Pumpkins in July? Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Is Growing “The Dark Side Of The Gardens” for Halloween

 

When It Comes to Creating “The Dark Side Of The Gardens” for Halloween,
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s Horticulture Team has to Start Early


TAMPA, Fla. (July  2012) 
– As Busch Gardens began preparations earlier this year to transform the park into “The Dark Side of the Gardens” for its 13th annual Howl-O-Scream event this fall, the horticulture team realized that they faced a challenge: It’s hard to find heirloom pumpkins and winter squash in Tampa in October.

Their solution? To research seeds and plant their own heirloom pumpkin patch. Heirloom pumpkins are the antique varieties of fruits and vegetables not normally found in mainstream produce markets. Heirlooms often feature unusual shapes, unexpected colors, plus a very flavorful flesh. Busch Gardens’ crop of pumpkins is destined not for pies, however, but for the delight of park guests who will be ready for the cooler temperatures and Halloween fun that pumpkin season signals.

Pumpkins growing on a tree at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay!

“Last year was our first try at pumpkin farming which ended in miserable results due to heavy rains,” said Busch Gardens’ Director of Horticulture, Joe Parr. “This year, we started in February with raised beds of rich compost made right here at the park with zoo and landscaping debris, and are watering with a water-conserving drip irrigation system.”

It must be working: The pumpkin experiment has yielded more than 60 fruits so far, much to the excitement of the proud gardeners who coaxed the vines from seeds by hand-pollinating the flowers with cotton swabs… and who are now sharing their office with piles of pumpkins.

Some examples of the different varieties of pumpkins they have grown at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

Pumpkins are all American members of the squash family and have been cultivated for more than 5,000 years. When Columbus discovered America, he found the native people growing a variety of pumpkin which would come to be named Seminole. Busch Gardens’ pumpkin patch features the Seminole, as well as La Estrellas, a tropical pumpkin hybrid from the University of Florida. Both thrive in Florida’s heat and humidity. Parr’s team is also growing Rouge Vif d’Etampes (also known as the “Cinderella pumpkin”,) tiny Jack-Be-Littles,  warty, dark-green Marina di Chioggias, the 50- to 60-pound“Big Max,” and even a “Pumpkin Tree,” which is actually a rare orange eggplant with tiny, ribbed fruits.

The challenge now will be to keep the ripe fruits looking their best until September when autumn harvest displays appear in the park for both day guests and Howl-O-Scream visitors to enjoy. If properly stored, pumpkins can last up to a year in Florida.

A member of the Busch Gardens Tampa Bay horticulture team with one of their many pumpkins!

“As the summer temperatures soar,” says Parr, “it’s nice to think that October’s chill and pumpkins are coming soon.”

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Wilderness Lodge Jack-O-Lantern Parade

As we were walking through the lobby of the Wilderness Lodge last night, we couldn’t help but notice these great pumpkins created by the amazing Cast Members working there!!!

I especially love the one that is carved to look like the wall sconces!

It really shows how much these Cast Members love where they work and causes they care about!

At last I see the light...of the Jack-O-Lantern...
I thought this one was great!!!

 

AWESOME!!!!

 

These pumpkins are a great reminder that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month!!!

 

You can't go wrong with the Big Cheese!!!

 

This one is cute!!!

 

MY FAVORITE!!!

 

The Inspiration...So clever!!!
Umm...Did the turtle EAT the pumpkin? That was Zoe's question...LOL!!!

 

This one was absolutely amazing!!!

 

Again, I loved the pumpkins inspired by the resort itself!!!

 

LOVE IT!!!!!

 

Don't mind if I do...

 

I know what we're going to do this Halloween!!!!

 

It's our Monster of Ceremonies!!!

 

This one was really creative!!!

 

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Fall In Celebration…I Love My Town!!!

We moved to Celebration a little less than a year ago, so this is our first Halloween here and I am really excited about being here!!!

The first thing we got to experience was Oktoberfest. The original dates of Oktoberfest were rained out, so they gave it another shot and it was wonderful!

Living so close to downtown is a blessing and a curse during these events, because while it is hard for visiting friends to find parking near the house it is also a huge convenience to be able to walk down to the fun!

There are tons of concerts and activities during this two day event, however the highlight for Zoe was the leaves falling! Leaves fall at 7, 8, & 9 pm and you get cute little bags from the downtown merchants to catch them. It was a hoot to watch the kids (both big and small) scramble to catch these leaves!!!

This was a super busy area!!!
Everyone was having a blast decorating their pumpkin!
When it got close to the first falling of the leaves, everyone started to make their way downtown.
THEY'RE FALLING!!!
This is a VERY happy Zoe!!!
The bag...
 
The Leaves!!!
The sky as we were walking home. So pretty!!!

Another highlight of Fall in Celebration is the Annual Pumpkin Patch at the Community Presbyterian Church in Celebration (511 Celebration Avenue), where you can purchase a pumpkin and take some great pictures to help a great cause. 100% of your pumpkin purchases benefit Help Now of Osceola, Inc, a non-profit organization that helps provide shelter and empowers survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

It is a great Pumpkin Patch!!!
A look at part of the pumpkin patch.

They have these great pictures spots for everyone to enjoy!!!

I love these guys!!!
I couldn't resist taking a picture of this!!!
Heck Yeah we were!!!! Thanks Emily for letting me know about these guys!!!

And right around the corner from the pumpkin patch is the pirate house! This family really knows how to do it up for Halloween!!! Every year they transform their house into a pirate ship…Enter if ye dare…

A look at the house.
Umm...I think we've been hit...
We have...now give me some candy!!!
By the door to the house.

So of course, we had to get in the act!!! And with the help of some amazing friends (Thank you Tom, Emily, Todd, Cheryl, Dan, and Shalon!!!!) this weekend we carved pumpkins and started to decorate around the house for the upcoming swarm of Trick-Or-Treaters!!! I am hoping for more treats than tricks…

This bad boy was HEAVY!!!!
Getting ready to carve the pumpkins!
The gang in action...don't let Tom fool you...
The finished products...and the tub o'candy & baskets of goodies.
Todd and Tom roasted the pumpkin seeds for us to snack on!
Our front/side porch so far...

After Halloween things calm down to celebrate Founders Day in Celebration on November 11th, which I am really looking forward to attending!!!

And then before you know it is Thanksgiving and the snow begins to fall…but more about that later! 🙂 I want to enjoy my first fall here as long as I can!!!

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