Walt Disney

Roses at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on February 13th, 2012 by Debbie Mola Mickler, Disney Horticulture


We like to envision the landscapes at Walt Disney World Resort as huge outdoor stages or sets with the trees, shrubs, and flowers playing the roles of props as well as stars. With the scope of horticulture as vast as the property itself, we have some 4,200 acres of maintained gardens and landscapes and over 100,000 ornamental trees, 4 million shrubs, and 2,000 acres of turf.

Roses Growing in Front of Cinderella Castle at Magic Kingdom Park

Included in our landscapes are some pretty unique, often unknown niche gardens with exceptional plants and stories. One such place is in the Magic Kingdom Park where you‘ll see roses, and lots of them! Located to the right of Cinderella Castle if you are headed down Main Street, U.S.A., the award-winning roses popping with color await you along a curving walkway with two entry/exit ways.

Looking back, the rose garden has quite a history. Established in 1980, it has been a Disney’s Horticulture tradition to plant and maintain these roses for over 30 years. When established in 1980 the gardens’ intention was to be an All-American Rose Selections (AARS) winner’s tribute to rose breeders and judges.

It became so successful, in 1985 the Walt Disney World Resort was honored with an award by the AARS committee for commendation of the rose exhibit. A few of the first roses planted in the garden were 1980 winners Love, Honor and Cherish and 1981 winners White Lightning, Bing Crosby and Mariana.

Today, you will see St. Patrick, All That Jazz, Betty Boop and Candelabra, just to name a few of the many roses on display. When visiting the garden you are invited in by the original plaque presented to Walt Disney World Resort by the AARS in 1985.

To maintain the roses our talented gardeners hand prune the roses twice a year, 8 weeks before Thanksgiving and on February 15. It is important for the roses to look great for Valentine’s Day.

Also on display throughout the circular planters in front of the castle are sweeping beds of shrub roses in different shades of pink. In addition, old fashioned Louie Philip roses add color to a broken planter in front of the Haunted Mansion. The unmaintained look adds to the story line of the attraction and provides some extra training for our new gardeners who need to hone the art of making plants look neglected and overgrown.

When visiting our parks and resorts remember to plainly stop and smell the roses!

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Epcot Topiaries Go To Infinity and Beyond

posted on February 25th, 2011 by Debbie Mola Mickler, Disney Horticulture


Woody and Buzz Lightyear Topiaries at the 18th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

The 18th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is less than a week away and today we’re sharing a peek behind the scenes as we work our last few days of magic in the greenhouses. During the annual festival, we fill Epcot with millions of blooms and more than 100 topiaries, many that look just like your favorite characters from Disney animated films.

For the first time, we’re debuting several new topiaries based on characters from Disney-Pixar classics, including the “Toy Story” and “Cars” films. We’ll show you Mater and Lightning McQueen in a future post, but here’s a little video tour shot as we prepped topiaries of Woody and Buzz Lightyear to take their place just inside Epcot’s front gate.

The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival starts next Wednesday, March 2, and runs through May 15.

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100,000 Poinsettias at Walt Disney World Resort

posted on December 17th, 2010 by Debbie Mola Mickler, Disney Horticulture


Preserving the magical guest experience is important to Disney’s Horticulture; 365 days a year we are committed to creating a great show. During the holidays it’s more important than ever to announce the season with colorful plants. Unlike the colder parts of the country, our Central Florida climate offers a wide variety of winter bedding plant choices, allowing us to add splashes of color to most of the Walt Disney World Resort.

Poinsettias at Walt Disney World

One plant in particular, the ever-so-popular poinsettia, can be seen throughout the parks and resorts. The poinsettia, or scientifically named Euphorbia pulcherrima, was first introduced into the United States from Mexico around 1825 by the 1st U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett. In the early 1900s, it became a popular landscape plant in California and since then is the plant most people associate with the holiday season. Here’s a look at some of our plants this season:

Poinsettias at Walt Disney World

Poinsettias at Walt Disney World

Did you know that the blooms of the poinsettia come from modified leaves, or bracts, instead of the flowers? Over the last 100 years extensive breeding has been done on the poinsettia plant, resulting in hundreds of new and different varieties. Newer varieties have pink, white or even mixed colored bracts.

