Keeler Gardens Tours the 2020 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

A white washed wooden sign for the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival showing Mickey Mouse in overalls and a farm hat carrying what appears to be a buschell of corn tulips and asperagas while pluto eagerly looks on under foot.

A white washed wooden sign for the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival showing Mickey Mouse in overalls and a farm hat carrying what appears to be a buschell of corn tulips and asperagas while pluto eagerly looks on under foot.
Well I’ll be! It’s time to start planning for the 2020 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival!

Friday, March 6, – Friday, March 13, 2020

Join Keeler Gardens for a week at one of the most extraordinary flower and garden festivals in the country: The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival at Walt Disney World. This is not your typical flower and garden show, as it offers an unimaginable collection of gardens and experiences.  

Gina Iliopoulos, Keeler Gardens’ Chief Horticultural Specialist, has been attending the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival since 2012 when she was a national spokesperson as a Gardeniere. Since then, she has been gathering knowledge at the festival each year that we are delighted to share with you over one very special week. Let her guide you through the many gardens on display and all the magical details to truly connect you with the plants, people, and enchantment of this special event. 

As your hosts, Keeler Gardens will lead up to four guided tours during a portion of each day, with your late afternoons and evenings free to take advantage of all the “World” has to offer. Every stop will impart an appreciation for the many different displays, cultures, and hidden gems throughout the festival and beyond. You will be immersed in butterflies, visit the countries of the World Showcase, and explore Disney’s environmental commitment. We will also offer suggestions and tips for maximizing your enjoyment of Walt Disney World. 

Keeler Gardens has partnered with Vacation Village at Parkway in Kissimmee, and Michelle Buchecker at DreamFinder Travel, for wonderful accommodations and inclusive theme park tickets. Packages offer seven nights in a one-bedroom apartment-like unit (with kitchen, full bath, king bed, and laundry facilities) with the luxury of a pool, hot tub, and sun deck. And with just a 10-minute ride to the Walt Disney Resort property, you will have access to all four theme parks for your visit. 

Package includes:  

  • One-bedroom “apartment” for seven nights  
  • 7- day park ticket with park hopper, for each guest, to have the most flexibility (ages 10 and up)
  • Keeler Gardens knowledge, expertise, and personal attention as we guide you through this wonderful festival on multiple tours throughout the Festival* 
  • Welcome Reception and Packet 

Package price is $989 per person based on double occupancy ($1470 single occupancy).  

*Keeler Gardens tours are $200 per person, this fee is waived with the booking of accommodations at Vacation Village. 

Reserve your tour package through Keeler Gardens with a $350 non-refundable deposit due by September 15, 2019. Space is very limited and timing is of the essence. Final payment is due October 4, 2019. Contact Gina at for reservations and if you have questions.   

Prices are subject to change until paid in full.  

Guests will be responsible for own airfare, transportation, and meals. There is limited daily transportation from the hotel to the Walt Disney World Resort. 

Photos From the April Instameet

Taking Pictures in the Rain

(Press Play if you would like a little music while you read) After a week of unseasonably warm, Chicago, April weather, Mother Nature delivered a traditional April day: rainy and cold. But that did not stop the photographers. Taking pictures, drinking tea, more pictures, and loosing feeling in our trigger fingers! And even a few tours of the gardens for our new visitors. Was it worth it? We think so, but decide for yourself. Take a look at some of the pictures.


Here are a few from our @KeelerGardens Instagram account

First pic of today’s Instameet. #smokebush #keelergardens #connectwithnature

A post shared by Keeler Gardens (@keelergardens) on

#lamium from the front garden. #keelergardens #connectwithnature

A post shared by Keeler Gardens (@keelergardens) on

Working hard while we play. #keelergardens #peonies #ants

A post shared by Keeler Gardens (@keelergardens) on

And one from my personal account @xperientialed.

Enjoying the great weather at the #keelergardens instameet. #hellebore #connectwithnature

A post shared by Ed Caplan (@xperientialed) on

Plus here are a few from one of our guests. And for you, our loyal readers, here are a few that we did not post anywhere else.   We had so much fun we will have to do this again.  Based on so many conversations about cameras, technique, and even some technical details we are tweaking the program a little. Make sure you sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook to be the first to know about the next Photo Day at Keeler Gardens. Thanks for connecting, Ed

Our First Programs at Keeler Gardens.

Spring is Springing

(Press Play if you would like a little spring music while you read)

Are you enjoying this wonderful spring weather? We are, and so are the tulips and other spring bloomers. Flowers are not the only thing in bloom, we are preparing for our first programs here at Keeler Gardens.

Close up of about two dozen Stresa tulip yellow tulips with brushes of pink on the outside of each petal. In the foreground to the is the base
‘Stresa”tulips bloom in the back garden.

