When some people think of Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center, they think of progress and planning for the future. Others think about the cultural diversity of the World Showcase. And still others think of flagship attractions such as Soarin’, Mission to Mars, and Test Track.
When I visit Epcot Center, one of the first things which always catches my eye is the incredible landscaping. Beautiful deep greens complimented by splashes of warmth from flowers, framed by a tropical blue sky. There is some serious agriculture and horticulture going on here.
From the amazing topiary displays during the Flower and Garden Festival, to the gorgeous flower beds, to the behind the scenes hydroponics and aeroponics producing fresh fruit and vegetables for the resort restaurants, Epcot Center is a gardening mecca.
It took 400 Walt Disney World horticulturists to create the landscapes and topiaries for this year’s Epcot Flower and Garden Festival. That’s a lot of green thumbs!
The Land Pavilion
My growing interest (pun clearly intended) in horticulture and gardening can be traced back to 1997, when my wife and I honeymooned at Disney World.
I had no idea what the Living With The Land attraction was, but it seemed like a fun thing to try while we escaped the summer heat and humidity. I was immediately taken aback by the sheer size of the pavilion, which measures 253,000 square feet.
But it was The Living With The Land boat ride attraction which made the biggest long term impression. It ended up being one of the more fascinating presentations I had seen at Disney World.
The site of so many edible plant species growing indoors without the aid of soil still sticks in my memory. I was beginning to think about sustainability. And I couldn’t wait to try out some of the Epcot gardening methods when I got back to New York state. No, I still haven’t installed a full grown banana tree inside my home. And I have no intention of raising my own alligators either. But I have built my own hydroponic units, and my wife and I enjoy organic gardening during the warm season.
If you enjoy Living With The Land and are interested in sustainable growing methods, I heartily recommend the backstage Behind the Seeds tour where you can ask questions and get a look at the behind the scenes work.
If you have eaten at The Garden Grill restaurant or the Sunshine Seasons food court, you have consumed food produced within The Land pavilion. In fact the growing efforts here serve many Disney World restaurants.
A World of Color
The horticultural efforts of Walt Disney World Epcot are breathtaking. This is true year round, not just during the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival.
Striking flower beds can be found throughout the theme park, but a particularly impressive area is along the path which leads from The Land area toward the beginning of World Showcase.
More amazing gardens can be found within the World Showcase, including the back garden of the United Kingdom near the Disney Boardwalk gates. And who hasn’t stopped for several minutes to watch the model train travel through a meticulously designed landscape.
The splashes of color from the flower beds intermixed with the flowing greens open up a world of creative expressions for photographers. There are two excellent times to photograph these landscapes. The first is during the evening hours leading up to sunset. The other is on thickly overcast days. If you wish to capture some memorable images full of striking color, I especially recommend the final hour of daylight prior to sunset. Sunrise would be a good time too…except for the inconvenient fact that Epcot Center is closed during this time.
The Green Thumb of Sustainability
Disney strives to ensure that sustainability guidelines are met for all food consumed on its resort property. Efforts are made to prevent the harvesting of food from harming local ecosystems, and over-harvesting is avoided. Integrated pest management is utilized to reduce the need for, or replace, chemical pest management.
As someone who cares about sustainability and environmentalism, I am pleased to see a major corporation like Disney making strong efforts to decrease its footprint, while inspiring millions of its visitors to do the same.
These values are well represented throughout Epcot Center.
What About You?
What are your favorite horticultural and agricultural parts of Epcot? Have you employed any of the gardening techniques from Living With The Land?