Mazes and labyrinths have fascinated people from before the dawn of history. The legendary labyrinth beneath the Palace of Knossos on the island of Crete, in which the hero Theseus killed the Minotaur, is perhaps the best known of the early mazes.
Other mazes were made by the people of northern Europe, perhaps to confuse evil spirits or symbolically thread the difficult path of life. The hedge maze reached its zenith as a form in Renaissance England, more as a device for entertainment than serious purpose. The most famous was built by Cardinal Wolsley at Hampton Court.
Today VanDusen Garden in Vancouver, Canada carries on the tradition with one of only six Elizabethan hedge mazes in North America. The maze is made of 3,000 pyramidal cedars – Thuja occidentalis ‘Fastigiata’ to be specific – all planted in the autumn of 1981 and slowly grown into the form of the maze one finds today.
Named for local lumber magnate and philanthropist Whitford Julian VanDusen, the gardens are run jointly by the Vancouver Park Board and a non-profit volunteer association. They are open to the public every day of the year except Christmas. In addition to the maze, the gardens cover 55 acres and display plants from around the world.
There is an observation terrace from which the less adventuresome visitor can view the maze and the struggles of its confused occupants.