Spring is Popping, at least at Epcot!

I don’t really need a reason to go to Disney World, but a trip in March is always mandatory to attend the Epcot Flower and Garden Show. The 22nd annual Epcot International Flower and Garden Show opened March 4th and runs until May 17th. I visited last week and definitely brought home Spring fever and a lot of gardening ideas. And after the too long, too cold, too snowy winter that just won’t quit, the brilliant sunshine and terrific smelling flowers were a much needed treat. This year’s festival is themed around the connection between gardening and eating. Two of my favorite things!

Disney does everything big and with impeccable detail, and the Flower and Garden show defiantly fits those criteria. Immediately when entering Epcot you notice the sweet smell of flowers and are greeted by gigantic topiary of classic Disney characters. You definitely want to pause not only to marvel at these plant creatures but to snap photos of the characters with the famous Epcot ball (Spaceship Earth) in the backdrop.

Of course Mickey and Minnie are featured in topiary form; this year as farmers. Some of my other favorite topiaries include Beauty and the Beast, Miss Piggy (although I’d love a Fozzie topiary), Fantasia, Peter Pan and Captain Hook

At the Festival Information Center you can learn how Disney gardeners make each of the beautiful topiary from the clay moldings used to form the initial image to the wires and cuttings needed to make each of the structures. At night the gardens are illuminated, adding another element of magic.

Classes and tours are given throughout the festival and one of my favorite free tours is the English Tea Garden Tour in the England pavilion. This guided, 20 minute tour teaches the process of growing tea from plants that many of us have in our own gardens! This year each of the countries had themed gardens appropriate to that country. For example, in Italy find the Pizzeria Garden filled with herbs and other ingredients for pizza making. Some of my other favorite gardens this year include the Health and Healing Garden, Cactus Road Rally, Pepper Fire Garden, and Butterflies on the Go. Each garden offers an idea or fresh approach to setting up one’s own backyard paradise.

Disney estimates that only about 35% of Americans are avid gardeners. This number seems low but I always grew up with a garden and look forward to digging in the dirt every summer. There’s nothing like going from flower pot to cooking pot and when you have food allergies or are trying to eat healthy having your own garden is a must. Why? Because when you grow your own food you know exactly where it comes from, how it is grown (my gardens are all organic, no pesticides used at all), and you have the satisfaction of picking a ripe tomato right off the vine and savoring it immediately instead of buying produce from the store that was picked too early and lacks flavor and full nutrition. The Epcot festival highlights this year that it doesn’t take acres of land to have fresh out of the garden goodness. Tomatoes, peppers, and herbs can actually be grown in pots, raised beds, or hanging vertical gardens.

This year’s festival added more outdoor kitchens so you can taste delicious, homegrown produce. Some of the kitchens offered dairy free options. At Urban Farm Eats I enjoyed an ultra-fresh kale salad made minus the goat cheese and tasted my husband’s Ghost Pepper Tilapia which is also dairy free. Definitely try this if you like hot and spicy. Dean described it as having such a kick that it “had an afterlife!”

At Botanas Botanico the Seafood Ceviche Shrimp, Scallops and Grouper with Mango and Avocado is completely dairy free and refreshing. The mango adds the right amount of sweetness to the dish. There were other kitchens serving dairy free options but they were meat dishes and since I don’t eat meat I did not try any.

The festival is free but admission to Epcot is required. Plan on at least 2 days to see everything. If you can’t make it to this year’s Epcot Flower and Garden show hopefully the pictures I’ve included will inspire you to try gardening yourself this year. Start out with one pot and watch how your enthusiasm for this hobby will take off.

Are you a gardener? What do you grow? What gardening tips do you have for new gardeners?

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