What is a labyrinth?
A labyrinth is a meandering, usually winding, path leading to a central destination. The term ‘labyrinth’ is often considered to be interchangeable with ‘maze’, as the two appear closely related, however while mazes are designed to puzzle and challenge with alternate pathways and dead-ends, labyrinths are designed to facilitate reflection and transformation. Due to this, and their ability to be created in a small space, labyrinths can be a beneficial addition to a therapeutic garden.
Types of labyrinths
The design of a labyrinth can be flexible. Examples include the classical labyrinth, with the popular 7-circuit diagram; medieval labyrinths, with four quadrants; or contemporary labyrinths, incorporating other patterns including non-circular paths. A perching boulder in the centre of the labyrinth can offer a specific place to rest and reflect. The path of the labyrinth can be a turf or stone with another material such as gravel or mulch between, depending on the space available.
Benefits of labyrinths
Labyrinths provide users with an opportunity for quiet contemplation and reflection. They can be the focus of a garden, or a quiet retreat. Labyrinths offer an additional benefits to healing gardens, like this one created for grieving parents by landscape architect designer Claire Jones. In Christianity, they are thought to have been used as an alternative to holy pilgrimage.
Labyrinths for residential settings
Bespoke labyrinths in residential settings can offer a range of benefits depending on the needs of the user. The path can be hardscaped – for example, pavers – or as simple as mowing the grass to different heights. Path width can be determined by the space and user needs, and the space between used for growing plants, edible flowers or vegetables. In smaller spaces, for example, beans and peas can be grown on posts and fences separating the paths, saving space and offering goods for the kitchen at the same time. The minimum recommended space for a labyrinth is 8 metres across.
Labyrinths for healthcare settings
Healing gardens are a wonderful addition to healthcare settings, and offer patients a space to relax and recuperate away from the sterile healthcare environment. A labyrinth could provide a calm setting for a meditative experience, however, as discussed by Naomi Sachs in her blog post Labyrinths for Healthcare: Approach with Caution, many needs must be taken into consideration and a labyrinth may ultimately not be appropriate feature for the setting.
Thinking of creating a labyrinth in your garden?
Contact us today to plan a unique space for contemplation in your garden.