At Disneyland, even the plants have a purpose

"Cultivating the Magic" tour guide Sandi explains that there are seven different types of bamboo growing along the river of the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland. Photo by Sherry Barkas

Did you know that the trees and flowers planted throughout Disneyland were as well thought out as the design of the attractions and lands themselves?

I didn’t.

In scurrying from one attraction to the other, I must admit that I never paid much attention to the foliage until I took Disneyland’s two-hour “Cultivating the Magic” tour during which the guide talked of how the hundreds of varieties of plants, trees and flowers add to the magic of Disneyland. She explained how the different species of trees and plants let you know you have left Main Street USA and entered Adventureland or Frontierland. The wildlife also plays a significant role in the stories rides tell.

For example, next time you’re waiting in line to catch your Doom Buggy at the Haunted Mansion, take a look around and notice that there are no colorful flowers planted on the grounds; green grass, weeping willows, dark petunias, black calla lilies and other trees and plants help to bring a drab, foreboding atmosphere.

Yet, just outside the iron fence that surrounds the mansion, in New Orleans Square and heading into Critter Country, home of Splash Mountain and the Winnie the Pooh rides, the flowers and trees are full of color.

This was all part of Walt Disney’s plan. The trees around Town Square and along Main Street USA were selected to give that area a down home feel that helps put people at ease the minute they enter the theme park.

Walt felt that every detail of Disneyland, right down to the greenery, needed to contribute to the flow of the park, as guests make their way from one attraction to another and from one land to another.

In building Disneyland, Walt hired the landscaping firm that designed the yard at his Carolwood Drive home in Los Angeles. The owner of the firm, Bill Evans wound up staying with Disneyland and the Walt Disney Co. until he retired a few years ago. His company’s name, Evans Gardening, is even painted on one of the windows on Main Street – above the hat shop and Main Street Theatre.

The walking tour also took us onto some rides, starting with the Jungle Cruise. Did you know that there are seven different types of bamboo growing along the edges of the river?

In Fantasy land everything had to be colorful and “whimsical.”

Storybook Land, for example, is comprised of miniature buildings that make up some of the towns made famous through the various fairy tales Disney’s animated features are based upon. There are hundreds of miniature trees – spruce and Cyprus among them. Most are not miniature by nature, but grown small by Disneyland through a potting process, our tour guide, Sandi, explained.

As one of my favorite rides, I often thought some of the trees were Bonsai, but none are, Sandi said, because they’re too expensive.

If you wonder whether Disney employs any water conservation efforts, the answer is a big YES. The park has even been honored for its water-saving efforts that include a seasonal irrigation system that saves Disney 10s of thousands of dollars on water each year, Sandi, said.

The lakes and rivers that run through some of the rides and Rivers of America are all linked through underground piping, so they’re all filled with the same water.

Oh, and that Mickey face in the garden just inside the entrance gates to Disneyland – where nearly everyone stops to have their picture taken — is comprised of 3,000 plants.

This is the second behind-the-scenesDisneyland tour I’ve taken. Each offers an opportunity to learn more about what Walt was thinking when he designed the park and how those wishes are still carried out.

Tours cost extra. If you have a Disneyland annual pass, you can get discounts on tour tickets. Check out For booking information and tour dates, call (714) 781-8687 or visit Disneyland Resort Guest Relations at City Hall on Main Street USA.

 Ongoing Disneyland tours:

  •  Welcome to the Disneyland Resort – Good not just for first-time visitors, but those who have been many times but want to learn how to make the most of a visit to Disneyland.
  •  A Walk in Walt’s Footsteps – newly redone, this tour now includes a visit to Walt’s apartment over the Main Street fire station.
  • Discover the Magic – Fast-paced interactive tour.
  • Cultivating the Magic – How plantings and gardens help create the magical atmosphere and support the themed stories of various rides and attractions.

Seasonal Guided Tours:

  • Disney’s Happiest Haunts Tour – Takes visitors through the parks at dusk for tales and treats.
  • Holiday Time at Disneyland Park – Hear enchanting tales of the holidays from around the world, and holiday stories from Disneyland past.