There was a time when garden labyrinths and hedge mazes were staples in every family garden. Well, every large family estate, that is. No matter. I would just like to know what happened to these whimsical backyard attractions and why we don’t see more of them today. I understand that some of us do not have the real estate required to support such an installation. And while I say that this is no excuse, I suppose we’ll just have to enjoy the ones that remain for now and promise to plant our own when we buy our sprawling Northeastern estates.
Mazes have many merits. Popular during the early 19th century and found in such places as English public parks, private manors and even in Versailles’s palace gardens, they insight intrigue and ooze romance. Authors and storytellers have used them for centuries to weave a little mystery into their plots. What I love about mazes is the promise of the secret that lies within. Lovers meet, mythical creatures lie in wait, heck, even Harry Potter had to make it through an obstacle-laden hedge maze to win the Tri-Wizard Tournament.
While most of the noteworthy hedge mazes of our time lie across the Pond (one day I WILL attend the Saffron Walden Maze Festival), I did find a noteworthy example right smack dab in the middle of the US of A. In the heart of the Missouri Botanical Garden lies the Tower Grove House (Henry Shaw’s Victorian mansion surrounded by extensive personal gardens). Not only does the pristine estate sport a beautiful house and elaborate herb garden, it is also home to a fanciful yew hedge maze and the Piper Observatory, complete with spiral staircase. The observatory allows garden goers a full view of the maze and its inhabitants from above. All I can say is that I can’t wait to have my own backyard because I will be planting a maze and building a whimsical observatory ASAP. Mazes are awesome and full of swag. They are glamorous, mysterious, and there should definitely be more of them.