The landscaping of Walt Disney World is as much a tool for storytelling as the architecture, signs, and Cast Members are. This attention to detail is one of the reasons that the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is one of the highlights of the year for me. Not only are there incredible displays to observe and learn from, but there is also a way to learn about the behind the scenes workings of Disney’s Horticulture. Let’s explore how the landscaping designs of a single park, Blizzard Beach, helps to give guests the sense that they have entered a winter wonderland on the meltdown.
Just past Lottawatta Lodge is a gorgeous vista of the entire park, and it gives us a perfect place to talk about the entirety of Blizzard Beach’s flora and how it plays into the story of the water park. The story of Blizzard Beach is critical to the understanding of why certain plants were selected for the park and where they ended up. As the tale goes, Blizzard Beach was the vortex of a freak winter storm that turned the area into a skier’s paradise. Plans were made to turn the area into Florida’s first ski resort. The lodges were built, runs constructed, and even a chairlift was installed to take guests up the mountain. However, it was then that Florida’s naturally warm temperatures returned. It utter dismay, it was at this moment that Ice Gator took to the slopes and went careening down Mount Gushmore and through the resort. Inspired, the planners turned the ski park into a water park, and thus Blizzard Beach was born. In its wake it left behind some wildly paradoxical landscape.
Let’s start with the top down, and that means venturing all the way up to the peak of Mount Gushmore. Up here, at the peak of a whopping 90 feet, Blizzard Beach creates an alpine setting with the use of evergreen and conifer species. Trees such as Spruce pine, Deodar cedar, and Southern red cedar all add to the northern feel at the top of the mountain. While guests may not notice these winter hardy trees while slipping and sliding down Summit Plummet, if you take a leisurely stroll/hike up Mount Gushmore’s stairs they rest majestically along the ledges along the mountainside.
Meanwhile, down at the base of the mountain the tropical foliage native to Florida’s tropical climate returns to the park. This section of Blizzard Beach is home to Meltaway Bay, Tike’s Peak, and Ski Patrol Training Camp. Here the story is encapsulated in the Mexican fan palms, sago palms, Hong Kong orchids, scrambled egg trees, Crinum lilies, Selloum, and Allamanda.
The mix and matching approach of these alpine and tropical plants depends on what section and altitude of the park you happen to find yourself in. There are two ways to see these two landscaping themes blend in with one another. The entrance to the park, including Sonny’s Sleds, Beach Haus, First Aid, and Lottawatta Lodge, features wonderful interplay between the winter and summer designs of the park. Secondly, and my favorite way to tour through the foliage, is to grab a tube and float around on Cross Country Creek. The woody ornamentals and perennials are on full display for guests relishing Blizzard Beach’s version of the lazy river.
Of course, there’s also a simpler way to see the blending of beach and ski resort plant life throughout the park. Just watch the cutouts present in the fencing throughout Blizzard Beach’s walkways. No matter how you choose to take in the wonderful work of Disney’s Horticulture around Mount Gushmore and all of its slippery slopes, it will always be there to help solidify the story of the park. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think it’s time for me to put in at Manatee Landing!