Epcot Debuts New F&B and Topiaries at its Flower & Garden Festival
The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is back at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, for a run of 125 days—now through July 4—and features new Disney character topiaries, food and beverage (F&B) items, merchandise products, and concert performances.
Spread across more than 300 acres, Epcot is in full bloom with nearly 100 individual topiaries, gardens, and exhibits. Among the Disney character topiaries are festival favorites like “Frozen’s” Anna and Elsa on display in the World Showcase’s Norway pavilion and new creations such as the Seven Dwarfs accompanying Snow White in the Germany pavilion and Goofy stationed at the park’s main entrance, complete with a birthday cake celebrating Walt Disney World Resort’s 50th anniversary.
“In addition to our 100 topiaries, we have 170 floating gardens, 200,000 annuals that we’ve added across the property, and 60,000 of those are found in our East and West Lake. You name it; we have it,” says Tray Anderson, plan works specialist at Epcot for Walt Disney World Horticulture. “This year, we were able to light some of our topiaries, so Sorcerer Mickey, you’ll have to check out his hat; Doc’s and Dopey’s lanterns light up, and so does the troll. It’s really neat.”
One of Anderson’s projects for this year was the new “Encanto”-inspired garden. He says he watched the Academy Award-winning animated film to add the right details to the tropical display, such as the color scheme of the Madrigal family.
“If you look at the family tree, you’ll see that one side of the family is always in yellows and reds, and the other side is in pinks, blues, and purples,” Anderson says. “When you look at the garden, one side is yellows and oranges, and the other side is pinks and blues. It’s very Instagrammable.”
Anderson says the horticulture team works far in advance to prepare for the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, balancing the current festival with planning next year’s event.
“[The plantings] rotate throughout the festival as the seasons change, as we go from early summer to mid-summer to late summer, which is what we have here in Florida, so you’ll see the gardens change and evolve as the summer goes,” he says. “That’s always fun for us.”
Guests can also enjoy Bambi’s Butterfly House for up-close views of colorful butterflies and the WALL-E-themed Green Landing Family Play Zone for kids, along with other exotic gardens and festival trails throughout the park.
Fresh Food and Beverage
With 18 Outdoor Kitchens, the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is serving up more than 50 brand-new dishes, drinks, and desserts, including a Froot Loops shake and a grapefruit tart made with grapefruit curd, lychee jam, ginger mousse, and yuzu cream.
Complementing the nearby “Encanto”-themed garden, La Isla Fresca Outdoor Kitchen serves three variations of Latin American arepa dishes: arepa topped with melted queso fresco; arepa topped with chorizo; and arepa topped with shrimp, crushed avocado ají, and tomato sauce.
Philip Rizo, sous chef for Epcot’s festival team, notes that one of the most popular desserts is also found at La Isla Fresca: a plant-based tres leches cake soaked in oat milk, almond milk, and coconut milk with toasted coconut. Rizo says his favorite Outdoor Kitchen is Epcot Farmer’s Feast, which offers a rotating menu of items representing early bloom, springtime, and summer solstice as the festival progresses.
“We want to focus on how it’s a beautiful time for harvest, as well as fresh produce coming from gardens,” he says of planning this year’s menu. “What can we utilize in every one of our dishes? Is there something that’s a fan favorite that we’re going to bring back? It’s always about challenging ourselves, while bringing back guest favorites and opening people’s palates to new products, as well.”
From Beets to Honeycombs
Guests looking to take home a memento from the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival can choose from five collections themed to Figment’s Garden, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse Home Garden, Orange Bird, and Spike the Bee. The collections include apparel, accessories, home goods, drinkware, pins, and even gardening tools adorned with pastel patterns of flowers, leaves, beets, and honeybees.
“We look at trends, going after icons that have been with us, like Orange Bird from the 1970s and Spike the Bee, created in the 1940s,” says Xiomara Goicoechea, proprietor of Epcot’s festival district. “Our product developers go out and do the research to find what’s of interest [to guests].”
Goicoechea adds that spirit jerseys (oversized long-sleeve shirts) are a popular apparel item, and this year, there are two spirit jerseys—a bright, orange slice-decorated jersey for Orange Bird and an ombre, floral-designed Flower & Garden Festival shirt.