LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Goofy catches a topiary wave while Mickey Mouse and gal pal Minnie chill at the "beach" for the 15th annual Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival March 19-June 1 at Walt Disney World Resort. Last year's popular 60-day event has sprouted runners and expands to 75 days, with a first-ever March launch offering oceans of floral fantasy and gardening fun for spring break visitors to the Vacation Kingdom.
As guests enter the park near Spaceship Earth, they'll spot a 14-foot Goofy topiary riding a 6-foot wave of flowers and plants. Sandcastles and palm trees surround Mickey and Minnie topiaries posed on a floral beach towel spread upon a sandy "beach." At World Showcase Plaza, Disney topiary specialists have crafted a volleyball beach scene starring Donald Duck and Daisy. Nearby, a topiary Pluto frolics while colorful Stitch from "Lilo and Stitch" keeps watch from a lifeguard stand.
New festival fun includes:
- Peter Pan's Never Land Garden, a children's area along the Imagination Walkway from Future World to World Showcase. The pirate-ship-themed garden will feature whimsical topiaries of Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Tinker Bell and Tic Toc Croc, as well as a shaded play structure.
- Sweeping Future World flower beds, planted on the shores of East and West Lakes, in the shape of nautical flags representing letters (Alpha, Bravo Charlie, etc.) that spell a message to be decoded by guests.
- The zany Three Caballeros -- Donald Duck, parrot Jose Carioca and Panchito, the Mexican charro rooster --as topiaries celebrating their new Epcot show, "Gran Fiesta Tour starring the Three Caballeros" in the Mexico pavilion.
Other beloved Disney characters such as Lady and the Tramp and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs make topiary appearances for perfect photo ops in the park.
In all, up to 70 topiaries -- plus 30 million blooms, artfully designed floral beds, expertly crafted bonsai trees and lush rose gardens -- grace the 305 acres of Future World and World Showcase. According to Disney horticultural manager Eric Darden, Disney's horticultural team plants two crop rotations during the fest to allow for a more brilliant floral display for the festival's duration.
Beyond the dazzling displays of blooms, the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is known by gardening aficionados for its celebrity guest speakers, hands-on seminars and innovative planting demonstrations and exhibits such as a new Florida-style Key to Outdoor Living garden display. Roger Swain of PBS's "The Victory Garden" and "green" gardening expert Joe Lamp'l (a.k.a. joe gardener) lead the lineup of nationally known gardening gurus slated to meet and share tips with guests.
Each evening, Flower Power concerts rock the park with live entertainment from top acts of the 1960s and '70s. Acts include The Guess Who, Davy Jones, Jose Feliciano, Petula Clark, Paul Revere and the Raiders and other crowd pleasers.
More festival highlights include:
The new Garden Town festival center in Future World East next to Universe of Energy, where guests can find festival merchandise, attend speaker presentations and demonstrations and ask gardening questions of the experts. The Garden Town Kid Fun Fair features interactive activities for children.>
Themed weekend events such as I Dig Bugs, Art in the Garden (including The Florida Highwaymen), Coming Up Roses (featuring Mother's Day Brunch) and Garden Party (featuring a Doll and Teddy Bear event) weekends.>
The popular Great American Gardeners series featuring gardening celebrities and authors from across the country.>
The family-oriented Growing Future Gardeners area, complete with colorful (and tasty) planting ideas for kids and parents.>
A Lift and Sniff Fragrance Garden at the France pavilion showcasing flowers and plants used to create a lineup of popular Guerlain perfumes.>
Disney Gardening at Home presentations during which Disney horticulturists share gardening tips and lead guests in a hands-on activity for taking home.>
Minnie's Magnificent Butterfly Garden, with hundreds of butterflies in a walk-through screened enclosure that includes a live exhibit showing how caterpillars form a chrysalis and emerge as butterflies.>
Kids' activities (in addition to the new Peter Pan's Never Land Garden) including Pluto's Play Zone with climber, Disney character meet-and-greets and daily ladybug releases.
More information about the 15th annual Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is available by calling 407/W-DISNEY (934-7639) or by visiting disneyworld.com/flower. The festival, including all gardening programs and exhibits, is included in regular Epcot admission.