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Epcot World Showcase Gardens Celebrate Flora of Many Nations

From the seasonal explosion of the Canada pavilion's floral displays to the ancient beauty of China's reflective ponds and water lilies, the gardens of Epcot are among the most extensive at Walt Disney World Resort. In all 11 nations of World Showcase, the gardens set the stage to help tell each country's "story" and provide continuity and transition from one nation to the next. This showplace of themed landscapes is maintained by a horticulture staff of more than 50.

Many flowers, trees and shrubs are individually labeled, and a casual walk around World Showcase reveals a colorful landscape of beauty as guests also discover the culture, cuisine and celebrations of 11 nations.


Landscaping of the Mexico pavilion represents two regions of the country: the jungle and the desert. Facing the Mayan temple, you see plants and flowers typical of the jungle surrounding the building. This section of the Mexico pavilion, with its several varieties of palm trees, is the most tropical area represented at Epcot. One of the most notable plants in this area is the floss silk tree, located near the steps to the left of the temple. These showy trees present springtime blossoms and, in other seasons, an odd-shaped fruit hanging from its bare branches.

Epcot gardeners take great care to make this landscape look "unmaintained" as if it were a genuine jungle. "We wanted to steer clear of creating a 'perfect' landscape and use irregular spots of colorful flowers to give it a more exotic look," says Eric Darden, Walt Disney World horticulturist.


The walk toward the Norway pavilion is lined on the right with camphor trees, used around the World Showcase to provide continuity and to soften the transition between the different landscapes. The trees, which also provide shaded areas for guests, are "cousins" of the cinnamon tree and are the source of camphor oil.

Approaching the Norway pavilion, one of the first things the eye sees is the sod roof. This technique was often used in traditional houses in mountainous regions of Norway as added insulation from the cold.

Landscaping this pavilion was challenging because native Norwegian plants cannot survive the Florida heat. In their place, "look-alike" plants such as birch, maples and sycamores are used to produce the same effect.


Chinese gardens follow completely different rules than those of the West. "In Chinese gardening, there's no central plan," Darden says. "Someone once said that if you want to create a Chinese garden you could fly the plants up in a plane and push them out of the window and wherever they land is where you plant them." Things in the garden don't appear disorganized -- just naturally placed. For example, the grass in the China pavilion is not mowed, but allowed to grow naturally producing a tufted appearance.

The one essential in every Chinese garden is water. As Darden explains, an old Chinese saying states that "A garden without water is like a portrait of a lady with her eyes closed." The water is usually still and frequently has water plants such as lilies or lotuses growing in it. The lilies at the China pavilion actually grow in containers placed underwater.

The Chinese respect age and want their gardens to appear old. Disney landscape architects have selected trees with “corkscrew” trunks or with “weeping” branches to help give the gardens a mature look. Here, a weeping mulberry -- one of the most impressive trees in Epcot -- can be found near the Nine Dragons Restaurant entrance. Other interesting trees native to China, such as the runner bamboo, are planted here. Also at the China pavilion are large rocks on the lagoon side of the promenade. The Chinese like to create “surprising views” throughout their landscapes as experienced by looking through the holes in the rocks toward the water.


Lining the front of the Germany pavilion is a row of sycamore trees, carefully pruned during the winter months. This style of pruning or "pollarding" originates in Europe and is used to control the size of the trees in urban areas. Closer to the water are flower beds filled with several varieties of Old World roses. Over the past 120 years, the evolution of the rose has concentrated on the importance of the flowers' looks, rather than the strength of the scent. But Old World roses, like the ones found in the Germany pavilion, maintain a beautiful fragrance, are prolific bloomers and have a stronger resistance to insects.

In order to fill this pavilion with color, many container flowers, hanging baskets and window boxes enhance and decorate shop areas. Ivy-geraniums, a flowering plant often used in window boxes in Germany, do not thrive year-round in the Florida climate. To create a similar look, Epcot gardeners combine two plants: English ivy and traditional geraniums. Few Epcot guests notice the difference.


"One of the most interesting parts of this area is the forced perspective that is created," Darden explains. "While most of the others are closed in a horseshoe shape, the Italy pavilion is open in the rear, drawing your eyes to the Italian cypress trees in the background." This architectural sleight of hand, along with the help of carefully planned landscaping, tricks the eye into believing the area is larger than it really is.

Container gardens bring the architecture to life here. Grapevines on the trellis and near the statue in the rear further enhance the Italy theme. Olive trees also can be found just outside of the Delizie Italiane, but no fruit is produced by these trees because of Florida's humidity. Near the gondolas, citrus and kumquat trees are planted to represent the Mediterranean region of Italy.

