LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — From the seasonal explosion of the Canada
pavilion’s floral displays to the ancient beauty of China’s
reflective ponds and water lilies, the gardens of Epcot are among
the most extensive at Walt Disney World Resort. In all 11
nations of World Showcase, the gardens set the stage to help
tell each country’s “story” and provide continuity and transition
from one nation to the next. This showplace of themed landscapes is
maintained by a horticulture staff of more than 50.
Many flowers, trees and shrubs are individually labeled, and a
casual walk around World Showcase reveals a colorful landscape of
beauty as guests also discover the culture, cuisine and
celebrations of 11 nations.
Landscaping of the Mexico pavilion represents two regions of the
country: the jungle and the desert. Facing the Mayan temple, you
see plants and flowers typical of the jungle surrounding the
building. This section of the Mexico pavilion, with its several
varieties of palm trees, is the most tropical area represented at
Epcot. One of the most notable plants in this area is the floss silk tree, located
near the steps to the left of the temple. These showy trees present
springtime blossoms and, in other seasons, an odd-shaped fruit
hanging from its bare branches.
Epcot gardeners take great care to make this landscape look
“unmaintained” as if it were a genuine jungle. “We wanted to steer
clear of creating a ‘perfect’ landscape and use irregular spots of
colorful flowers to give it a more exotic look,” says Eric Darden,
Walt Disney World horticulturist.
The walk toward the Norway pavilion is lined on the right with
camphor trees, used around the World Showcase to provide continuity
and to soften the transition between the different landscapes. The
trees, which also provide shaded areas for guests, are “cousins” of
the cinnamon tree and are the source of camphor oil.
Approaching the Norway pavilion, one of the first things the eye
sees is the sod roof. This technique was often used in traditional
houses in mountainous regions of Norway as added insulation from
Landscaping this pavilion was challenging because native
Norwegian plants cannot survive the Florida heat. In their place,
“look-alike” plants such as birch, maples and sycamores are used to
produce the same effect.
Chinese gardens follow completely different rules than those of
the West. “In Chinese gardening, there’s no central plan,” Darden
says. “Someone once said that if you want to create a Chinese
garden you could fly the plants up in a plane and push them out of
the window and wherever they land is where you plant them.” Things
in the garden don’t appear disorganized — just naturally placed.
For example, the grass in the China pavilion is not mowed, but
allowed to grow naturally producing a tufted appearance.
The one essential in every Chinese garden is water. As Darden
explains, an old Chinese saying states that “A garden without water
is like a portrait of a lady with her eyes closed.” The water is
usually still and frequently has water plants such as lilies or
lotuses growing in it. The lilies at the China pavilion actually
grow in containers placed underwater.
The Chinese respect age and want their gardens to appear old. Disney landscape architects have selected trees with