Instameet, Sunday, April 30 at 1:30 PM

We are excited that as we welcome the warm weather we have our first two Keeler Gardens program offerings. The first is the Instameet day at Keeler Gardens. What is an Instameet? Instameets are group get-togethers to take pictures to post on Instagram. Although we are using this term, we will do much more. At 1:30 PM on Sunday, April 30th we invite you to come out and take pictures at Keeler Gardens. You don’t have to use a mobile phone, nor do you have to post your pictures on Instagram. Just spending a half hour taking pictures of the garden is a wonderful way to connect with nature. If you so choose, you can share or post your images online. We hope you do, so we can all enjoy your pics. We will be using the hashtag, #KeelerGardens so we can all view the photos during and after the event.

Our executive director, Ed Caplan, stands in a rain coat with smart phone in hand capturing the bright yellow forsythia on the front deck of Keeler Gardens. The cloudy rainy day creates a wonderful environmental contrast for the photo.
Ed connecting with nature.

All levels of photographers are welcome. If you have questions, big or small, about your camera or taking photos come early at 1:00 PM and we’ll be happy to walk through the basics and answer any questions. Let us know you’re planning on coming by RSVP’ing through the Facebook Event Page.

Family Event at Fannie’s, Sunday, May 7 at 4:00 PM

Logo for Fannie's

Fannie’s is a wonderful café in Jefferson Park. The owner, Stephanie, has offered her space for a family day just in time to prepare for Mother’s Day (hint, hint dads!). Make sure to follow the event on our Facebook page here for all the details. What we can tell you right now is it involves seeds and journals. (We’ve said too much!).

Scrapbooking accessories and accoutrements including small and large quotes such as “Cats speak language with their tails.” “Come forth into the light of things let NATURE be your teacher.” The background has various textured papers from watercolor to repeating prints. There are also small trinkets such as butterflies, flowers, and stars.
Various ways to adorn your garden journal

Project WILD

Recently I was certified as a trainer of Growing Up WILD, Aquatic WILD, and Project WILD. These are environmental education curriculum for youth of all ages. From early childhood through elementary and high school, the programs are written to be age specific, with educational learning standards in mind. Upon the completion of this training Keeler Gardens can officially train teachers and other community members on this program.  Make sure to follow us on Facebook and sign up for What’s Growing on, our mailing list, so you are the first to know when we set the date this summer for the Project WILD training.

Two adults sit on a bench in a display garden with three children. The man works with a boy and girl of 5 and 6 years old. The women with her camera keeps an eye on the 3 year old who is more interested in climbing the bench.
Connecting children to nature.

Thank you again for all of your support. Keeler Gardens is here to help you and the rest of our community connect with nature. Thank you for spreading the word by sharing this update and our other posts. Click on these links to let us know if we will be seeing you here at Keeler Gardens on April 30th for the Instameet, at Fannie’s on May 7th for the Family Event, or click here to sign up for What’s Growing on for updates on the Project Wild Training.

Thanks for connecting,

Live(ish) From the 2017 Chicago Flower & Garden Show

Old 110 photo that has been partially bleached away of a man sitting on an orange couch next to a dog. The man's head did not make it into the picture but the black dog looks great.

Mobile Photography in Your Garden

A student reviews the apps on her smart phone during a session on mobile photography. She appears to be eager to learn as her friend clasps her phone with some apprehension.
We all have cameras in our pockets. Do we know how to use them?

This past Monday I had the chance to present on this topic on the Gardening Live Stage at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show.  The full video is below for those of you who were not able to join us.  The goal of the session was to help more people find a meaningful way to connect with nature.

One way that I connect with nature is through photography.  I have been doing so since I got my first 110 camera when I was five years old.  Very quickly I learned I was better at taking pictures of nature than people, although I did have a lot to learn.

Old 110 photo that has been partially bleached away of a man sitting on an orange couch next to a dog. The man's head did not make it into the picture but the black dog looks great.
Luckily Ed got better as a photographer.

Fast forward to today and we all have portable cameras in our pockets.  What better way to stop and connect with nature than to take a picture.  And not just snap a quick photo, but to stop, enjoy what we are experiencing, and then take a picture.

During the session I broke it down into simple steps to help us take photos we can be proud of and want to share with others.  Some of the tips were:

  • Rule of thirds (don’t center the subject)
  • Use your camera’s grid
  • Keep camera in Auto mode, then switch to HDR

What’s Next? Instameet @ Keeler Gardens

Put your skills to use, meet with other photographers, and learn.  Whether you have your smart phone, a DSLR, or an old 35mm camera, all are welcome.  We will meet at Keeler Gardens at 1:30 PM on April 30th.  If you need some help, come early at 1:00 PM and we can get you ready for the day.  For more information and to RSVP head over to our Facebook Event Page.  (If you don’t have Facebook, you can always send me an email for more details).

In my wilderness work there was a common phrase, “Take only pictures, leave only footprints.”  Show us your pictures by using the hashtag #KeelerGardens so we can see your awesome pics on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.