19 March 2008

When springtime comes, how can you tell?

Today is the first day of this year’s Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot, the fifteenth year the event has been held. Fun in the Sun, the theme of this year’s event, begins today and will run through June 1st. As always, there are exhibits, tours, demonstrations, guest speakers, the butterfly garden, the lady bug release, and something I am forgetting,… oh, Flowers and Gardens!

The most well known of all the gardening forms, at least when it comes to Walt Disney World, is the topiary. We discussed how the topiaries of Disney past are disappearing a while back in a Save the Swirl article (Please note: if you are looking at the previous article, you are correct, my parents do look like they would fit right in with the Flower Power Concert crew). Today, let’s see what Disney has to say about their topiaries:

“To create such varied forms, Disney’s gardeners practice several different styles of topiary. The oldest and most basic style, free form, consists of pruning trees and shrubs into unusual shapes, like cones, gumdrops, mazes, pyramids, and poodle puffs. Striking examples include the famous Dixie Cup Oaks of Walt Disney World’s Contemporary Resort and the platform trees that ascend like stairways to heaven in from of Disneyland’s It’s a Small World (sic).

The shrub topiary style uses metal frames to help shape shrubs into characters. Shrubs are planted in large wooden boxes at each point where the frame touches the ground. For instance, to create the giraffe for Disneyland’s It’s a Small World (sic), Disney’s horticulturists would use four shrubs – one for each foot. As the shrubs grow, the gardeners trim the weekly until they completely engulf the frame. Depending on the size of the figure, the process can take three to ten years.

To speed things along, Disney’s horticulturists perfected sphagnum topiary. Much faster to grow than shrub topiary and far more versatile than free form, this style allows gardeners to produce elaborate living sculptures in minimal time. To create sphagnum figures, Disney’s artists first design a heavy steel frame to look like a specific character, such as Goofy or Simba from The Lion King. Gardeners then cover the frame with plastic mesh and pack it full of sphagnum moss. Next, they use an awl-like tool called a dibble to punch six to nine holes per square foot into the moss. Finally, they pack a fast growing plant, such as English ivy or creeping fig, into each hole. Gardeners trim and prune the plants until the foliage covers both the moss and the frame. To create effects like clothing or long hair, they contrast the vines with colorful plants like begonias and carnations, along with special grasses. Using the sphagnum technique, Disney’s green-thumbed magicians can produce a mature topiary in as little as three months.”

pp 102 – 103, Secrets of Disney’s Glorious Gardens

This process has been showcased for the past few years in an exhibit (Tricks of the Trade) during the Flower and Garden Festival, and is one of the many activities I plan on enjoying this year. Other activities on my radar for next month include Going Green in Your Own Backyard, Rachel Tribble’s artist signing, the English Tea Garden Tour, and Peter Pan’s Never Land Garden, just to name a few.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Rachel Tribble is an amazing artist. I'm not surprised Disney found this rare treasure.