind the walls of the “Color Garden”.

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival behind the scenes

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival behind the scenes

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival behind the scenes

We learned how color groupings play off one another.

2014 epcot international flower and garden festival behind the scenes

This was also the section of the tour where Heather and Eric explained the process by which they come to a final layout of each garden.

We hopped on over to the “Hummingbirds at Home” section of the festival (near Test Track) where we got a presentation from a representative of the National Audubon Society.

2014 epcot flower and garden festival hummingbird

I loved hearing about the migration of the Ruby-throated hummingbird from Central America, through Florida and the into North America.  I had no idea that hummingbirds traveled that far south. In this garden guests can learn about the top hummingbird attracting plants, how to arrange a hummingbird garden and how they can help gather information for the Audubon Society as part of the Audubon’s Hummingbirds at Home Citizen Science Program.

2014 epcot flower and garden festival hummingbird

This is Don Kendizor, a noted naturalist. In his hand he is holding a hummingbird nest, which is about the size of a chicken egg.  He explained to us that the eggs of the hummingbird are about the size of a pea and that the nests were a rare find.  Don will appear at select times in the exhibit during the festival to answer guests questions.

After leaving the hummingbird garden we took a stroll through “Mater’s Parts, Plants & Play Garden”.

2014 epcot flower and garden festival mater cars topiary

This is an area the kids can enjoy.  Disney has added these wonderful shaded areas for guests to relax throughout their day touring the festival.

2014 epcot flower and garden festival

Next we were allowed inside an all new interactive topiary concept.

2014 epcot flower and garden festival goofy soccer

The area in front of Goofy’s feet has had a soccer ball installed and guests can use this photo opp to play a game of garden soccer with the topiary characters.  This garden is located within the walkway from Future World into World Showcase.

New this year is Mike and Sulley’s Monsterous Garden on the Imagination Walkway.

2014 epcot flower and garden festival monsters mike sulley garden

See those college textbooks beside Mike? They are actually part of the structure that holds the one-eyed monster up.

2014 epcot flower and garden festival monsters mike sulley garden

Last year this area was themed to The Land of Oz.  Remember those giant red glass poppies?  The artist who crafted them has crafted some new glass butterflies that will be inside Tinker Bell’s Butterfly House.

2014 epcot flower and garden festival monsters mike sulley garden playground

2014 epcot flower and garden festival monsters mike sulley garden playground

Perhaps the most impressive display of all is the Festival Blooms and Floating Gardens.  You’ll want to see the Floating Gardens at night this year. I hear they have a surprise in them.

2014 epcot flower and garden festival blooms

This area of the festival will be replanted at last once during the festival and contains 45,000 bedding plants. There are 120 floating planters as well.

As we made our way into World Showcase we stopped to admire the Fantasia display which included this Sorcerer Mickey topiary.

Did you know that this was one of the original Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival displays back in 1994?

2014 epcot flower and garden festival sorcerer mickey fantasia broom topiary

These orchids in Mexico are one of my favorite finds. You can spot them along the handicapped entrance to the pavilion.

2014 epcot flower and garden festival mexico orchids

The Lion King topiaries can be found between China and Germany. Heather and Eric explained to us that they have been able to put topiaries where then hadn’t been able to put them before using a concept called a sandbox which can be broken down after the festival. Pumbaa and Timon are planted in one of these sandboxes.

2014 epcot flower and garden festival africa pumbaa timon

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs have had a major “face-lift” this year and look amazingly lifelike. Look for them over in Germany.

2014 epcot flower and garden festival germany dwarfs

With “Muppets Most Wanted” soon to “hit” theaters, these Kermit and Miss Piggy topiaries in Italy are sure to be a “hit”.

2014 epcot flower and garden festival muppets kermit miss piggy

New this year is the Florida Fresh Garden.

2014 epcot flower and garden festival florida freshEverything is locally sourced.  One of the featured plantings is a kumquat tree. You can see it below on the right. I do love me some kumquats. In fact, there’s a kumquat jam on the cheese board at Yachtsman Steakhouse and I’m dreaming about it right now….

2014 epcot flower and garden festival florida fresh

2014 epcot flower and garden festival florida fresh canoe planter

Ready to tap the Feast of Flowers Farmhouse Ale from the Florida Beer Company which was brewed specifically for the 2014 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival!

2014 epcot flower and garden festival florida fresh amanda tinney

The Smokehouse returns in 2014 and what better character to welcome guests into this area than Sheriff Woody.

2014 epcot flower and garden festival smokehouse woody toy story topiary

The horticulturists have been playing around with new planting options in the Backyard Play Garden between France and Morocco. Here we have one of those new planting options…square straw bales. Who knew?

2014 epcot flower and garden festival straw planter

This concluded our Hard Hat Tour of the 21st Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.  I hope you enjoyed it.  I will be reviewing the food and beverage offerings from the Outdoor Kitchens soon. The festival runs through May 18th, 2014 and is included in park admission.