Garden Photo of the Day

A Wildflower Labyrinth

A native-plant take on an ancient design

Today’s photos come from Eric Kimbrel.

Here is a photo of the Wildflower Labyrinth where I work at Southern Highlands Reserve in Lake Toxaway, North Carolina.

The Southern Highlands Reserve is a 120-acre native plant arboretum and research center that not only displays plants but also conserves them—for example, by growing red spruce (Picea rubens, Zone 3–8) on site and getting them to mountaintops on which they are or were located in the past.

The landscape was designed by Gary Smith and consists of many garden “rooms.” One of those is the Wildflower Labyrinth. This labyrinth design is one of the original ancient designs, with a quarter-mile path to the center, where there is a granite circular bench. The plants create an organized meadow of Baptisia, black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta, Zones 3–7), lobelia, cut-leaf coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata, Zones 4–9), mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum, Zones 4–8), Hypericum, Carex pensylvanica (Zones 3–8), switchgrass (Panicum virgatum, Zones 4–9), little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium, Zones 3–9), and Indian paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea, Zones 4–8).

Wildflower LabyrinthThe labyrinth from above on a day in March. A garden labyrinth isn’t a maze; rather, it is a single winding path that you walk slowly as a form of meditation or prayer. Many were created in medieval cathedrals. This is a beautiful version, created outside using native plants. You can see that the grasses have been left standing over the winter. Leaving grasses and other perennials standing over the winter rather than cutting them back in the fall is a great way to provide valuable habitat for all sorts of native insects that hibernate in the stems and under the leaves of perennials.

The same view, later on the same day. Look closely, and where the grasses were you can see ash. Lots of our native grassland species are adapted to burn regularly.

In May, the labyrinth has come alive with lush greenery.

By August, the labyrinth is alive with flowers. The yellow is from the black-eyed Susans.

When you reach the center of the labyrinth, this bench is there to provide a spot to sit and enjoy the experience and the native plants around you.


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View Comments


  1. LauraJaneS 11/18/2019

    How interesting; thank you for sharing. I'd love to have a wander through that :)

  2. mjtrusz 11/18/2019

    I love the naturalness of it, using native plants and leaving seed heads and stems through the seasons. Thank you for sharing such a natural beauty.

  3. garden1953 11/18/2019

    Wow! This is so awesome. If I'm ever in NC this would be #1 on my list of places to visit. Thanks for sharing and lucky you for working there.

  4. User avater
    meander_michaele 11/18/2019

    Quite an interesting and impressive undertaking...esp. on this scale. As much as I'd love to walk through it as the adult that I am, it's be amazing to see and experience it as a child.

  5. User avater
    treasuresmom 11/18/2019

    Eric, I love how you show the maze through time.

  6. cheryl_c 11/18/2019

    I love these photos, and hope that you might send more, from ground level and of other parts of the park. I did a search and found out more about it- fascinating. Thanks so much for opening our eyes to this place!

  7. Cenepk10 11/18/2019

    So cool !!!! I’ve always wanted to do a version on that.

  8. btucker9675 11/18/2019

    Thank you for sharing this awesome place - would love to walk that beautiful labyrinth. What a wonderful job you have!

  9. wittyone 11/18/2019

    What a wonderful, beautiful idea.

  10. User avater
    AnnaMartinez 11/19/2019


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