Dumbo with vintage elephant topiary

1970s postcard of Dumbo with an elephant topiary along the shores of the Seven Seas Lagoon.

Topiary is the art of shaping trees and shrubbery into ornamental shapes. It has been a fixture of the Disney theme parks since 1963 when a topiary garden was installed at Disneyland's Fantasyland, which was eventually incorporated into the exterior gardens of It's a Small World when it was brought to Disneyland in 1966. Walt Disney World would feature a topiary garden along a tram path connecting the Transportation and Ticket Center to the Magic Kingdom in its early years, though changes and expansions to the area would eventually result in their removal, with a single elephant surviving until 2011. Today, topiary at Walt Disney World is a primary fixture of Epcot's seasonal events, especially the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, where many of them are based on familiar Disney characters.

While crafting traditional European topiary is a long-term effort to shape the plant as it grows, Disney horticulturalist Bill Evans developed a quicker solution that involved the creation of a metal framework to support the planted elements and guide their growth within a period of months. Modern Disney topiaries have upgraded this basic concept into a sturdier steel framework stuffed with sphagnum moss and close-growing vine material and incorporating additional color through the use of flowers. An internal irrigation system keeps these newer topiaries watered based on the needs of their component plants, with a slow drip process being a common method.[1] In recent years, sculpted faces with a mossy layer have become a popular way to add more detail to character topiaries.

Character Topiaries

Original Topiaries


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