Recently, George – my trusty partner in crime and dining – and I made an excursion to the 17th annual Epcot® International Flower & Garden Festival, with an appearance later that evening at Gallery Q in Orlando for the opening of artist and friend Keith Theriot and three other talented local artists entitled “Our Tribes”. From garden to gallery, it was a splendid day.
Unlike our visit to the Epcot® Food & Wine Festival, where George and I just ate our way around World Showcase (twice), our excursion to the Flower & Garden Festival is actually something that’s kinda sorta related to the overarching theme of “Live from the Lizard Lounge”, as both the festival (totally) and this blog (partly) are about flowering and gardening.
Above and beyond its usual botanic splendor, the park is particularly awash with agronomical grandeur during the festival, with lusher-than-usual planting beds and Disney character topiaries arranged throughout in whimsical themed tableaux, courtesy of partners Mother Nature and the Disney horticultural team.
Additionally, guests at the festival can hear and see demonstrations by various gardeners of note and horticultural specialists on topics ranging from successful herbal gardening to creating backyard water features. In fact, I’ve already made plans to return the weekend of May 14-16 to hear Ahmed Hassan, host of HGTV’s Yard Crashers, present information on landscaping.
And, of course, there’s shopping (it’s Disney – there’s always merchandise). My favorite piece of festival bling available for purchase was a pink lawn flamingo fashioned after the animated flamingos in Disney’s Fantasia 2000 – only these are wearing mouse ears. If I didn’t think my neighbors would hate me…
As always, George was on the prowl for a new bonsai (don’t ask – it’s an obsession with him). To that end, we stopped at a couple of kiosks on the World Showcase promenade and interviewed a few bonsai, but none of them fit the measurements of the plant stand that would be its home in George’s apartment or his strict standards for poise and appearance.
However, once we finally made our way around the promenade to the Japan pavilion and entered Mitsukoshi, the Epcot® branch of the Tokyo-based department store, George was in mini-tree heaven. We made our way past the selection of kimonos and sake sets to the back of the store where there was no dearth of bonsais available for purchase – and I dare say we touched and felt them all. George would lift one up and look under its hood (I’m assuming to be sure its undergrowth was in good condition and not to determine whether it was a boy or a girl) and then I would hold it up while he measured the pot it was in – and then we would move on to the next one. This went on for a while…
The selection at Mitsukoshi was pretty comprehensive and offered a variety of shapes, sizes, and prices of plants; but since George has a track record of keeping a bonsai alive for only about 2 years, $24 seemed to be the limit of how much he wanted to spend. (That comes out to about a dollar per month until its inevitable demise – a fair price, you must agree.)
All of the Cast Members who work in the international pavilions in Epcot® are actually citizens of the sponsoring country in the U.S. on a one-year work Visa. The beautiful young Japanese women who assisted us were pleasant and helpful with lovely names (at least they were lovely to me, citizen of a country where girls are named Tiffany and Apple). “Saori” rang George’s purchase up while “Nikona” deftly packaged the plant securely in a cardboard box and then in a double bag so that it would survive the rest of the evening in a crowded theme park with as little stress and damage as possible. In other words, it was heavy and ungainly and George and I were the ones stressed and damaged after spending the rest of the trip around the promenade taking turns toting the bulkily bundled bonsai.
After stopping along the way for a few good unobstructed shots of some of the neat topiaries (my favorite being Daisy Duck toasting a giant marshmallow on a stick over a campfire), we left the festival to enjoy a filling dinner and then wended our way to Keith’s art opening in downtown Orlando.
Keith is a très talentueux artiste (and equally talented at envisioning the best way to hang and display art at a gallery), and this particular showing at Gallery Q was no exception. The four artists represented at the gallery displayed a captivating diversity of styles, and the eclectic crowd of supporters and art aficionados had both an artistically edifying and socially enjoyable evening.
Afterward, I hung around for a bit to help the artists clean up the tons of spent wine glasses and leftover hors d’œuvres – all of which they themselves prepared and provided.
To quote Stephen Sondheim, “Art isn’t easy.” But it certainly was stunning.