Topiaries are the cornerstone of the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, but they’re history goes back beyond the eighteen years Epcot has been putting on the event. Dating back to the earliest days of Walt Disney World, topiaries have been a crucial element to the landscaping of the resort.
Topiary, or the art of transforming living plants into ornate shapes, is employed in four different forms around Walt Disney World. Free form utilizes shearing to transform shrubbery and trees into geometric forms, an example of this form are the cup-shaped trees lining the Contemporary Resort’s drive. Standard form allows a plant to grow to a desired height and then bush out, the result appears as a miniature tree. Shrub topiaries grow through a wire frame over the course of three to ten years and are regularly sheared, such as the wavy serpent found near Cinderella Castle. Sphagnum topiaries are frames filled with unmilled sphagnum moss and seeded with fast growing vines or uniform compact plants. The first two types, free and standard topiaries, do not require frames, while shrub topiaries use a light frame and sphagnum topiaries use a heavy duty frame to support the added weight of the sphagnum.
The majority of topiaries found within the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival are of the sphagnum variety. Utilizing fast growing plants, such as creeping fig, the subject matter of the topiaries can be cultivated quickly. As the festival winds down this weekend, let’s take a sampling tour of some of this year’s topiaries, which feature Pixar characters for the first time ever.