Kermit the Frog will find it is easy being green when his artfully-crafted character topiary debuts during the 21st Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival presented by HGTV March 5 to May 18, 2014 at Walt Disney World Resort. With flamboyance to spare, a floral Miss Piggy will join Kermit and his blooming banjo in the World Showcase topiary display.
Urban Farm Eats will be the new Outdoor Kitchen on the promenade with a sustainable garden featuring tilapia, eggplant and other farm-raised treats. Guests can try new menu items including the Land-Grown Eggplant “Scallop” with Romesco Sauce, Ghost Pepper Dusted Tilapia with Winter Melon Salad and Mango Chutney, plus red and white vegan wines and gluten-free beer.
The festival’s nearly 100 whimsical topiaries and its 11 tantalizing Outdoor Kitchens with sweet and savory indulgent bites are reason enough to visit the 75-day flower and garden extravaganza. Yet the park will be packed with so much more as it transforms to a rainbow-hued wonderland of sweeping gardens and exhibits. Stars of HGTV, including Alison Victoria of “Kitchen Crashers” and Matt Blashaw of “Yard Crashers,” will appear each weekend at the Festival Center, Audubon will debut its new Hummingbird Garden and Mike & Sulley’s Monstrous Garden opens as a fun-filled play land.
More Festival News . . .
Goofy, Donald Duck and Daisy Duck topiaries will appear in a new Epcot front entrance garden vignette celebrating spring with a butterfly hunt adventure. The topiaries will have a new computer-generated look while telling an entertaining story. Goofy’s butterfly net will prove useless as topiary butterflies light on the back of his floral garb. A topiary bee buzzes on an exasperated Donald’s head. The garden will feature a real waterfall and pond with water lilies.
Now in their second festival year, the festival’s 11 food and beverage garden marketplaces have been dubbed Outdoor Kitchens, where chefs will be cooking a variety of new and popular returning menu items, including vegetarian and gluten-free dishes, in 2014. At The Smokehouse BBQ Outdoor Kitchen, Piggylicious Bacon Cupcakes and Smoked Turkey Ribs are on tap with a lineup of great brews. Last year’s top menu picks like the Watermelon Salad with local baby arugula, feta cheese, pickled red onions and balsamic reduction will be back for an encore at the Florida Fresh Outdoor Kitchen.
A new Mike & Sulley’s Monstrous Garden welcomes families with a whimsical play land of activities. Dozens of additional character topiaries, including Mickey Mouse and Peter Pan will surprise guests beyond the park’s iconic Spaceship Earth.
The Flower Power Concert Series welcomes two new acts in 2014: Gary Lewis and the Playboys (“This Diamond Ring”) March 14-16, and The Alan Parsons Live Project (“Eye in the Sky”) May 16-18. During opening weekend, the series kicks off at America Gardens Theatre with fan-favorite band The Guess Who (“American Woman”) March 7-9. Other pop acts set to perform include Chubby Checker & the Wildcats, The Village People and Paul Revere & The Raiders. (Entertainment is subject to change).
Hummingbirds at Home, a new exhibit presented by the National Audubon Society, will feature walk-through hummingbird gardens and tips on how to attract the magical creatures that migrate to Florida from South America each year.
For the second year, illuminated gardens will cast a festive glow across the park when the sun sets each evening.
Mater of the Disney-Pixar “Cars” film hit is back by demand with the new Mater’s Parts, Plants and Play Garden. Tinker Bell’s Butterfly House will be aflutter with hundreds of the winged beauties and a fairy topiary of Tinker Bell.
At the Festival Center in the park’s Future World, twice-daily interactive gardening workshops will set the stage for outdoor do-it-yourself inspiration, and gardening guest speakers will appear daily. Fridays through Sundays, HGTV design celebrities will host home, garden and design seminars.
As they sample from marketplace menus, guests can wander among multiple themed gardens and children’s play areas. Dozens of Disney-crafted “flower towers,” herb gardens and beds of multi-colored blooms will add to the floral splendor of the park’s landscape. Disney’s garden gurus estimate 70,000 bedding plants will surround the Future World east and west lakes alone; on the water, 220 mini-gardens will be set afloat. Several special weekend happenings, including the popular Art in the Garden Weekend, will be scheduled.
