Backyard Labyrinths Trending?


Labyrinths are on the rise, especially at schools and churches, but ones in home gardens like this will never catch on, I predict. That’s because it needs weekly careful mowing, plus frequent pre-edging, so it’s definitely a high-maintenance item. And there’s the expense, too – this one cost $13,000! (Including regrading.) So I’m disagreeing with the Washington Post headline about this one, declaring that “Winding Paths are a New Backyard Trend.” Um, no they’re not.

That’s just one of the seven DC-area labyrinths featured in the new documentary “Labyrinth Journeys” by Cintia Cabib. As a fan of her documentary about community gardens, I attended a recent screening, where I learned that labyrinths and mazes are different! You can get lost in mazes, especially those with high vegetative walls, but in labyrinths there’s one way in to the center and one way out. There are no wrong turns, so the experience of walking the labyrinth is meditative, not puzzling.

So, is it possible for outdoor labyrinths to be relatively low-maintenance?

The labyrinth at American University (above) with its flagstones and what looks like Mondo grass, is certainly more manageable than gravel+turfgrass.

This next one looks quite low-maintenance, as it’s on a roof and no plants were used in it. Located at the headquarters of the American Psychological Association, it’s hailed as the first green roof/labyrinth combo in U.S. Staff use it individually and in team-building exercises. Pretty cool!

This fairly new one in a public garden is also all-pavers, but it’s already looking scruffy with turfgrass encroaching around the edges. I imagine a barrier around the perimeter would help.

Indoor Labyrinths

Labyrinth at the Chartres Cathedral.

Indoor labyrinths are, of course, much easier to install and maintain, and churches with movable seating are adopting replicas of the world’s most famous one – at the Chartres Cathedral in France. The National Cathedral has one that’s used for popular weekly walking meditations, which I’m told is a wonderfully calming experience – something that Washingtonians could sure use right now. (Okay, everyone could use.)

Chartres photo credit.

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Susan’s a garden writer, teacher and activist in the Washington, D.C. area. Co-founder of GardenRant, she also wrote for national gardening magazines and independent garden centers before retiring in 2014. Now she has time for these projects:

  • Founding and now managing the pro-science educational nonprofit GOOD GARDENING VIDEOS that finds and promotes the best videos on YouTube for teaching people to garden.
  • Creating and managing DC GARDENS, the nonprofit campaign to promote the public gardens of the Washington, D.C. area, and gardening by locals.
  • Creating and editing the community website GREENBELT ONLINE to serve her adopted hometown of Greenbelt, Maryland (a “New Deal Utopia” founded in 1937).

Contact Susan via email or by leaving a comment here.

Photo by Stephen Brown.



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