K's Garden

Building a large garden on a budget

Serpentine Maze Sunday 30 December 2012


Well, technically its a Labyrinth as there is a single path thought it, and no branches, but Labyrinth reminds me of the Minotaur and all the stories we had to read by Virgil in Latin aged 10-ish have only left me with memories like a Horror film; although that may have been because we had Headmaster for Latin, and he was a sadistic sod.

Another idea nicked from East Ruston Old Vicarage, but mostly because I think I can squeeze this into the narrowing triangle right down at the end of the spit. Here’s the sketch I made at East Ruston:

East Ruston Old Vicarage Maze

Some photos of their maze (walking from the top towards the bottom of the sketch):

East Ruston Old Vicarage Holly Maze

East Ruston Old Vicarage Holly Maze

East Ruston Old Vicarage Holly Maze

East Ruston Old Vicarage Holly Maze

The open circles look a lot larger in those photos than they feel when you are there! The middle one is 8M diameter, and the two either side about 6M.

In Autumn 2010 I found 20 or 30 self sown Holly seedlings, which I dug up and potted-on. They were tiddlers, but by Autumn 2011 they were a good 18″ – 2′. A bit like the Holm Oak Walk project, Holly plants are expensive – 40-60cm £3.80, 60-80cm £4.30 and 80-100CM £7 – that’s in qty of more than 250. For the Holm Oak Walk project I stumbled over some cell-grown seedlings at just over £1 each, and thus I decided to buy 240 in Autumn 2011 and pot them on into 1L pots. When they arrived they are already around 60cm, and I reckon with potting to to 2L pots next summer they will be 100cm by the time they are planted out next Autumn – they seem to grow surprisingly quickly (might be because I have had them in the greenhouse, so they’ve had warmth, water, and no desiccating draughts).

They over-wintered in the (unheated) conservatory, as that is warmer than the greenhouse (just as well – we just managed to keep the conservatory at 0C for other less hardy plants when the temperature plunged to -16C in February 2012)

Cell Plants for Maze

(Holm Oak in foreground, Holly in the background)

In the Spring I was starting to need the space in the conservatory for vegetables and other seedlings, so they moved to the greenhouse

Holly Plants for Maze, 10-Mar-2012

and then, when that space was needed for Tomatoes, they were moved outside for the Summer – by which time they had put on reasonable growth. I held the Tomato plants in the conservatory until beginning of June to maximise the time that the Holly plants could have under cover.

Holly Plants for Maze – 03-May-2012

Well, best laid plans and all that … I never found the time to pot them on to 2L during the Summer, so it was September before that happened (plants were around 80cm tall then). I decided that potting on in September, and putting them back in the greenhouse to boost the heat in the Autumn would hopefully encourage root growth to fill the 2L pots before winter, and then I would plant them out in the Spring.

Holly Plants - Dec 2012

Holly Plants – Dec 2012

In August 2012 the area was just rough grass:

Maze Area – Aug 2012 (facing South)

I carefully mowed a pattern, refined it, and got comfortable with it. Then in October 2012 the Annual Boy’s Toys Hire of a JCB enabled me to dig the trenches for the hedges:

Digging the Maze

I dug around the edges of the paths with the JCB where I wanted the hedges, and then decided the pattern was sufficiently intricate that the machinery wouldn’t manoeuvre tightly enough and I was leaving too much that was going to have to be finished by hand … so I got Pencil and Paper, measured all the carefully mown paths and transcribed them – I hope!! – to paper, and then dug them up! so the whole area is now dug. It will probably be better in the long run as I want landscape-fabric and bark chipping for the paths, not turf, so I’ll be able to just scoop out 6″ or so of topsoil from the paths and pile that on the beds, whereas otherwise I would have been fighting the turf for years to come I reckon. We’ll see, next year will tell!

Maze Rotavated – South view – Oct 2012

Maze Rotavated – North View – Oct 2012

I then laid out hosepipe to mark the paths, based on the sketches I had done, and put some Rose Pots, left over from another project, out to mark the planting rows and paths. It may not be clear from the photo, but it gave a good perspective of how the hedges would look once planted

Maze - Layout - Nov 2012

Maze – Layout – Nov 2012

Maze - Layout - Nov 2012

Maze – Layout – Nov 2012

Maze - Mar 2013

Maze – Mar 2013


The exit, at the far end of the maze, originally came out into the Holm Oak Walk about 10 metres short of the end. At the time I thought it would be fun to come out and look both ways up & down the walk, but I’ve changed my mind (and the previous layout left a fiddly bit unused and unplanted which would then be impossible to get to for maintenance). So I have extended the serpentine end a bit so that it goes all the way to the circular end of the Holm Oak Walk. There was just about enough width to have a curved path such that it won’t be possible to see straight along it, but I hope that when walking along it it will “feel” as thought the bends are becoming less pronounced and thus the end is approaching.

Maze Exit - Apr 2013

Original Maze Exit – Apr 2013

The original exit point. Its pleasing to compare how much the Holm Oaks have grown in the two years since:

Holly Maze Extension - Mar 2015

Holly Maze Extension – Mar 2015

The original exit, now extended and moved further to the right:

Holly Maze Extension - Mar 2015

Holly Maze Extension – Mar 2015

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3 Responses to “Serpentine Maze”

  1. Myra Duffy Says:

    Love your plans, your efforts and the way you share your enjoyment of this project. It spurs me on – although I started out a very short time ago to plant a Spinney to hide a dreadful view so far I have only planted 20 trees but have put daffs around three sides & narcissi Verger around the trees in the central area. I planned to mow a meter wide path ( no angles!) through the bulbs and around the trees. SO I WILL BORROW YOUR IDEA OF A HOSEPIPE to lay out an interesting path, your idea of snowdrops ( I have masses elsewhere in the garden which I can transfer soon ( Feb 2015) and to make the path 2 meters wide.

    I don’t think I have time to see a maze planted through to maturation, but I’m sure I can think if other interesting items to build ( think Heligan & the mud woman!) or wet areas for toads and seats for contemplation! My vista will probably be from the one end ( or corner of) the Spinney towards the house or possibly a specimen tree near the house. Ideas to mull over …

    I love these long term projects and the way they grow and progress with us. Thanks for sharing and please add more photos over time.

    • kgarden Says:

      I’d recommend a wider path – enough for at least two people to easily walk side-by-side. Much easier to make a path narrower, in future, than wider! At least don’t plant any bulbs close to the path initially to give yourself options. (You may have seen it already, but I have a Woodland Walk project, with Snowdrops (link)

    • kgarden Says:

      We’ve gone a bit mad with Daffodils this autumn; unable to make my mind up I have planted 25-each of 28 different varieties as a cutting bed, in the Fruit and Nut Walk to then choose ones we like, which look good together, for a wider Spring-bulb planting

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