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Penny Carnathan

Penny’s a Nurture And Hold (NAH): Nah, I won’t pull that out yet, it’s still got a green shoot. She likes dragonflies, lady bugs and new stuff only after weeding, pruning and fertilizing.

Kim Franke-Folstad

Kim’s a Want It Now (WIN): Everything pretty, everything now. She will resort to full-spectrum insecticides in desperate situations, and believes it’s her duty and right to buy new plants every weekend.

Both advocate Plant Choice (SOMEthing besides crotons. Please!), lots of color and low maintenance. We don’t agree on everything, but we’re smart enough to learn from each other - and from you.

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Overwhelmed by garden chores? Imagine planting for the Epcot Flower Festival

Posted Feb 20, 2010 by Loren Omoto

Updated Feb 20, 2010 at 11:41 PM

I have way too much to do in the garden: cut back all the brown stuff, rake up mulch and dig in compost, pull weeds.

That’s why I’m sitting here on a sunny Saturday afternoon typing instead.

I can only count my blessings I’m not in charge of installing new gardens, new beds full of millions of annuals, and bigger-than-life Disney character topiaries made of everything from live begonias to dried palm grass. That’s the job of Eric Darden, horticultural manager of the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, which opens extra early—March 3—this year.


Eric is amazingly laid back for a guy planning a 75-day garden party for millions. Yesterday, he even took a few hours to give me a tour of the Disney nursery and a peek behind the shrubbery screens hiding the new gardens being installed for the 17th annual extravaganza.

I had told him I was more interested in seeing things home gardeners might learn from than the giant topiaries that get the limelight. I’ll never try to grow a 10-foot-tall Mickey Mouse, so I didn’t think I was interested.

He took me into the Topiary House anyway. WOW! Interested!


See Capt. Hook back there? And that’s American Gothic Mickey in the works to the right. Goofy’s butt on the left, and Aladdin next to Capt. Hook. That’s a real-live man in between, in case you were wondering.

Because the topiaries are made of all kinds of live plants with different watering needs, each has its own irrigation system with catheters (for lack of a better word) going to the individual parts.

For example, in-progress Daisy Duck has foliage on her arms that requres lots of water. But all that water would rot the begonias on her lovely floral blouse.


Under her tail is the control panel for her personal irrigation system.


The last topiaries, the big Great Outdoors scene at the park’s entrance to which Daisy is bound, won’t be installed until the Monday night-Tuesday morning before the festival opens on a Wednesday. But as of yesterday, about 20 percent of the 100 or so topiaries had already been put in place.

Here are Lady and the Tramp hanging out in Italy.


And in France, the Guerlain perfume bottles are already in place. During the festival, you’ll find “dip and sniff” stations here, where you can sniff the perfume, then smell the flowers that are among the ingredients.


photo Recognize Samsara on the left?  At the Samsara station, you’ll sniff a perfume “suitable for romantic dates,” then some jasmine, iris, narcissus, violets and rose. (If you have to ask the price, you don’t need it.)


I did not become so enamored of the topiaries that I forgot about us, the regular gardeners. Among the plants I’d never seen, but will be looking for, is this geranium. Eric didn’t know the name off the top of his head, but I’ll find out and let you know. (You’ll see it in barrel containers at either Canada or Norway.)

And this new variety of ornamental kale being tested in the nursery’s trial gardens.


If you’re planning to go to the Flower Fest, I’ll have more about it in the Feb. 28 Getaway section of The Tampa Tribune, including the must-sees and -dos you might not otherwise hear about. (Of course, I may not be able to resist posting more here. I took a LOT of pictures!)




Reader Comments

Por (Iluvpumpkins) on February 20, 2010 (Suggest removal)

My daughter asked my last week would I like to go to Epcot flower, I said of course I would. I feel a Mothers Day gift is on the way.

Penny what are some of the flowers in all the clay pots? Did they talk about what medium they used for the pots? Pumpkin

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Por (lise meinke) on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)

My name is Lise Meinke and I read your article in the Sunday paper. I would like the “Sustainable Gardening for Florida” book. If that one is not available, how about “The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible” or the “Seeds From My Garden” book.


