I’m not long back from a brilliant family holiday to Disneyland Paris. Prior to becoming a gardener, I wouldn’t have noticed the planting there. But now that I’m a gardener, I really look at trees and plants where ever I go. There are lots of artificial flowers and trees there, of course. But the real planting at Disneyland is surprisingly sophisticated, and very effectively adds to the unreal atmosphere of the place.
Around the entrance to the park, rhododendrons in all shades are just coming into flower. They will be looking truly fabulous in a couple of weeks’ time. These crepe-papery, sugar-pastel coloured flowers are a perfect fit for Disney. Throughout the park, there are borders full of flowering bedding plants planted in neat blocks and rows that provide intense colour displays. Perennial wallflowers (erysimum) and pansies, this season’s hardy bedding plants, are great value, hardworking plants that flower and flower and flower…
The planting around the different park areas and rides is also well designed. At the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, a tropical jungle look is achieved with tough, hardy plants, such as fatsia japonica, palms and mahonia. At the Haunted House, twisted hazels, weeping willows, conifers, ivy and scruffy, prickly gorse bushes, all help to create a very spooky atmosphere.
Throughout the park, there are lots of neatly clipped, photinia Red Robin hedges, topiary characters, including Fantasia’s ballet-dancing hippos. In the Alice in Wonderland area, you can get lost in a labyrinth of privet. In Fantasy Land, cloud-pruned trees and pretty cherry blossom add to the cuteness of the theme.
My favourite planting scheme is a lush, vertical garden that runs the length of one long wall in the Walt Disney Studios. Planting pockets overflow with a pleasing variety of leaf shapes, textures and colours, provided by heucheras, bergenia, hakonechloa grasses, lupins, brunnera Jack Frost and many, many more. I’d love to have one of these walls in my garden.
There wasn’t a weed or gone-over flower to be seen anywhere, apart from where the weeds added to the mood – for example, at the abandoned, Twilight Zone-themed, Hollywood Hotel. I kept my eye out for any kitschly-costumed gardeners deadheading, pruning or feeding the plants but I never saw one. I can only imagine that they work when the park is shut between 10pm and 8am. It must be a surreal job, being a nocturnal Disney gardener. Kudos to them anyway, the plants were really fantastic.