|Disneyland Castle – July 1955|
Castle Gardens – Adventures in Landscaping
by Todd James Pierce
In 1955, landscape designer Bill Evans had two overall goals for the themed areas of Disneyland: highly manicured gardens and streets (such as Town Square) and open areas where the ground cover would simulate nature (such as the Jungle Cruise and the back areas of Frontierland).
|Disneyland Landscaping – July 1955|
When Disneyland opened, many landscaped areas were lovely. Bill Evans, himself, would later describe the Jungle Cruise as “the best darn jungle this side of Costa Rica.” As Evans began the Disneyland project, he purchased many mature plants, paying upwards of $1k for certain specimens, to landscape his “jungle.” But as the money ran out, Evans got crafty: he turned walnut trees upside down, burying their branches in the river and leaving their roots exposed to simulate a mangrove; he left mature orange trees and covered them with fast-growing vines (and also required gardeners to regularly remove fruit from their branches); he even used artificial (or plastic) plants to fill out some areas of the river. But Walt Disney simply did not have enough money to fully landscape all of Disneyland by the time it opened.
“Walt like to have the scene complete,” Evans once said in an interview, “when the curtains were drawn open. He wanted that landscaping to be as close to full scale and mature as possible…We scampered around the country to try to find all the mature trees we could and it didn’t take long to exhaust the budget. The park was built on a very modest budget.’”
|Landscaping Detail – July 1955|
As Disneyland moved toward its opening date, Walt was forced to leave some areas without any real landscaping (such as the hills around the Casey Jr. Train) and others with minimal landscaping (such as Tomorrowland). Walt was also forced to use younger trees and bushes for large sections of the park because there was simply not enough money to pay for mature trees.
Up on the blog today are a series of slides from July 1955—the month Disneyland opened. Here, you can see some of the landscape compromises that Walt was forced to make to open his park on time. These plants are exactly what you would’ve seen had you visited Disneyland during its first summer: smaller bushes and a newly planted lawn, all surrounded by an inexpensive wire border. These are not the mature trees and bushes, the artful man-made garden that Walt had initially envisioned for the castle area. (In the above photo, you can even see the exposed sprinkler system.) But in terms of color, the plans do pull together the scene quite nicely.
After Disneyland opened—and more importantly, after the park had a steady income stream—Walt directed Bill Evans, who stayed on as a consultant, to replace many of the smaller plants with larger, more ornate specimens. In the closing photo today, you can see how this scene was transformed in less than two years.
OK, that’s all I have for today. Next Monday, DHI will be dark. I’ll be back in TWO weeks with another article. But if you’re looking for more photos of Disneyland during its first year, you can click over to the first article in this series, which is found here.
|Disneyland Castle – Late 1956 / Early 1957|
COMPLIMENTARY MATERIAL: To see more material on this topic, go to our Comp Material page at: 1955: The Castle Hydrant