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Por (CJ) on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)

Hi Penny and Kim—Cheers! I made it into this special little box. My name is Charlotte Hughes…“CJ”..from Riverview, Florida along the salty brine of the Alafia river—as I write this, White Pelicans are floating in the bright sunshine as an indicator of the winter season. I need help with COLOR; we live under thunderous live oaks. May I request the Gardener’s Color Palette book, or your recommendation of text, to wake up our yard with COLOR this spring? Thanks for this great gift and the introduction to TBO Blogs and of course YOUR blog.
Thanks, CJ

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Por (Eleanor) on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)

Good Morning Penny and Kim!  I’m Eleanor Oliver, and live out in New Tampa area.  Thanks for the offer of a gardening book.  I was going to ask for the Sustianinable Gardening, but I see Lisa beat me to it, so how about The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible or Florida Gardening on the Go.  I look forward to your column every Sunday. 
Can’t wait to read the book and hopefully put it to good use!

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Por (helnosud) on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)

Hi Penny!  My name is Noel and I live in South Tampa.  I think it’s great that you are sending out your “overstock” books.  I would love it if you could send me “One Magic Square”.  My sister-in-law is interested in organic gardening and I have a lawn business; we’re into dirt!

Thank you,

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Por (susan4226) on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)

Hi Penny & Kim,  Let me start by saying I look forward to your article every Sunday and was pleasantly surprised to find your offer of gardening books.  I recently started vegetable gardening in raised beds and would like to get my hands on some more information.  I would love the book “small-plot, high yield” or “Grow great Grub”. Keep up the great articles. Thanks, Susan Cook

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Por ( on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)

Now that my yard looks like a nuclear wasteland, I would welcome ANY of the following books you are so generously offering (but it’s already 10:00am and I’m probably too late thus I’ll list several in the hopes of getting ONE!): New, Low Maintenance Garden, Sustainable Gardening for Florida, Fearless Color Gardens,Backyard Homestead,The Rock Garden Plant Primer, Grow Great Grub, The Essential Garden Design Workbook,Tall Perennials, The Truth About Garden Remedies, The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, SmallPlot, High-Yield Gardening, or The Gardener’s Color Palette.  Sincerely, Connie Dowling   6810 N. 10thj Street, Tampa,FL 33604

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Por (Tara) on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)


I always look forward to reading your column on Sundays and am now looking forward to your blogs!  I have a LOT of work ahead of me in my yard.  I would love the copy of “What’s Wrong With My Plant?”  I have asked this question too many times to count.  Thank you so much!  I have learned a lot from you ladies!

Tara Novell

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Por (Green Acres) on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)

I would love to have The Back Yard Homestead book. Thanks for making the books available to us, the amateur  
gardeners of Tampa. If the Dirt recommends a book, I’m sure it will be a good one. Thanks for being such a great gardening resource! Karen Fletcher

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Por (Veggie Buddy) on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)

The Dirt is the first section of the newspaper I read every Sunday morning. I’m a new vegetable gardener, with a shady lot. I would love the small-plot, high-yield gardening book. Keep up the good work! Dori Kane Tampa.

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Por (Caroline) on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)

I look forward to reading the Dirt every Sunday morning. I’m happy to know I can find more information on your blog. Thank you for your free book offer. I would not have known to register withour it. Sustainable Gardening would have been my first choice but I see it’s already taken. Looks like I’ll have to purchase it, your review of it sounded great. So if any of the following are available I would love to have them; Teaming with Microbes, Bloom Again Orchids, Grow your own Drugs (if it’s a book on herbs), Seeds from my garden, A Rose by any Namr.
Thank you so much for introducing me to your blog, look forward to reading it in the future,

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Por (RickBrown) on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)

Great inspirational post, Penny. I love the Flower Festival at Epcot. They always have new ideas and different ways to use new plants. I am glad to see so many people writing in your comments. You do a great job at inspiring and helping the gardening world in Florida.

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Por (MLH33527) on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)

Penny - Thank you for a wonderful article and the offer of a free book.  I enjoy reading the Gardening Section and it is a prime reason we subscribe to the Trib.  I would like the Guide to the Best Hardy Shrubs or Toad Cottages and Shooting Stars.  I will send an email with my mailing address.  Thanks again. - Marcia Hunter

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Por (gia) on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)

I would like The New Low Maintenance Garden, since Sustainable ... Is gone already. The early bird gets the worm, so to speak. I have a black thumb and need something to help me get stgarted with xeriscaping me new bare naked home.

