- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 13, 2003

I first entered a human-size maze at the Magnolia Plantation in Charleston, S.C., a reproduction of the famous yew maze in the gardens of England’s Hampton Court palace. The Hampton Court maze, planted in hornbeam more than 300 years ago, is seven feet tall. It takes about 20 minutes to find your way through its half-mile of paths to the center.

More recently, I saw a maze cut into a cornfield near Leesburg, Va., in the autumn, after the corn had been harvested. It, too, was about seven feet tall, but built to last not 300 years but closer to 300 hours.

As I recall, it was made to be a fund-raiser. Parents paid an admission fee for their children to wander through the paths of the maze to seek the center — in much less than 20 minutes. Each child was given a plastic flag on a tall stick, each a different color, so if the child got hopelessly lost in the maze, there was a color-coded marker to help an adult go to the rescue.

I saw another maze for children at a garden center on Long Island, made of stacked bales of hay, which shows that a maze does not have to be so tall as to be a puzzle in which people get lost. It might just as well be built as a design element in a formal garden. It can be any size or shape.

You can make a maze with paths of gravel in a lawn, or you can mow it into a lawn, sort of like the patterns mowed into the turf at baseball parks.

I asked my brother Tom, a landscape designer on Long Island, if he had ever installed a maze.

He has, he said, of Korean boxwood just two feet tall. He designed it to look down on, a feature in a garden viewed from a deck. He said he used Korean boxwood because it’s hardy and doesn’t break in snow as English boxwood can.

The Korean boxwood doesn’t grow tall but grows wide, and must be sheared regularly to keep it to size. Any maze made of a hedge planting probably needs to be sheared.

From a Korean boxwood maze, “it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to a knot garden,” which is also best viewed from above, Tom noted. A knot garden also is made of a low hedge, but instead of forming a puzzle, the hedge is planted in an interlacing pattern, appearing to be knotted where it crosses itself. The pattern creates a symmetrical design of various shapes, each shape planted to be a colorful bed of flowers or herbs.

One more garden designed to be viewed from above is a “Chinese coin garden,” which Tom invented. It is a round garden of annuals, planted in the turnaround of a circular driveway with a front porch overlooking it. The garden he planted is in the pattern and colors of a coin on the border of a set of hand-painted china that came from Peking in the 1930s. The colors are blue, yellow and gold.

The annual docent-guided tours of the 3-acre Bishop’s Garden at Washington National Cathedral are being held every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. through Oct. 31.

In addition to the traditional tour, new this season is a tour called “Plants of the Bible and Christian Legend.”

No reservations are required for the Wednesday tours, but tours on other days are available for groups by reservation. To arrange for a group tour or for information, call 301/986-1290 and specify a traditional tour or a biblical tour.

In the Bishop’s Garden are a variety of herbs, roses, perennials, shrubs and trees, including some three dozen plants mentioned in the Bible. Also in the garden are medieval sculptures from abandoned monasteries, one dating to the ninth century.

Visitors meet for the tours at the Herb Cottage on the South Road of the cathedral grounds, just off Wisconsin Avenue.

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On the schedule at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton Regional Park:

“Wings of Fancy” live butterfly show through Sept. 21.

Chesapeake Chrysanthemum Society Sale on Sunday.

National Capital Cactus and Succulent Society Show and Sale, May 23-25.

Admission to all events is free. Brookside Gardens is open every day except Dec. 25. The gardens are open from sunrise to sunset. The visitors center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and the conservatories are open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information, visit the Web site (www.brooksidegardens.org) or call 301/962-1400.

Coming up at the U.S. Botanic Garden, 100 Maryland Ave. SW, at the foot of the U.S. Capitol:

A free lecture, “Diversity Unleashed: Finding Rare Plants After Forest Fires” from noon to 1 p.m. Friday, by botanist Wayne Owen. For reservations, call 202/226-4082.

A demonstration of cooking with basil, “A Passion for Basil,” from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, by gardener and national food writer Susan Belsinger. The program is $15 per person. For reservations, call 202/226-4082.

An illustrated lecture on the legume family, “The Fabulous Fabaceae,” from 1 to 2:30 p.m. May 23. Legumes include beans, peas and ornamental plants. Cost is $7 per person. Call 202/226-4082 for reservations.

For information about the Botanic Garden, visit the Web site (www.usbg.gov), or call 202/225-8333. It is open to the public free of charge every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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