When buying a poinsettia:

  • Look for a plant with plenty of green leaves down the bottom of the stem, this shows the plant is healthy.
  • Pick a plant that has flower bracts and leaves that do not look wrinkled, withered, curled, or yellow; lack of color means the plant was sold too early. Observe the size and number of the colored bracts – each bloom should have six or more bracts.
  • Select a full looking plant with multiple blooms – a poinsettia with a single flower looks bare. The true flowers – the green parts in the center of the bracts – should be tightly clustered into a bud.
  • Plants showing yellow pollen and sap will have the least amount of display life and will not last long. Avoid a plant where these have dropped and all that is left are the colorful bracts.

Poinsettias at Walt Disney World

Each year our gardeners work quickly at the end of November to plant and display poinsettias in flower beds, hanging baskets, containers and flower towers. This year there are 100,000 poinsettias on display around the Walt Disney World Resort.

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Story Behind Disney’s Horticulture Logo

posted on November 10th, 2010 by Debbie Mola Mickler, Disney Horticulture


'Liberty Tree' at Magic Kingdom Park

Over thirty years ago a majestic 130-year-old live oak tree (Quercus virginiana) was found on the eastern part of the Disney property and moved about eight miles to the Magic Kingdom Park. At the time of the move, this enormous tree weighed 38 tons and had a root ball measuring 18-feet by 16-feet by four feet deep.

Because of its size and weight, the oak could not be moved by simply wrapping a cable around the trunk. Instead, holes were drilled through the middle of the trunk and steel dowel pins inserted so it could be lifted by a 100-ton crane. Once transplanted, the pins were removed and replaced with sections of hardwood and the wood soon healed.

Disney’s Horticulture Logo

The entire process took several months to complete. Known as one of the most spectacular big tree moves, the oak we call the “Liberty Tree” stands proudly in the middle of Liberty Square in Magic Kingdom Park. It has thirteen lanterns hanging on the tree representing the original thirteen colonies. Our Disney’s Horticulture team was so proud of the successful move, the “Liberty Tree” was adopted as our official logo.

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No Baking Required: Disney’s Horticulture

posted on November 2nd, 2010 by Debbie Mola Mickler, Disney Horticulture


A Living Cake Celebrates the 15th Anniversary of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

To celebrate this year’s 15th anniversary of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, Disney’s Horticulture was called upon to provide the festival with a cake that keeps on growing. Backstage at the Walt Disney World Nursery a few months before the festival began, a crew of Disney’s Horticulture cast members were busy designing a living cake to debut at World Showcase plaza. The sphagnum topiary cake appeared on opening day of the festival weighing in at 9,000 pounds with the eight-foot number 15 on top adding an additional 1,200 pounds, making the total weight a colossal 10,200 pounds! With a cake that big it required a crane to set it in place.

The cake’s recipe required 55 bales of 3.5 cubic feet of sphagnum moss to stuff the frame and some 6,000 assorted plants with 22 pineapple plants embellishing the top.

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Garden Town Programs at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

posted on March 15th, 2010 by Debbie Mola Mickler, Disney Horticulture


Garden Town Programs at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

Even though the festival opened earlier this month, I was busy getting ready for the seminars after that first day. Throughout the festival lectures are featured in the pavilion every, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Garden Town opens at 10 a.m. with the first presentation starting at 11 a.m. then running every hour until 4 p.m.

One of my roles for Disney’s Horticulture is creating festival program content and my crew and I were putting the finishing touches on Garden Town even after the event began. We were so excited to start the day when we finished setting up we walked down the promenade to greet the guests gathering at the entrance to Garden Town. To our surprise the crowd of enthusiastic Guests greeted us with waves and smiles. With many familiar faces spotting the crowd, this made me feel prouder than ever to be part of such a great event.

