Dollywood is finally open and is starting off with a bang by presenting the vibrant Flower & Food Festival, delayed from its debut which was originally scheduled for mid-spring. Obviously, there are two significant parts to this festival: flowers and food. Another blog will delve into the unique food offerings, but I have the 4-1-1 on the flowers! And oh, my, the flowers they have! Half-a-million new plants have been added to the park specifically for Flower & Food Festival!
Every season is uniquely “colorful,” but I have to say I think this festival showcases Dollywood at its most colorful and beautiful. One of the first things guests will notice are the larger-than-life sculptures (also called mosaics) adorned in colorful plants and flowers.
The tallest of these is a 14-foot sculpture of Avie Lee Parton, Dolly’s mother, sewing the Coat of Many Colors, which most Dollywood guests know as the theme of one of Dolly’s signature songs. There are also mosaics of butterflies, Smoky Mountain turtles, a frog with a fly on its tongue, a bear family and a raccoon family. All adorable and great places to stop and take a photo.
Bobby Johnson, Dollywood’s Grounds Supervisor, shared that these mosaic sculptures were fabricated from Dollywood’s concepts and designs in steel by a firm in Montreal, Canada, Mosaicultures. These are then filled with soil and covered with fabric into which thousands of small plants are inserted. I was interested to learn the difference in classic topiaries and mosaics is that topiaries are usually formed from a single plant. There are more than 6,000 individual plants in these mosaics! Watch a short video about the process here.
A whole team from Montreal was scheduled to come and help install these sculptures, but due to Covid-19, only two members of Mosaicultures could come for only a few days. While here, they showed the Dollywood team how to take care of these mosaics and got them started on how to put them together. The “Coat of Many Colors” sculpture, for example, has eight pieces that fit together to make the whole. These plant sculptures also must be trimmed twice a week – mostly with electric trimmers, but parts such as the muscle definition on the raccoons’ legs are trimmed with scissors.
Another interesting thing to note is that the mosaics are all self-irrigating. Bobby showed us an app on his phone that controlled the watering in zones and for different weather types. He actually demonstrated how he could make the water start just by pressing a button on his phone! He mentioned the other plants in the park are currently hand-watered, and it takes a team of four people working nine hours a day (that’s 36 hours per day in labor!) to water the rest of the plantings in the park.
As for the other things that make the “flower” element of the Flower & Food Festival unique, there are gorgeous floral carpet beds that envelope the walkways, embellished buildings and lushly-full flowerbeds throughout the park. You may be thinking (like I did) that Dollywood’s flowers are always beautiful! Bobby noted that for this festival, there are exponentially more pots and window boxes on display as well as each flower bed being more tightly knit. For example, in a bed where they might normally have 20 individual plants, during this festival there are 40 plants.
Dollywood uses three different large growers to supply their flowers; one provides the filler for all the pots and the other two growers provide the rest of the plantings. Bobby said Dollywood had two deliveries, four times a week for three weeks in order to get everything to the park to plant for this season. Bobby also added that it took five people two days – 100 host hours – to put in the plantings just around the raccoon family. Also, I noticed that each store seemed to have many more floral decorations, such as wreaths and window boxes, than they usually do – everyone getting into the floral festival spirit!
If you are a flower or plant lover, or if you have developed a new interest in gardening during the coronavirus quarantine, now is the time to visit Dollywood! I was so disappointed when I realized the park would have to be closed during the time of the first Flower & Food Festival, and then was so excited when they decided to go ahead and have it – just a little later than anticipated. It is a true feast for the eyes and something that really must be experienced in person.
They will be evaluating the health of the plants since they weren’t originally chosen to withstand the heat of the summer, but rather the mild temperatures of spring; but as of now, Dollywood plans for the festival to go through mid-July at least. Come enjoy this vibrant new event that adds another touch of dazzling color to the natural beauty already surrounding Dollywood. If you have been, what was your favorite new addition? And if you haven’t been yet, what are you most looking forward to seeing?