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Por (greenthumb) on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)


My name is Susan Bisulca and I just finished reading your article in the Sunday Tampa Tribune paper.  The Gardening section is my favorite part of the Sunday paper!  smile

I would like to request the “Explorer’s Garden Shrubs and Vines” book by Daniel J. Hinkley. 

Thank you for making your books available to your readers!

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Por (kvkvn) on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)

Hello Penny and Kim, I was so excited when I read this morning that you were sharing your book collection with the community! I would love to read Tall Perennials by Roger and Turner. If not, how about the Gossler Guide to the Best Hardy Shrubs? Thank you very much, Kiran. My email address is kvkvn @

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Por (chmtchr) on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)

This is the first time I have read “The Dirt”, but it looks like I started on the best day possible.  I am interested in starting my first small vegetable or herb garden and would love to have ” One Magical Square” as a resource.  ” small-plot, high yeild” and “Grow Your Own Drugs
” were tempting, but it looks like they are already spoken for.

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Por (buzzbee) on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)

Hi Penny,

I just want to say that your column, The Dirt is one of my Sunday favorites!  Thank you for sharing all your experiences, suggestions and ideas.  I look forward to reading and learning more in your blogs. 

Shelle in Land O Lakes

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Por (bjean) on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)

What a wonderful column! That and the absolutely beautiful day we are having have inspired me into some tlc for the yard! It is looking pretty sad. I love color, so the book The Gardener’s Color Palette caught my eye, but I think someone has it. What else I think I would enjoy would be Seeds from My Garden. Hope that’s still available! If not, you choose. Thank you so much!
BJean in So. Tampa

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Por (shadowmac) on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)

Hello Ladies - I enjoy your articles.  I learn a lot.  Usually the weekly to do list is clipped and stuck on the fridge.  So many of the books that I want I think are spoken for like the Vegi Gardener’s Bible, Small Plot High Yield and Whats Wrong with My Plant.  I grow vegetables and we have roses and orchids.  Since most of my troubles seem to be with vegetables any book on them would be first choice.

The roses and orchids are my 91 year old Mother’s babies though some of their maintenance is falling on my shoulders.  So anything that is available would be great. 

It is such a nice way of sharing the wealth with your fans.  I thank you even if you have run out of books.  Sharon

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Por (Janna) on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)

Those Epcot topiaries have always fascinated me! It’s interesting that each work of art has its own irrigation system. THAT’S how they keep them looking so fresh and beautiful. Thanks for sharing the info on the Festival and for the colorful photos. (By the way, I’d love to see more in future posts.) I will try to make it to Epcot during the Festival - I’m constantly seeking new planting ideas and combinations. I won’t be attempting a topiary, but hey - I’d love to find that variety of geranium!

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Por (peej08x2) on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)

I’d love some books.  I love your column because it’s on the irreverent side, and I feel I can do what you inform us about.
Any or all of the following:  The complete chili pepper guide, Succulant Container Gardens, Small-plot, high-yield gardening.
I never would have posted without this prodding.
Thanks and keep informing me in your wonderful way.

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Por (weliever) on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)

Thanks for the great article in the TT today. I enjoyed it so much and learned so much.  Interested in the Regina iris - can you send me the web site where I can order the plant?
I would love a copy of Seeds From My Garden by Ginger Schmidt.  Thanks again and keep up the good work.
Tampa, FL

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Por (Janna) on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)

As a longtime fan of the Tribune gardening columns AND this blog, I am SO happy to see all the new plant-loving commenters! This is a great place to ask questions, share ideas, advice and yes, even photos. With folks ranging from novice to expert gardeners, I have learned so much here and always look forward to the grins and chuckles Penny and Kim frequently deliver in their posts. Welcome, everyone! Hope to be hearing more about your gardens - spring is almost here!

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Por (myrt1022) on February 21, 2010 (Suggest removal)

My name is Evelyn Hicks from Lakeland, Fl. I read your artical every Sunday and enjoy them very much! Keep up the good work!!

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