Los Angeles Times

Flower Power

As soon as the turnstile rotates, you come face-to-face with a family of giraffes standing tall among the savanna grasses. A peek inside Disney's new Animal Kingdom? No, these beasts are made of wire and climbing ivy. Topiaries are just a part of the horticultural feats you'll find at Epcot's 5th annual International Flower and Garden Festival going on through May 31.

During the festival, park guests can enjoy more than 30 million blooming flowers, including sunflowers that grace the American pavilion and exotic orchids near Mexico's pyramid. Terri-cotta pots and wooden barrels filled with an array of ivy and flowers are scattered around the park.

In addition to the many floral displays, the festival features workshops given by well-known gardeners and innovative gardening merchandise for sale. The hub of activity takes place around the Festival Center, located between Epcot West and World Showcase. Here, you can attend presentations inside an air-conditioned tent, covering topics such as creating colorful flower beds and tips on organic gardening.

Ever wondered how Disney creates those character topiaries? Or what about those picture-perfect hanging baskets? Well, pull up a chair at one of the outdoor pavilions around the World Showcase and listen as Disney gardeners reveal their secrets.

Kids will want to check out the whimsical Disney character topiaries, particularly the Lion King and friends located in the Outpost area, Winnie the Pooh in the United Kingdom, and Beauty and the Beast in France.

In the cooler evening hours, head to festival's nightly concerts at the American Gardens Theatre. Appropriately named Flower Power, the series features musicians that had Top 40 hits during the 1960s, including The Association, Buckinghams, The Turtles, Paul Revere, and Rob Grill and The Grass Roots, as well as former members of The Monkees and Herman's Hermits. The IllumiNations fireworks display will follow the performances. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Other special events surrounding the festival include the Food Among the Flowers Brunch, which showcases edible flower creations, and behind the scenes tours given by Disney horticulturists.

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