Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival at Disney World

For the past 25 years, Walt Disney World in Florida has hosted the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival each spring. The theme park’s already beautiful gardens are made even more fun with the addition of dozens of character topiaries, and special exhibits and behind-the-scenes tours give flora fans even more of what they love.

DSC_0228My mother and I are both Master Gardeners, and this was our second girls’ trip to attend the festival. Our first was in 2012, and we’ve been excited to return ever since. This time we were joined by my mother’s cousin, Helen, for a week of fun and flowers.

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Me, Helen, and my mother checking into Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort in Orlando, Florida

In addition to favorite rides, restaurants, and other fun, we’d booked two special festival activities. The first was the Behind the Seeds Tour at The Land Pavilion in Epcot. This one-hour walking tour gave us a glimpse into four of Disney’s greenhouses and an aquaponic fish farm, where horticulturists study natural pest control techniques, cultivate unusual plant species from around the world, and develop more efficient ways to grow food.

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Leafminer fly experiments at The Land Pavilion, part of Epcot’s study of natural pest control

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Components of the hydroponic “soil” in a Disney greenhouse

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Can you spot the hidden Mickey?

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A nine-pound lemon. It isn’t some mad scientist creation but an actual natural variety

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Did you know that botanically speaking, bananas are berries? And banana plants are technically herbs? And bananas are naturally slightly radioactive? Now you know.

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Aquaponics tanks holding tilapia in the fishery at Epcot’s The Land Pavilion

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Another hidden Mickey in the spice garden, along with a fun “name that spice” scent game

The Behind the Seeds Tour is $25 USD for adults, $20 USD for kids, requires Epcot park admission, and lasts about an hour. Our tour group had all ages, and everyone had a good time with the scientifically-based, factoid-style information our guide presented.

The following day we set out on the Gardens of the World Tour. This walking excursion takes you through the Cars-themed exhibit near Epcot’s Test Track, through an enclosed butterfly garden next to Spaceship Earth, past a pollinators exhibit just beyond The Land, and into the international gardens of the World Showcase.

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A Disney horticulturist trimming a Lightning McQueen topiary, which requires daily maintenance to keep its shape

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Dozens of varieties of honey on display at the Honey Bee-stro, one of the 16 limited-time outdoor kitchens open during the 2018 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

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Gardens at the Canada Pavilion modeled after the Cascade Gardens of Banff, Alberta

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Beauty and the Beast topiaries at the France Pavilion

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Spaceship Earth framed in the red torii gate of the Japan Pavilion

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Kung Fu Panda topiaries at the Japan Pavilion

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A model train exhibit at the Germany Pavilion. Our Gardens of the World Tour guide said they tried something different during a previous year, and guests demanded the trains return for future festivals

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A Chinese dragon topiary, the pet project of a 25-year-old Disney horticulturist

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During the three-hour Gardens of the World Tour, you learn about using color and texture to create different garden moods, as well as tricks for creating internationally-themed gardens with lookalike plant substitutions that work in your growing climate. You also learn Disney’s tips for installing and maintaining planting beds, container gardens, hanging baskets, and even fanciful topiaries.

The tour is $85 USD per person and also requires Epcot park admission. It is a three-hour walking tour, so dress appropriately for the weather and don’t forget your sunscreen.

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Up next: 11 Tips for Enjoying Disney World as a Grownup