While Disney guests celebrate spring, they also can explore the reimagined, design-centric Test Track Presented by Chevrolet, the hang-gliding sensation of Soarin’ and other high-tech Future World marvels. In World Showcase, the spotlight will shine on topiaries of Disney princesses, storybook characters and even pandas and trolls, guests can discover the attractions, shops and restaurants that represent cultures and cuisine of 11 countries. Spice Road Table, which debuted in January at the Morocco showcase, will be open for lagoon-side noshing on tasty tapas.
For more information about the 21st Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, call 407/W-DISNEY (934-7639) or visit www.epcotinspring.com. The festival, including all gardening programs and exhibits, is included in regular Epcot admission.
Facts about the festival:
- 30 million blooms blanket the park throughout the festival, which runs 75 colorful days.
- 11 Outdoor Kitchens featuring sweet and savory food and beverage menu items, and more than one dozen brand-new menu items add tasting fun and variety to the festival. Each marketplace will feature a produce and herb garden to represent more than 50 overall beverage choices and more than 40 food items featured.
- The festival’s front-entrance Spring is In the Air topiary scene comprises three character topiaries – Donald, Daisy and Goofy on a butterfly spotting excursion – and more than 15 varieties of flowers, plants, and other garden materials. Guests will find 99 topiaries throughout the park — 79 of them are character topiaries.
- Mike & Sulley’s Monstrous Garden, a themed playground for children with innovative play systems, is one of the largest festival gardens created at nearly one-third acre. A collection of large, leafy plants including elephant ears, rubber plants, sea grapes, fiddle leaf fig, banana plants and colorful bromeliads and hibiscus create the garden’s “monstrous” ambiance. The garden’s Sulley topiary is one of Disney’s largest, weighing in at 4,300 pounds. About 4,000 small plants fill his 13-foot frame.
- Two new topiary stars this year are Kermit and Miss Piggy! Dozens of additional character topiaries represent the largest collection of Disney character topiary in the world and include Timon and Pumbaa, Cinderella, Belle and Beast, and Phineas and Ferb.
- At least 25 different plants, grasses and mosses of various colors, including pink and red begonias, dusty miller, palm fiber, palm seeds, ficus and lichen, are used to create and define facial and other features of festival character topiaries.
- 1,000 native butterflies represent up to 10 species at the expansive Tinker Bell’s Butterfly House. Among the garden’s two dozen nectar plants are Cape Royal plumbago, passion flower, coral honeysuckle, blazing star, butterfly bush, scarlet milkweed and canna lily.
- Ruby-throated Hummingbirds will have a new place to visit during their migration this spring at the Hummingbirds at Home garden exhibit presented by Audubon. These magical creatures fly non-stop for 20 hours over the Gulf of Mexico as they hum their way to Florida from Central America. Hummingbirds are the only birds able to hover and fly backward and upside down!
- 240 extra playground hours add extra festival magic for children and their families with the illuminated garden playgrounds staying open through park closing.
- More than 500,000 plants, trees and shrubs are planted for the festival; 250,000 of those are annual blossoms installed for the festival.
- Festival plants include 60 different species of trees, 47 types of palms, and 48 varieties of bedding plants.
- 150 hands-on gardening demonstrations and seminars will be presented.
- Thirty “flower towers” of several varieties of blooms and plants line Innoventions Plaza.
- 225 floating mini-gardens, each three feet in diameter, of multi-hued impatiens provide splashes of color on two ponds that border the walkway between Future World and World Showcase.
- 700 container gardens of flowers, herbs, plants and vegetables in clay pots, barrels and urns enhance the landscape throughout Epcot.
- 400 Walt Disney World horticulturists are needed to install the festival landscape, topiaries and many exhibits; 100 Epcot horticulturists maintain topiaries and other festival displays.
- It takes more than one full year and about 24,000 cast member hours to prepare for the annual festival.
- The festival’s weekend Flower Power concert series includes 11 artists and groups known for their Top 40 hits. This year’s musical hit-makers from the 1960s and ’70s include new-to-Flower Power acts Gary Lewis & the Playboys and the Alan Parsons Live Project. Returning are opening weekend act The Guess Who, plus Village People, Chubby Checker & The Wildcats, Paul Revere & The Raiders, The Grass Roots, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Orchestra starring former members of ELO, Starship starring Mickey Thomas and Herman’s Hermits Starring Peter Noone.
Photo credit: Gregg Newton
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