University of Florida

The Neighborhood Gardener –
Florida Master Gardeners at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

Each spring, Master Gardeners and county agents take part in the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, a 75-day event that brings together plants, people, and music to create an entertaining and educational experience for gardeners and non-gardeners alike.

"It's a great time to see Epcot because there are literally millions of extra flowers planted for the festival," said Tom Wichman, statewide coordinator of the Florida Master Gardener Program.

The Epcot horticulture staff installs rows and rows of bedding plants around the lakes in Future World, creating a huge carpet of color that's hard to miss. The park staff also installs specialty gardens like a butterfly garden, a water-wise garden, and an English tea garden, plus more than 100 custom topiaries featuring many Disney characters. 

Every year the horticulture staff tries to make the festival new and different. For example, this year's topiaries feature more succulents than ever before. They also spruce up the garden beds scattered around the park, often featuring unusual plant material that isn't seen at other times of year.

"Many of the plants are labeled just this time of year, so for gardeners it's really nice to be able to see what new varieties of flowers or new plants they may want to add to their landscape," Wichman said.

If visitors see a plant they don't recognize, they can stop by the festival headquarters to talk with Master Gardeners and ask questions about plants they've seen around the park or about gardening in general.

Nearly 400 Master Gardeners volunteered at the festival in 2011, and they answered more than 8,700 questions. Master Gardeners have played a role in the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival ever since it started nineteen years ago.

UF IFAS/Extension adds an additional educational component to the festival by providing county agents who give talks twice daily at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on a range of topics, including propagating plants and having success with houseplants.

"There are a great deal of educational activities that go on during the festival, so it's a great time to learn," Wichman said.

Every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, design celebrities from HGTV also offer free talks on everything from tiny terrariums to major garden makeovers. On those same evenings, visitors can enjoy the Flower Power Concert series that features well-known acts like Paul Revere & the Raiders and The Guess Who.

The festival truly offer something for everyone. And even if you've been to the festival before, it's always worth going again, Wichman said.

"It changes from week to week as different plants are in flower," he said. "Plus there are always new displays, new topiaries, and new topics to learn, so I would encourage gardeners—even if they've been there in the past—to go again because it's always fresh and exciting."

The festival runs from March 6 – May 19, 2013. For more information, visit the festival website.



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