Monday, 1 June 2009

Lose Yourself at Levens Hall

Living Willow Supporting ImageLevens Hall’s world famous topiary garden has celebrated three centuries of trimming and training trees with a new twist – a ‘Living Labyrinth’!

Over four thousand willow rods, four metres long were snatched from the jaws of a biomass boiler this winter. Reprieved and relocated, they are now rooting in, shooting out, and growing into impenetrable green screens.

Woven into sinuous swirls and spirals, this is no square cut maze with defeating dead ends. Instead, it follows the organic, fluid form and continuous curves of the ancient labyrinth.

It is no simple task to reach the secret space at its heart…. Dare you take the challenge, test your skills and sense of direction? Will you spin successfully to its centre or, befuddled and bemused, end up back on the outside?

Head Gardener, Chris Crowder says, “We had great fun making it, and our visitors love it. It’s the ultimate in eco-entertainment – a home for birds, bees, bugs and bunnies, and of course an occasional lost soul seeking that elusive exit….”

The low-down on the labyrinth...

Two gardeners took two months to create the puzzle of pathways, weaving rods vertically, horizontally and diagonally together to create over 500 metres of ‘fedging’- a cross between fencing and hedging.

Amazingly, the long thin willow sticks root when pushed down into wet winter soil. They then send out masses of fresh green shoots in spring.

This extremely vigorous willow, Salix viminalis, grows up to 4 metres a year and the prunings are used as ecologically friendly, carbon neutral fuel in wood burning boilers.

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