Disney’s Floral Kingdom Is All Abloom


Photo courtesy Walt Disney World Resort

At a time when some of the world’s most famous botanical gardens are cutting back on staffing and exhibits, one enormous public landscape is celebrating spring with the cultivation of millions of blooms and hundreds of living sculptures: Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

On a regular family visit to Disney World years ago, I was struck by the extent of the plantings that fill the 40-square-mile entertainment complex. In 2003, while on another family visit, I had the privilege of being shown around some of the 4,000 acres the resort landscapes. disney-flower-show-2.jpg

As I wrote for National Geographic News after that visit (Inside Disney World’s Landscaping Army), Disney’s hundreds of horticultural professionals plant millions of bedding plants annually and tend 175,000 trees and more than four million shrubs. There were 13,000 rose bushes alone. There were also 2,000 acres (800 hectares) of turf which keep an army of gardeners in full-time employment.

Of the 30,000 acres at the Walt Disney World Resort, nearly one-third of the property was set aside from the beginning and will remain a dedicated wildlife conservation area in perpetuity.

When I received details a few weeks ago about Walt Disney World’s annual Flower and Garden Festival, I thought back to that visit and I contrasted it with the depressing news we have received of cutbacks at the New York Botanical Garden and other public gardens during the recession.

Photo courtesy Walt Disney World Resort

Most visitors to Disney World probably don’t particularly notice the enormous landscaping effort between all the amusements. For me the gardens will always be one of the most important reasons to visit the place.


Photo courtesy Walt Disney World Resort

The 16th annual Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival runs from March 18-May 31 at the Walt Disney World Resort. Three hundred horticulturists were needed to install the festival landscape, topiaries and many exhibits, according to a Disney news release; 100 Epcot horticulturists maintain the topiaries and other displays for the 75 days of the event.


It takes more than a year to prepare for the installation of 300,000 bedding plants (which produce an expected thirty million blooms), 750 container gardens, 100 floating gardens, and 45 flower towers.

As if this is not enough, more than 50 Disney character topiaries include Aladdin, Lady and the Tramp, and Snow White and the seven dwarfs. Classic Disney characters Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Pluto and Goofy strike topiary poses.

There is a butterfly garden, fragrance garden–and a green garden exhibit, where guests can learn tips on how to create their own environmentally safe garden, including information about low-water-use, native plants and recycling.

Photo courtesy Walt Disney World Resort

More than 500 native butterflies representing up to 10 species reside in Minnie’s Magnificent Butterfly Garden, a gazebo-type enclosure filled with lush plants and measuring more than 40 feet in diameter. Guests can stroll through the screened habitat to view the colorful butterflies. Among the garden’s two dozen nectar plants are Cape Royal plumbago, passion flower, coral honeysuckle, blazing star, butterfly bush, scarlet milkweed and canna lily.


Photo courtesy Walt Disney World Resort

If you are heading for the land of Disney, make sure you open your eyes to the landscape around you. It will add another dimension to your visit.


Photo courtesy Walt Disney World Resort

Changing Planet

Meet the Author
More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn