EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival

July 15th, 2015 by Lois Versaw
EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival

EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival

A few weeks back I was on the phone finalizing some of my plans for my magical vacation to Walt Disney World where I would be attending the EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival. The cast member on the other end of the line was a really great guy. He then asked me if I had ever been to the Flower and Garden Festival before. I told him not as a guest, but mainly as a former cast member. He asked what I did when I was a cast member and I told him Horticulture at EPCOT and Downtown Disney.

 

logoThe cast member, Guy, we will call him, asked me what I do now, what I learned and what some of my favorite parts of doing horticulture and taking care of the landscapes at EPCOT were. I told him I learned a lot from my experience, but that what I was taught in school was the science of environmental horticulture. The way Disney does horticulture is not only a science but it also is an art form, what I call “entertainment horticulture.” I learned that the way we manage landscapes can vary greatly depending on the nature of the landscape. After all, horticulture is where science meets art.
I shared with him some of the Disney horticulture “magic” and things I learned while part of Disney horticulture which if you read on, I will share some of that with you. Suffice it to say, a lot of fairies use a lot of pixie dust to make the magic happen! I do my best to keep some of the magic alive in my garden today and I wanted to share two things with you today. First the “magic” of Disney’s horticulture and how you can incorporate that into your garden and then the 2015 EPCOT International Flower and garden Festival!

 

person in gardendisney clock tower

 

 

Disney does a fantastic job with roses! One of my favorite varieties is the Knockout rose. They are so easy to maintain! Shear them to prune, and they just keep re-blooming. Although generous amounts of fertilizer and mulch, I mean pixie dust, also help the process along.

 

They use a variety of warm and cool season flowers to help keep the park fresh all year long. Although the climate in Florida allows for year-round gardening, they do have a rotation for plant material. Every eight weeks, each bed is replanted with new annuals. There are also four season at Walt Disney World for their beds. At Christmas you notice red poinsettias, and red, pink, and white impatiens. In the spring and fall, those get replaced with red, pink, white, and a little purple pentas and red geraniums, which need deadheading on a frequent basis! In the summer Disney plants a lot of caladium. I mean a LOT! We used the standard colors of reds and pinks, but whites were especially popular under the shade of trees. The contrast created by a bed planted with white caladium and a beautiful magnolia tree with its deep green foliage had a remarkable way of brightening up that space and drawing you in!

Disney has a different color theme for each country in EPCOT’s World Showcase as well. For example, Mexico uses warm colors and a more natural looking landscape. Norway uses pastels and white. China is very formal and has little in the way of annuals. Germany uses reds, Italy uses all colors except yellow. The AA as cast members call it, the American Adventure to guests, use…? Red, white, and blue, you guessed it. France uses pastels, and Canada and UK can use pretty much any color in the rainbow. Consider a theme for your garden that consists of two or three colors and stick with that. Too many colors can overwhelm the eye and take away from the dramatic effect of the garden. Use different textures instead if you want to create something more visually appealing.

containers
Disney is also known for the use of hanging baskets and pots. Italy, for example, has pots. Every park has hanging baskets. When you plant your pots or baskets, plant your outside row of flowers on a 45 degree angle facing you, which creates a fuller look as baskets and pots fill in and the flowers face you rather than face the sky where you will be less able to see the full effect of the color.

Where you and I have limited financial resources, we know we are going to buy a plant for an entire season. Knowing it may grow to 12 inches, you and I might buy a four pack and plant them on 6 inch centers, throw some fertilizer down, apply a good three inches of mulch and call it good. Disney knows the plants are not going to be in the landscape long enough to mature. Instead they buy a larger plant and plant the plants closer together, apply some fertilizer, mulch, and viola, an instantly mature full looking landscape. This approach works well for the art form that is Disney’s horticulture but for the average landscape is both economically and environmentally irresponsible.

water garden

 

 

Of course, Disney is rumored to have no weeds. I can assure you, this is absolutely positively 100% true! I know, because I pulled every weed you could find. A little Disney secret, err, magic is proper mulching techniques greatly helped keep weeds down! I’d like to point out; Disney used ORGANIC mulch- pine needles, chipped wood, etc. No rock mulch to be found on Disney property. Why? Because of how bad it is for the environment, and it simply is not “show quality.”

 

 

 

Elsa works her magic to create the effect of frozen fractals (flowers) all around

Elsa works her magic to create the effect of frozen fractals (flowers) all around

pond

So now that you know some of the magic, what about the EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival? I spent some time walking around EPCOT. It’s a sight to behold as EPCOT is filled with millions of blooms and over 100 topiaries! This year the theme was “EPCOT Fresh” and they incorporated edibles into the landscape.

The flower fields are replaced completely during the show. During the year, this entire berm is Bermuda grass. The sod is cut and removed for the Flower and Garden Festival. New sod is laid after the show. During the show 4 full time cast members spend their early mornings weeding and deadheading the flow field which contains nearly 700,000 annual plants

The flower fields are replaced completely during the show. During the year, this entire berm is Bermuda grass. The sod is cut and removed for the Flower and Garden Festival. New sod is laid after the show. During the show 4 full time cast members spend their early mornings weeding and deadheading the flow field which contains nearly 700,000 annual plants

EPCOT always looks beautiful, but after experiencing the Flower and Garden Festival, EPCOT feels insipid when the festival ends and the park’s landscapes return to normal. What makes the festival so grand isn’t just the colorful flowers planted in beds throughout Future World around the World Showcase, but also the topiary creations which bring your favorite Disney Characters to life (mine is Peter Pan) as well as the tours, horticulture classes, and presentations offered by many knowledgeable and well respected individuals in the hort industry.

person

 

Over in Garden Town gardening programs are offered every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11-4. Programs feature information provided from Disney Gardeners, Great American Gardeners, and to the credit of Disney, University of Florida Master Gardeners and Extension Agents from Land Grant Universities who provide research based gardening solutions for your life in the form of latest trends in home gardening, techniques to help you be a successful gardener, as well as some of the Disney Horticulture secrets with some very fun and creative hands on activities that will engage gardeners of all ages.

 

 

 

people goup

Disney also has an Ask an Expert station for you to stop and get one on one advice about your garden for those in Extension!

                                                                                                       mcqueenlarry

Other things that make this festival so wonderful is that is really truly is designed for all ages. Young children can enjoy the butterfly garden, the cactus garden that recreates radiator springs, mini gardens all which tell a story, and other kid-friendly activities all throughout EPCOT. Adults; as well as all the learning, there is music from many artists, including the Village People. (Tony, that’s for you.) Cooking and food demonstrations on how to cook what you grow. (Seriously, what do I do with this Kohlrabi? Nasturtium- do you eat that? Why is there and orchid flower on my plate?) As well as many amazing foods and drinks to try, all inspired by the fruits, flowers, and veggies you grow in the garden!

Annuals may be incorporated into topiaries to provide more colorful flowing and dimension in the characters. Annuals are changed out on some topiaries. Cool season annuals such as Violas and Pansies are used and changed out for impatiens and other plants that hold up to the Florida heat later in the season

Annuals may be incorporated into topiaries to provide more colorful flowing and dimension in the characters. Annuals are changed out on some topiaries. Cool season annuals such as Violas and Pansies are used and changed out for impatiens and other plants that hold up to the Florida heat later in the season

Disney has moved away from the old hedged style topiaries due to the high level of maintenance

Disney has moved away from the old hedged style topiaries due to the high level of maintenance

Finneas and Ferb receive full sun all day long, where other topiaries may receive mostly shade. Watering and replacement of plant material are dependent upon environmental factors

Finneas and Ferb receive full sun all day long, where other topiaries may receive mostly shade. Watering and replacement of plant material are dependent upon environmental factors

Simba is actually made of painted reindeer moss while the feet and arms of Rafiki are made of palm boots

Simba is actually made of painted reindeer moss while the feet and arms of Rafiki are made of palm boots

A steel frame provides the support for Snow White's ficus dress

A steel frame provides the support for Snow White’s ficus dress

Each topiary has its own irrigation system built into the frame. Chicken wire issued to provide support for sphagnum peat moss and the plugs of creeping figs. Total growing on time is approximately two months. Occasionally, figs need to be trimmed or replugged

Each topiary has its own irrigation system built into the frame. Chicken wire issued to provide support for sphagnum peat moss and the plugs of creeping figs. Total growing on time is approximately two months. Occasionally, figs need to be trimmed or replugged

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Buzz Lightyear is staged in front on Mission Space, adding to the theme and atmosphere of the attraction.

