Hedge mazes evolved from the knot gardens of Renaissance Europe, and were first constructed during the mid-16th century. These early mazes were constructed from evergreen herbs, but, over time, dwarf box became a more popular option due to its robustness. Italian architects had been sketching conceptual garden labyrinths as early as 1460, and hundreds of mazes were constructed in Europe between the 16th and 18th centuries.
Initially, the hedge maze was not intended to confuse, but to provide a unicursal walking path. Puzzle-like hedge mazes featuring dead ends and tall hedges arrived in England during the reign of King William III of England. It was possible to get lost in the much-admired labyrinth of Versailles, built for Louis XIV of France in 1677 and destroyed in 1778. This maze was adorned with thirty-nine hydraulic sculpture groups depicting Aesop's fables. The oldest surviving puzzle hedge maze, at Hampton Court Palace in Surrey, England, was built for King William in the late 17th century. Its distinctive trapezoidal shape is due to pre-existing paths running alongside the maze.
In modern times, hedge mazes have increased in complexity. A hedge maze at Longleat House in Wiltshire, England, designed in 1978, features a three-dimensional maze that uses bridges and a grid-less layout to confuse visitors.
- Jack Torrance, the primary villain in the film The Shining, freezes to death after getting lost in a hedge maze whilst chasing his son to kill him (in the novel he dies in an explosion).
- In the episode Hat Trick of the television show Once Upon a Time, the Mad Hatter uses his hat to transport the Evil Queen to Wonderland where they must pass through the Queen of Heart's hedge maze.
- In the Disney animated film Alice in Wonderland, Alice attempts to escape the Queen of Hearts by running through a hedge maze.
- In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the final event of the Tri-Wizard Tournament is a magical hedge maze.
- In The Shinning, a parody of The Shining from The Simpsons episode Treehouse of Horror V, Bart cuts a new path through the hedge maze, rather than complete it fairly.
Notable hedge mazes
- Blackpool Pleasure Beach, England, has a maze, though only part is constructed from hedges.
- Blenheim Palace, England
- Castlewellan, Northern Ireland, world's largest permanent hedge maze
- Chatsworth House, England
- Disneyland Paris has a hedgemaze in Alice's Curious Labyrinth, an Alice in Wonderland themed area.
- The Garden Maze at Luray Caverns, Luray, VA
- The Governor's Palace Maze in Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg, VA
- Hampton Court Maze, England
- Kaeser Memorial Maze, Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
- Leeds Castle, England
- Longleat, England
- Saffron Walden, Essex, England
- Schönbrunn Palace, Austria
- Villa Vizcaya, Miami, FL
- Fisher, Adrian (2004). Mazes & Follies. Jarrold Publishing.
- Wright, Craig M. (2001). The maze and the warrior: symbols in architecture, theology and music. The President and Fellows of Harvard College.
- MacQueen, Gailand (2005). The Spirituality Of Mazes And Labyrinths. Wood Lake Publishing Inc. ISBN 1896836690. Retrieved October 8, 2012.
- Media related to Hedge mazes at Wikimedia Commons