Published December 30, 2011 | By Robert LaHoff

When my brother found out that my wife and I were expecting our daughter he said, “How great, you have a chance to live your childhood all over again”. Truer words were never spoken! This past month, my wife and I took our daughter, Olivia, to Disney World to meet Disney’s princesses and characters. Not to mention the Magic Kingdom! Olivia is now 4 years old and that seemed to be a good age for this kind of introduction. And while Disney caters their efforts towards children, it is clear that it truly is a magical place for the entire family. Aside from watching our daughter’s eyes become the size of saucers, with all that Disney offered her, Disney offered something special for me as well…. exceptional landscapes!

Walt Disney would be proud of what his vision has become. A virtual tapestry of events, sounds, characters, landscapes… there is simply too much to list. It really is overwhelming to go to Disney World and take it all in with just one visit. We tried though! The landscapes are simply unbelievable. The Tree of Life, located in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, is not a live tree, however this does not dismiss the reality of it. 145 feet tall and 50 feet wide, this tree is the centerpiece and an icon of the park. 325 animals carved into its bark and a theatre located in the trees roots was fun for our whole family.

Lilyturf, Liriope muscari, and common Periwinkle, Vinca minor, are two ground covers used in huge drifts throughout almost every park. Helping to frame other plantings, punctuating larger tree specimens, these two groundcovers were everywhere. Liriope has long been known for its adaptability to almost every condition known. Lilyturf has proven itself tough in wet or dry locations, on steep slopes to help correct erosion problems and can easily do well in sun or shade. Not to mention it adds great texture to any setting. Oh yes, it even flowers and the foliage comes in different colors.

“Living with the Land” is a 14-minute boat ride in Future World at Epcot theme park. Epcot is an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community (City) of Tomorrow. Here you visit living laboratories, cruise past the American plains, rain forests, an African desert and experimental greenhouses. We saw plants with edible stems like common Reed and Horsetail, witnessed an extremely hot pepper, Bhut jolokia, Swiss Chard and Pummelo all doing well grown in sandy soil and saw lettuces being grown in a spiral nutrient film technique. The last station you pass, before exiting the ride, is Plant Research for Space Agriculture… cool stuff!

Boxwood, Buxus sempervirens, was a familiar foundation shrub used ubiquitously throughout the parks. Another plant found repeatedly was southern yew, Podocarpus macrophyllus. This is a widely used hedge plant in the south and in Disney World they use it that way and as a staple for their topiary work. My mother-in-law pointed out, that to her, the tips of the branches looked like fireworks exploding. The best description of this plant I have heard thus far.

Annual color was prevalent at almost every turn, in every park. For October they had pentas, celosia, marigolds, potato vine and coleus on massive scales. Pentas, to me, was a surprising call as this has always been a lesser-known plant at our garden center. But at Disney World Pentas was performing brilliantly!

Finally, the trees! Epcot’s World Showcase had some old favorites and some I had never seen before. Southern Magnolia, Crapemyrtle, Sycamore, Shumard Red Oak, Chinese Elm, Giant Bird of Paradise, American Swetgum and Olive Trees were all familiar and found throughout. However, an allée of Crapemyrtle, Lagerstroemia indica, left me inspired in France. New trees for me: Camphor Tree, Cinnamomum camphora, Japanese Stone Oak, Lithocarpus edulisand Copper False Chestnut, Castanopsis cuspidata, had me wishing I could implement some of these into my own landscape.

To recap, Disney is an amazing place to bring your family. Truly a magical place that is kept impeccably clean, has a positive work environment, its employees are caring and hard working and the technology is second to none. Never before have I seen so many people moved so easily. A note about that technology: We went on a ride called “Soarin’”, in Epcot, a multi-sensory attraction that simulated you hang gliding over California 40 feet in the air. To see and smell the giant redwoods, smell orange groves and feel the ocean’s breeze had every adult feeling like a giddy kid all over again. Everyone should have an opportunity to feel this good and enjoy good, clean fun.