Buzz Lightyear is staged in front on Mission Space, adding to the theme and atmosphere of the attraction.

Tinker bell adds to the Butterfly House. A favorite among fairies and children alike!

Tinker bell adds to the Butterfly House.
A favorite among fairies and children alike!

bambi

Additional annuals are added to the Canada Pavilion  to simulate Butchardt Garden.

Additional annuals are added to the Canada Pavilion to simulate Butchardt Garden.

I have to pay homage to my 'friend' Peter Pan.  Look up to find him though. Disney has learned the art of directing your eye in different directions  and optical illusion

I have to pay homage to my ‘friend’ Peter Pan. Look up to find him though. Disney has learned the art of directing your eye in different directions and optical illusion

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Disney uses flowers around the topiaries to continue to paint a scene. In this case, blue salvia helps to create the illusion that Tic-Toc Croc is in water

Disney uses flowers around the topiaries to continue to paint a scene. In this case, blue salvia helps to create the illusion that Tic-Toc Croc is in water

Rich Guggenheim Extension Coordinator – Horticulture/4-H Youth Development
Colorado State University

North Carolina Master Gardeners Blaze a Virtual Trail

June 5th, 2015 by Connie Schultz
Harold Johnson, show host, behind the mic at WCOM 103.7 FM  (Photo: Lise Jenkins, EMGV in Durham County)

Harold Johnson, show host, behind the mic at WCOM 103.7 FM (Photo: Lise Jenkins, EMGV in Durham County)

 

One year ago this month, NC State Extension Master Gardeners in Durham County created a radio show. In developing their concept, the production team discovered that their show is the first in the country to be produced solely by Master Gardener volunteers.  Michelle Wallace, Durham County Horticulture Agent, supervises the show but all of the recording, audio engineering, photography, website management, social media, and promotion is done entirely by her Master Gardeners.  “We have an amazing group of volunteers in our county and they are always looking for new ways to teach people about gardening,” said Wallace.

Find Us on iTunes!

In January, the show expanded their format to include weekly podcasts of their episodes.  “We are thrilled people can now find our stories on  iTunes,” said Lise Jenkins, the show’s producer.  Podcasting allows listeners to subscribe to the show and receive automatic updates that can be heard on a computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Podcasts Reach More People

While the show began in Durham County, surrounding counties are beginning to participate with agents and Master Gardeners being interviewed and serving as correspondents.  Lucy Bradley, Associate Professor of Horticulture and Urban Horticulture Extension Specialist at NC State University, aspires to involve the whole state:  “We have Master Gardeners all over North Carolina who are enthusiastic educators and want to help their communities.  Using radio and podcasting is another way to reach out to the people of our state.”

Community Radio Stations

Initially carried on WCOM 103.5 FM in Carrboro, the show can now also be found on WDFC 101.7 FM in Greensboro.  “We would like to continue to expand our reach by working with more community radio stations,” said producer, Lise Jenkins. “Our show being done entirely by volunteers is very much in synch with the mission of community radio stations,” she continued.

Where Horticulture and Innovation Meet

The show focuses on stories about the intersection of horticulture and innovation and the people who are leading the way. “One of the reasons I like working on the show is it gives me an opportunity to meet and interview people who are contributing to the public’s education and enjoyment of gardens and gardening,” said Harold Johnson, the show’s host.

The Mission of Extension

Carrying forward the mission of Extension means the show covers a lot of territory.  Master Gardener correspondents have interviewed scientists, a New York Times best selling author, artists, homeowners, farmers, business owners, Extension agents, amateur and professional gardeners, and others. It also means the volunteers working on the show have had to learn how to master several different technologies. In addition to the regular radio broadcasts, the show has a website, a podcast feed which can be found on iTunes, a Twitter account, and most recently a Facebook page.

