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"Roses grow best on heavy clay soils with lots of organic matter helping to keep the surface roots moist and wet!"

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Longleat, what does that spring to mind?

Well usually lions, tigers, and other wild African beasts. In case you didn't already know, Longleat is world famous for it's large safari park. But what you may not appreciate, until you actually go there, is it also has some very interesting and splendid gardens. Hence the reason for my visit! Unlike many other stately homes, who just have beautiful period gardens to go along with their beautiful period house, Longleat has some very interesting and original features. Both in the house, and in the gardens. But obviously, me being a gardener, I'm going to concentrate on the ones in the gardens. Firstly, there's the Butterfly Garden contained in an old orangery. Not you may say strictly a garden feature, but nevertheless it's very beautiful and of interest to gardeners. Then there's the main attractions, for me at least, the five mazes, for which Longleat is also world renown. Let's start with King Arthur's Mirror Maze, which may not technically be a garden feature, as it's housed inside, but what the heck, it's great fun! This maze was opened in 1998 and as it's name suggests it's all about Knights Of The Round Table, Excalibur and the Holy Grail. There are even thunderstorms and lightening! Next, there's the Love Labyrinth, inspired by the Garden Of Love in Villandry, France, as well as Bottocelli's painting Primarera! I told you this garden was different, didn't I? Although this maze is constructed in a traditional Parterre style, with box hedging, the symbols and patterns made are anything but traditional! The most obvious ones are the four giant hearts and the female lips, but there are many more. Over 1300 Rose bushes have been planted who's names reflect the romantic theme, such as, Seduction, Sleeping Beauty, First Kiss and Irresistible! As you walk through the maze you are expected to kiss your partner when you pass under each heart-shaped arch, and at the exit path you leave hand-in-hand straddling the final length of hedge! So avoid this one if you've just had words! Now, on to most people's idea of "a proper maze". This one's called, and no doubt is "The World's Longest Hedge Maze". It was laid out in 1975 from 16,000 English Yew plants. So by now it's had lots of time become mature, and let us all get lost in it! This maze is the one that would certainly be a challenge to any gardener with his or her pair of shears! Especially as it's about 8 foot tall and runs for nearly 2 miles! So obviously I just had to find out more about how they physically maintain it. For instance, do they send one man in there with a pair of shears a damn great ball of string and a very good map, or a radio to call up helicopter assistance, or what? So I called up Karen in Longleat's Public Relations Department, and she went and investigated for me. It transpires that the maze man is Clive›Eggleton. He along with two or three assistants goes into the maze and trims it by hand, using petrol powered hedge trimmers, no not your actual hand shears, over a period of three months, during July, August and September. And our Clive has such a knowledge of the maze, that he doesn't need a map! As the top of the hedge is 1.8 miles long and there are two sides to do as well, that's over five miles of hedge to cut! Finally, there's the Sun Maze and the Lunar Labyrinth. These two mazes have been constructed below the Marquess of Bath's private apartments, which look out onto lawns, a lake and the landscape beyond. As you've probably guessed the mazes feature themes referring back to Cretan and Minoan mythology! With Minators, Icarus and all sorts. The Sun maze and the Lunar Labyrinth are for those real maze afficionados who are into the philosophy of the thing, rather that regular gardeners like you and me, who just like 'em as garden features. Saying all that though, they're still lots of fun and beautiful too! So all in all I'd thoroughly recommend Longleat for a visit. If the kids›/ partner are bored rigid by gardens, then they can always explore the rest of the attractions available. The safari park, pets corner, the railway, the Doctor Who exhibition, etc, while you indulge your gardening passions! › Enjoy! The Organic Garden Doctor







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