The American Adventure

As the host country, The American Adventure pavilion is constructed on higher ground and located in the center of World Showcase. "This pavilion is by far the most formal, with its soldier-like rows of magnolias, boxed hedges and precisely planted annuals," Darden says.

Designed after the old colonial-style architecture and landscapes, this pavilion features a predominant color scheme of red, white and blue flowers. The sycamore trees in America Gardens Theatre are pleached -- that is, their branches interlace, creating a living ceiling over the area.


Unlike many of the other World Showcase nations, about 90 percent of the plants used in the Japan pavilion are native to that country. While many people think garden style in Japan is similar to China's, differences are noticeable. In China, the ponds are still and reflective, while in Japan the water is running and active. Sounds also add another dimension to the Japanese garden -- notice the bamboo "clacker" near the bridge in front of the Yakitori restaurant.

Unlike Chinese gardens, Japan's are landscaped very meticulously, with every tree and shrub placed and maintained to achieve a specific look. Look for groupings of 3, 5 or 7 in our Japan garden -- these auspicious numbers are but one example of the symbolism and meaning which can be found in the garden.

The trees in Japan undergo intensive pruning and training. The painstaking work of Japan pavilion gardeners is evident when observing wire twisted around a branch to direct its growth or twine tied between branches to encourage a more classic style of growth.


The landscaping theme in the Morocco pavilion represents agriculture, one of the country's major industries. Sour orange trees, mint and ornamental cabbages found here are typical of the agrarian aspect of Morocco. Other agricultural landscaping includes an olive tree and date palms. Another of Morocco's most vital resources, water, is found on the lagoon side of the pavilion.


The gardens in the France pavilion are light and airy, reminiscent of a city park. Gazing toward the shops and film attraction, guests notice the allee (avenue or pathway) of trees ascending the incline. This allee, normally of linden trees in France, is created with Natchez crape myrtle, which thrive in Florida's climate. To the right of this row of trees is Le Notre Garden, an embroidered parterre garden where 985 shrubs are shaped into the well-known fleur-de-lis design. And a circle of crape myrtle trees (substituting for lilacs found in France) bloom from early spring to late spring, adding abundant color to the landscape.

On the way to the next pavilion, a much larger parterre garden can be seen over the bridge.

United Kingdom

The perennial garden to the left side of the United Kingdom pavilion promenade is filled with flowers that attract butterflies. In the herb garden near the replica of Anne Hathaway's cottage, a variety of herbs grow year-round. This is called a knot garden because of the appearance of knots in the hedges. Farther around the corner is a hedge maze, with walls of Japanese yew, a plant often used to create shrub topiaries. Examples of Japanese yew topiaries in traditional geometric shapes are found in front of The Toy Soldier shop on the way to Canada.


The Canada pavilion features the largest World Showcase garden and the most labor-intensive landscape. It was inspired by the Butchart Gardens in British Columbia that were built by Jenny Butchart to beautify the limestone pits dug by her husband’s cement company. Seasonal color is showcased in this garden with sweeping beds and displays that include snapdragons, begonias, impatiens, geraniums and viola.

Garden Tour

Guests 16 and older interested in learning more about Epcot landscaping can take the "Gardens of The World" tour. This three-hour walking tour through World Showcase explores the styles of landscaping represented in each pavilion. The tour cost is $59 per person (call 407/WDW-TOUR for reservations).

Back to the Festival Main Page

 Event Info 

Located in Epcot, the International Flower & Garden Festival is the official start of spring for our family. We love walking throught the gardens and other areas getting ideas on how to to bring back some disney magic for the yard. This year it is starting nearly a month sooner than previous years.

Download a Festival Guide Map (2011)

 Flower Power Concerts 
March 9-11 – Jose Feliciano
March 11-13 – The Guess Who
March 16-18 – Starship starring Mickey Thomas
March 23-25 – The Guess Who
March 30 - April 1– The Spinners
April 6-8 – Chubby Checker & The Wildcats
April 13-15 – Paul Revere & The Raiders
April 22-24 – The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie
April 27-29 – Chuck Negron formerly of Three Dog Night
May 4-6 – The Orchestra featuring former members of ELO and ELO Part II
May 11-13 – Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone
May 18-20 – TBD
The groups’ shows at America Gardens Theatre are on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 5:15, 6:30 and 7:45 p.m. They are included with Epcot admission.


Video: Int Flower and Garden Festival (2010)

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