Six Month Project

“A year ago we decided to do a 6-month pilot project to see if a radio show could help us reach others in our community.  We were surprised at the response,” said agent Michelle Wallace.  She continued, “Every month our numbers keep growing.  But what’s most exciting is the involvement of people from other counties.  We are really starting to tap into the power of Extension and work together to help people all over our state.”

 Hear the Latest Episode

To hear the latest episode, visit Getting Dirty with Master Gardeners .

 

Submitted by Lise Jenkins, Getting Dirty with Master Gardener’s Producer, Extension Master Gardener (NC State 2011) volunteering in Durham County, NC

New EMG Group to Help Share Good Reads

May 1st, 2015 by Terri James

good reads picReally good books are hard to find, especially with the growing volume of new titles related to gardening and the environment. Master Gardeners are invited to Master Gardener Goodreads, a place to find, recommend and comment on books about horticulture, natural resources and sustainability. It costs nothing, and you can just browse, or write as much or as little as you like. You can even start a discussion about a title or author.

 

If you are not already familiar with Goodreads.com, it’s a great place to keep track of the books you’ve read, or hope to read. The Master Gardener Goodreads group will contain reviews written by Master Gardeners on books of interest to gardeners as well as anyone interested in environmental topics. Before you borrow or buy another book, check out the new GoodReads Master Gardener Group.

Wordless Wednesday – Year of Soil (Soil Test)

April 15th, 2015 by Terri James

Terri James – Nebraska Extension Horticulturist

A microcosm of microbes underfoot

April 10th, 2015 by John Porter

As we celebrate the International Year of Soils, we have to discuss the fact that soil is not just the mineral and organic matter (and air and soil) that we see.  Soil, well at least good soil, is a live and well, filled with all kinds of fauna.  There’s a huge microcosm of life underfoot, namely fungi and bacteria that have evolved over millions of years to live symbiotically with plants.  These microorganisms are necessary to sustain life on the planet- without them organic matter wouldn’t decompose to feed plants.

Rhizobia nodules on a legume root.

One specific set of bacteria live symbiotically with legumes by forming nodules on the legume’s roots.  These Rhizobia benefit from the plant, but also fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into ammonia that the plant can use.  Its a relationship that has developed over millions of years.  It can be a beneficial one for gardeners who want to add nutrients to the soil.

Read more about these bacteria in an article from blog contributor John Porter.

 

 

Contributor John Porter is an agriculture extension agent with West Virginia University Extension in Charleston, WV.  He writes a local weekly garden column called “The Garden Guru.”  You can find him on Twitter or on Facebook.

Wordless Wednesday – Year of Soils

April 8th, 2015 by Terri James

Terri James, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

ALmost Wordless Wednesday: The Earth Laughs…

March 25th, 2015 by Lois Versaw

“The Earth Laughs in Flowers.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Below are just a few of the favorite blooms from gardeners across the country…  The return of spring and nearing arrival of the growing season is cause for much rejoice and laughter.

Flower13

Climbing Pink Camellia courtesy of Judith Fuselier-Phillips

H.F. Young Clematis courtesy of Cheryl Day Lansdale

Peach Meringue Brugmansia courtesy of Jake Ouellete

Purple Iris courtesy of Judith Fuselier-Phillips

Amethyst Epiphyllum courtesy of Jake Ouellette

 

Magnolia courtesy of Angela Blue

Gerbera Daisy courtesy of Dorene Lee Harvey

Blood Lily Courtesy of Jan McMahon

Columbine courtesy of Sheila Gilliam-Landreth

Amaryllis courtesy of Eileen Hayzlett

 

Amaryllis courtesy of Cheryl Day Lansdale

Blooming Nectarine Tree courtesy of Terri Upchurch

Clematis courtesy of Briana Belden

Crocus courtesy of Lois Versaw

Dr. Ruppel Clematis courtesy of Jake Ouelette

 

 *The above images were shared with this blogger by members of the Facebook community

“The Self-Sustaining Seed Swappers”.

