LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – A constellation of HGTV design stars lights up the 18th Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival March 2 through May 15, while “Toy Story 3” heroes Woody and Buzz take Disney topiary magic “to infinity and beyond!”
Genevieve Gorder, Vern Yip and nine other HGTV design gurus appear for the first time at the Walt Disney World Resort festival during weekend presentations that cover topics ranging from “Life, Love and Landscaping” (Yard Crashers’ Ahmed Hassan, April 8-10) to “Curb Appeal Projects from Concept to Construction” (Curb Appeal: The Block’s John Gidding, April 29-May 1).
Disney’s topiary craftsmen pack powerful curb appeal into the festival’s Future World front-entrance garden where the lead toys of Disney’s Oscar-nominated film “Toy Story 3” meet arch-enemy Lotso (a.k.a. Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear) in a larger-than-life floral spectacle. The popular Disney-Pixar characters hit the sandbox as seven- and eight-foot-tall topiaries surrounded by a sand castle, strawberry-scented field and playground toys featured in the film. With bold strokes of seasonal color, the topiary display marks the first time that “Toy Story” characters have been featured at the festival. It’s also the first time in seven years that the front-entrance floral display showcases all-new topiary characters, says festival horticulture manager Eric Darden.
“It created unique challenges,” Darden says, “and it’s meticulous work. Woody is skinny, and it was a challenge to create his legs. The detail on Buzz is pretty daunting.” And the buzz on the pink-floral Lotso (a.k.a. Lots-o’-Huggin’ Bear) is that he will smell like strawberries, just like his big-screen character, when guests stroll by.
This year’s 75-day festival showcases more than 100 expertly crafted topiaries, and another show-stopper will be the brand-new “Cars 2” display at the World Showcase plaza, Darden says. Large floral topiaries of “Cars” characters Mater and Lightning McQueen will park their colorful chassis beneath a black-and-white checkered arch. To complete the scene, gardeners will create floral flags representing Japan, France, Italy and the United Kingdom – destinations of the car characters in the sequel due in theaters June 24.
And Winnie the Pooh, Tigger and pals appear in topiary splendor among a Hundred Acre Wood wildflower display between Future World and World Showcase. They’re just in time to spread the happy news about the “Winnie the Pooh Movie” debuting Summer 2011.
New in the Park!
HGTV’s festival sponsorship adds fresh excitement to an event that has expanded and endured through the years. Festival Center presentations showcase HGTV and HGTV.com celebrities on weekends and other experts seven days a week. Located next to Mission: Space in Future World, the center presents workshops and talks by a solid lineup of master gardeners, Walt Disney World horticulturists and a mix of TV and radio personalities, authors and educators.
Also adding fresh fun to the festival:
* A roomier-than-ever Bambi’s Butterfly House more than doubles in size this year in its new location along the Imagination Walkway by Innoventions West in Future World. It’s the first time the popular garden has expanded since its 2005 debut, and guests will see more butterflies than ever, Darden says.
* For the first time at Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden, favorite Disney Fairies will pose for photos and sign autographs throughout the day. Young fans who enter this whimsical garden also discover play structures for children ages 2-5.
* HGTV presents a Sustainable Beauty Garden with ideas for your own home garden.
* Rapunzel lets down her hair at Rapunzel’s Tower in the Tangled Magical Garden inspired by Walt Disney Pictures’ animated film, “Tangled,” located between the Germany and Italy pavilions.
* Flower Power grows with new-to-the-festival pop acts. Melissa Manchester, March 25-27 (Don’t Cry Out Loud) and Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis Jr., April 8-10 (You Don’t Have to Be a Star) are set to light up America Gardens Theatre with their timeless tunes.
* A new Festival Special Weekend is slated for May when Disney*Pixar presents a Pixar Animation Studios celebration in conjunction with the upcoming “Cars 2” big-screen debut set for June 24.
Throughout the festival, elaborate floral beds and entertaining exhibits will decorate the park landscape and showcase the extraordinary talents of Disney gardeners. A blooming Guerlain Fragrance Garden at the France pavilion returns with its never-ending “love story” of the relationship between plants and perfume. At the Japan showcase, the art of bonsai will mesmerize guests who stop at the pavilion’s vermilion torii gate.
* Flower Power concerts – Popular bands will rock the open-air America Gardens Theatre every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 5:15, 6:30 and 7:45 p.m. Jose Feliciano is scheduled to kick off the concert series March 4-6. The Flower Power lineup also will feature pop favorites like Davy Jones and Chubby Checker & The Wildcats.
* The Festival Center – Guests can shop for festival merchandise, attend workshops and demonstrations and get ideas and tips from master gardeners.
* Disney Gardening at Home presentations – Disney horticulturists will share gardening tips and lead guests in a hands-on, take-home activity.
* Special Festival Weekend Celebrations – Art in the Garden celebration of plein air artists March 25-27; Fresh from Florida Farmer’s Market salute April 29-May 1; Florida Federation of Garden Clubs and Guerlain’s Enchanted Gardens events May 6-8; and the Disney*Pixar weekend celebration May 13-15.