Garden Town Programs at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

Garden Town is the hub of activity for educational seminars featuring our own Disney Gardeners, Great American Gardeners, and University of Florida Extension Agents. The seminars feature gardening trends, techniques and even some of our own Disney’s Horticulture traditions. Topics change weekly and the Disney Gardening at Home presentations with hands on activities are very popular with gardeners of all ages.

Gardening to me is like a language everyone understands. There is so much to know about gardening, it seems gardeners are able to share knowledge by experiences they have had growing plants with success or not. Yes, it is ok to talk about a negative gardening experience that is part of a successful garden.

At Garden Town I enjoy spending time with our Guests prior to show time; when they are chatting about their favorite plants or garden techniques I attain a few good tips myself. Over the years I have seen many new friendships develop over this plant chatter.

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80,000 Bedding Plants Featured During Flower & Garden Festival at Epcot

posted on March 2nd, 2010 by Debbie Mola Mickler, Disney Horticulture


The countdown has begun! In less than 24 hours, the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival will be blooming with color. Guest frequently ask me, “What are your biggest challenges?” Well, this year it has to be the frequent drop in temperatures that have blanketed much of the south. We usually get a few cold nights with temperatures freezing or below. This year has certainly been an exception; our festival planning has had to be adjusted on several occasions. On average it takes over 24,000 man hours to plan and install the entire festival.
80,000 Bedding Plants Featured During Flower & Garden Festival at Epcot
We start growing many of our topiary, floating gardens and flower towers months before the show starts. We place our forty-four large (around 9 feet tall) flower towers outside the greenhouse to get the maximum sun they need to grow. But, when temperatures drop they are brought back inside the greenhouses each night. Even the topiary that is outside get a white blanket (frost cloth) of protection and heaters warm their feet from the cold. The positive side of colder weather allows us to plant annuals that do not like the warmer temperatures.

One of my favorite bedding plants we are using throughout the festival is blue and yellow violas. With close to 500 varieties of violas distributed throughout the world, their heart shaped scalloped leaves will be easily recognized by most Guests.

Pictured (from 2009) is one of our largest flower beds planted just for the festival. During the rest of the year the area is turf; a few weeks before the festival starts gardeners pull up the turf, lay out the beds and plant up to 80,000 bedding plants. Guests can get a good view walking from the fountain to Showcase Plaza or an aerial view by monorail. The theme changes each year and I think it is one of the best picture taking spots if you love color!

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Behind the Scenes: Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

posted on February 23rd, 2010 by Debbie Mola Mickler, Disney Horticulture


Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

Hi everyone, I’m Debbie Mola Mickler from Disney Horticulture. In about a week, (March 3rd) the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival will be opening. And there’s no better way for us plant lovers to spend the day than at Epcot during the festival. Now in its 17th year, this festival will have more topiary, container gardens and flower beds filled with color than ever.
Behind the Scenes: Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival
Backstage at the Walt Disney World Nursery things are moving, or should I say growing, quickly. Topiary, one of the main stars of the show, is getting their final touches in preparation of making their move to Epcot. With so many new plant varieties available to the horticulture industry our Disney topiary are really “coming to life.”
Behind the Scenes: Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival
So, how do we create signature Walt Disney World topiary? To produce one of our sphagnum topiary it takes a lot of imagination and a few good horticulturists to put it all together. It all starts with a Disney Imagineer who designs a maquette figure. From there, a skilled welder forms the frame, an irrigation specialist adds watering mechanisms and then our Gardeners will stuff and plant the frame. This whole process can take several weeks and depending on the plant material it may take a while to grow, filling out the frame. To make the topiary appear more life-like we create faces or embellishments from dried mosses, palm fibers and even seeds.

We are asked quite often, “How can I create topiary at home?” There are many great online resources available to purchase the pre-made topiary frames, just type in “sphagnum topiary” to any search engine. You even can buy them pre-stuffed with sphagnum moss; just water and add some plants. These online topiary frames are not as big as our 14 foot tall Goofy, but if you know a good welder anything is possible.

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