 

 

Tips and Tricks of Yesteryear Gardening

March 23rd, 2015 by Lois Versaw
Courtesy of http://wordplay.hubpages.com/hub/vintage-flowers#

Courtesy of http://wordplay.hubpages.com/hub/vintage-flowers#

Every gardener worth his or her salt probably has a few tried (if not true) gardening tips and tricks up their sleeve, passed down from a family member or learned over time… Perhaps something they read years ago, an old wives’ tale someone thought worthy of re-telling, or advice from an old neighbor.

Courtesy of http://wordplay.hubpages.com/hub/vintage-flowers#

Courtesy of http://wordplay.hubpages.com/hub/vintage-flowers#

 

Legend and Lore…

Modern science and the increased study of horticulture, botany and entomology have proven most of these proverbial gardening words of wisdom false. A few of these lessons passed from one green thumb to another do have some scientific merit, practical purpose and sound reasoning, though… Gardeners tend to their gardens in the manner that works for them, and would not so readily share instruction with others if such was not the case.

A few sage tips have proven effective over time and continue to be practiced by the seasoned gardener, but perhaps are not yet known to the newbie. Others have faded into gardening myth and legend. It is not recommended to try any of these tips without first researching each and do note that what may be good for one plant could be bad for another.

 

Pinterest has Nothing on the Past…!

Interesting gardening tidbits told over-and-over again include pouring a ring of gravel around bulbs when planting to discourage moles and other bulb-lovers from eating them, and placing pinecones in flower beds to deter cats from digging (a Pinterest modern-day take on this utilizes plastic forks instead of pinecones).

Violets are said to bloom longer and more luxuriously if rusty nails are added to nearby soil. Old pennies (newer pennies are not made from copper) in the garden will keep slugs away.  Slate in the soil will grow your hydrangeas blue. Broken terra-cotta pots in the soil are believed to be good for azaleas.

Gardeners have long been saving eggshells, coffee grounds, banana peels, and other kitchen scraps to add to their gardens.  Epson salt added to tomatoes and peppers will make them flourish. Ashes, banana peels, and teabag residue around roses is thought to nourish them.  Wood ash around fruit trees in the fall and winter will result in sweeter fruit, and wood ash or lime around lilacs will increase bloom. Pickle juice is good poured around gardenias, ferns, and cleyera. Beer has been used to trap and drown slugs and/or added to the soil around hollyhocks to promote growth.

Courtesy of http://wordplay.hubpages.com/hub/vintage-flowers#

Courtesy of http://wordplay.hubpages.com/hub/vintage-flowers#

 

Polyculture by Common Practice…

Forefathers of today’s “Companion Planting” include dill near tomatoes to discourage worms and radishes or spearmint near squash, acting as a natural insecticide. Growing alium and garlic chives near roses deter japanese beetles, and french marigolds in the garden keep bad bugs at bay.

Other gardeners advise to leave a few carrots overwintering in the ground so that they bloom the following spring. Carrot blooms resemble Queen Anne’s Lace and attract beneficial insects to the garden.

 

Planting by the Moon and Getting that Garden Started…

Courtesy of http://wordplay.hubpages.com/hub/vintage-flowers#

Courtesy of http://wordplay.hubpages.com/hub/vintage-flowers#

And as for gardening lore regarding the actual planting of a garden…?  Some say to plant food-bearing plants when the moon is waxing (increasing to a full moon) and ornamentals when the moon is waning (decreasing). Willow water or Aspirin is heralded as helpers for rooting starts, and cinnamon or chamomile tea and water sprayed on seedlings may deter damping off disease. Soaked cigarette tobacco in water (five cigarettes to a gallon of water) is reported to kill fungus and slugs on all non-food plants, and baking soda spray (one to five tablespoons per quart of water) is used as a fungal control.

And finally, an old saying reminds that when planting trees and shrubs; “The first year it sleeps, the second year it creeps, and the third year it leaps.”

ALmost Wordless Wednesday: Spring!

March 18th, 2015 by Lois Versaw

This ALmost Wordless Wednesday brings us only two days away from spring!  A time of rebirth and reawakenings, and a time when all that planning and dreaming can start to take real form in the garden.

"No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow." ~ Proverb

“No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.” ~ Proverb

 

 

One of the very first blooms of the season, the Crocus traditionally symbolizes cheerfulness and gladness, and brings both early to the garden; heralding the arrival of the growing season and of spring.

