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The Maze Garden

Unlike a labyrinth, with a single, winding path that leads to a center, the Arboretum's new Maze Garden has an entry point at one end and an exit on the other.

Not a dead end

Arboretum's new garden bewilders and entertains

By Pauline Oo

July 27, 2007

What do you get when you mix flowering plants and shrubs with lattice woodwork, crawl spaces, benches, and fabric walls? The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum's Maze Garden. The permanent new addition, which opened to the public earlier this summer, is nestled in the Arboretum's pine tree collection on Three-Mile Drive, the road snaking along the exterior of the Arboretum.

University of Minnesota alum and Northfield landscape architect William Frost has made the maze special by incorporating two mazes in one: a maze for adults with an intricate network of passageways and a simpler, shorter maze for younger children that features four brightly colored crawl tunnels. Both, though, end at the same place: the Lookout Tower--the perfect spot to see where you've been or to watch others attempt to solve the navigation puzzle.

"The design is a combination of nonlinear geometry, horticulture, and chance," says Frost, who was inspired by the patterns in nature like the veins of leaves and rivulets of rivers.

Some of the walls that line the maze are made of non-plant material, including panels of colored fabric, bamboo, and lattice. Other walls are a combination of deciduous and evergreen plants, which gives the maze an ever-changing look and feel as the plants mature.

"Your experience as you walk through is going to change from one turn around the corner to the next, from one season to the next, from one year to the next," says Frost, who holds a master's degree in landscape architecture from the University. "There's always a new reason to come back and go through it again."

"We've had [the Maze Garden] on the horizon for some time," says Sandy Tanck, interpretation and public programs manager. And now that it's a reality, "the maze is going to be a visitor favorite for a long time to come."

The Green Grump
The Green Grump by designer Marjorie Pitz is one of 15 art installations along the path to the new Maze Garden. Photo by Pauline Oo

An advantage to visiting the garden now--at least through September 30--is the Art To A-Maze juried exhibit. The 15 whimsical art installations that make up this exhibit will turn the experience of getting to the new permanent garden from the Oswald Visitor Center into an adventure that is as intriguing as the Maze Garden itself. (If you choose to drive to the maze, you'll miss out on sculptures such as the "Hand-Powered Fountain," "The Grotto of Narcissus," "Prayer Flags for Mother Nature," and "Chairology.")

The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum on Highway 5 in Chaska comprises 1,040 acres of gardens, plant collections, and natural landscapes, and is the largest public garden in the Upper Midwest. It is part of the U's College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resource Sciences. Admission is $7 for adults; free for children under 15.

Summer hours are Monday through Saturday 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For directions, see visitor information.