 

A Visit to ‘Seed Savers Exchange-Heritage Farm’

March 16th, 2015 by Lois Versaw

After work on Friday, September 26th, 2014 I drove 6.5 hours to Decorah, Iowa so that I could attend the ‘Seed Savers Exchange’ Fall Harvest School.  It was a long drive, but very well worth it.  The one-day workshop promised lessons on seed saving, fall gardening, canning, and fermentation.

Seed Savers' Heritage Farm

Seed Savers’ Heritage Farm

         A Beautiful Drive

Lilliam Goodman Visitors' Center

Lilliam Goodman Visitors’ Center

Unfortunately darkness had descended so I was unable to fully appreciate the scenery of my drive, nor did I get to enjoy the transition from the flat plains of southeast Nebraska to the glorious rolling hills and gentle mountains that awaited near Minnesota.

Starfire Signet Marigolds

Beautiful Orange Blossoms

Beautiful Orange Blossoms

Teaching Garden at Heritage Farm

Teaching Garden at Heritage Farm

Heaven on Earth

‘Heritage Farm’ is beyond beautiful and is the headquarters of ‘Seed Savers Exchange’. Located six miles north of Decorah, Iowa, the farm sits on 890 acres and boasts itself (according to the website) a “living museum of historic varieties”.  Thousands of heirlooms are grown organically on-site in the Preservation Gardens along with a Historic Orchard home to many near-extinct apple and grape varieties.  The farm is one of only two locations in North America where Ancient White Park Cattle may be seen.  Surrounded by stately cliffs and enormous pines, the rustic red barn and accompanying gardens looks a lot like paradise.

A Full Day of Lessons  

The Fall Workshop started bright and early with visitors from all over crowded in and around the ‘Lillian Goldman Visitors Center’.  Attendees were divided into smaller groups and the day’s schedule was broken down accordingly.

The first class I attended was on fermentation, a subject I knew absolutely nothing about.  The lecturing nutritionist shared recipes for homemade coleslaw, fermented beet juice, and many tips and tricks.

The second class was on seed saving.  Attendees were taken to the nearby teaching gardens, where we were instructed on how to harvest, save, and store seeds from beans, peas, melon, squash, and tomatoes.  We were given free-reign of the teaching gardens and allowed to harvest some seeds at-will.  Despite the gardening season obviously winding down and winter soon approaching, the teaching gardens were still gorgeous and I was exposed to so many new varieties of both flower and vegetable that I had never seen nor heard of before.  I went home with a few Radish and Dill seeds, some yellow Drumstick, Hungarian Blue Breadseed Poppy, and gorgeous burgundy Amaranth seeds, which can be enjoyed as both a cereal grain and as a garden ornamental.

Following lunch were classes on canning/food preservation and preparing the fall garden for the following spring.  Visitors saw demonstrations of proper bed clean-up and division of perennials, and discussed the use of nutrient-enriching cover crops.

Seed Shopping!!!  

Kiss-Me-Over-the-Garden-Gate

Kiss-Me-Over-the-Garden-Gate

Following the classes, this blogger lingered to talk with fellow attendees and like-minded gardeners, and patronized the ‘Visitors Center’ where all 2014 seed packets were on sale.  I somewhat maintained restraint and stuck to my shopping list, but did allow for several added varieties (They were on sale!) that I had fallen in love with on-site, which were displayed in the gardens.  I could not leave without having purchased seeds for the brilliant, tall ‘Purple Verbena’ that I had seen covered by masses of butterflies, nor could I leave without the ‘Black-Eyed Susan Vine’ and the prolific ‘Kiss-Me-Over-the-Garden Gate’, which will add an abundance of charm and cheery pink color to my front flower garden this coming season.

This blogger urges anyone able to visit the ‘Seed Savers Exchange-Heritage Farm’ to do so.  I left awed by the majestic beauty, inspired by the bountiful gardens, and determined to practice the art of seed saving as I was taught on that day.

Glorious Trees at Seed Savers

 

Please visit http://www.seedsavers.org/About-Us/Heritage-Farm/ to learn more!