How to Build a Labyrinth & Pollinator Garden in the Backyard

So when we first moved in, there was a “feature” in the backyard we called weed mountain. At one point we paid a guy to come and haul the hill away and leave it as flat land, but I didn’t find the time to properly plant it and finish it off, so the weeds grew back. And there it sat for another year.

So I had this idea of building a labyrinth – nothing too fancy with hedges or anything – just a simple path in a quiet area of the garden. The bottom corner of the garden is about 100′ from the house and so is about as far from bickering children as I can get, not that they’re so bad. 🙂 I also really want a butterfly garden, so decided the labyrinth could also double as an organic butterfly  & pollinator garden.

How We Did It

Before we got started, the situation was pretty dire – it’s nothing much to look at – here’s spring 2014 just before we started:

Labrynth - Before
Labrynth area – Before

We started by turning over all the dirt in the area. It’s 25’x25′ and that’s 625 sq feet so hubby got enlisted to help :). There were so many weeds that it was a waste of time to pick them all. The ground was saturated with weed seeds. So instead of digging them out, or completely replacing the dirt, we decided to use the newspaper method to smother the weeds and create a workable bed.

To do this, we lined the entire dug-over area with newspaper. The purpose of this is to starve the existing weed roots and seeds of light and resources so they are smothered and can’t grow back. This speeds up getting rid of the weeds and reduces the amount of weeding we have to do later.

Laying newspaper to prepare the labrynth beds
Laying newspaper to smother the existing weeds and create good labrynth beds

Once the entire bed was covered a few sheets thick with newspaper, we started wheelbarrowing in dirt. Lots of dirt. 5 cubic yards of dirt. That’s over 60 wheelbarrow trips of dirt. I absolutely earned the 2 beers I had doing this. Plus we added a few bags of composted manure and lots of peat moss mixed in at intervals. It took 3 days to put the newspaper in and move all the dirt.

By the time the roots of the new plantings start bumping against the newspaper, the paper should be beginning to degrade.

Once the bed was built and raked out, we lined it with a black plastic bed liner to help separate it from the “grass” on the outside of the Labyrinth. We also laid out the beginning of the labyrinth path.

Beginning the Labyrinth path
Beginning the Labyrinth path

Once the beginning of the path was put in, we planted the centerpiece of the Labyrinth – an American Mountain Ash tree, also called a Rowan tree. This is a native tree that flowers in the spring and produces bright orange berries for the birds in the fall, along with pretty fall colour. It matures to around 20-25 feet tall and around 15′ wide.

I don’t believe the tree will make it to those power lines you see behind the fence. I’m guessing the lines are about 30′ away and maybe 20′ up. The fence is 9′ high. With it’s mature oval shape, it shouldn’t reach the power lines. The tree would need to grow to be around 60′ wide to reach the power lines (30′ on each side of the trunk).  The Rowan is expected to grow 15′ wide at maturity, and it will have space to grow 25′ before it ever reaches either fence. So we shouldn’t have the hydro guys hacking at our tree in the future.

American Mountain Ash at the center of the Labyrinth
American Mountain Ash at the center of the Labyrinth

Once the tree was planted, we started to plant everything else in the Labyrinth and began to mulch everything. How it looked on June 10th, 2014:

Labyrinth Plants for Pollinator Garden
Labyrinth Plants for Pollinator Garden

Since the Labyrinth is intended to be a pollinator and butterfly garden, we planted:

  • Milkweed – Asclepias Incarnata “Ice Ballet”
  • Blackeyed Susans “City Garden”
  • Salvia / Sage
  • Maltese Cross
  • Asters
  • Potentilla Arc en Ciel
  • Yew bushes
  • Artemesia
  • Echinacea
  • Self-Heal
  • Gaillardia / Blanketflower / Mexican Sunflower
  • Irish Moss
  • Jupiters’ Beard
  • Creeping Thyme
  • Evening Primrose “Siskiyou”
  • Creeping Speedwell
  • Lemon Verbena (annual)

Everything grew in nicely, here’s a shot a month later on July 25th

Labyrinth Butterfly Garden
Labyrinth Butterfly Garden

From a different angle:

Labrynth Pollinator Garden
Labrynth Pollinator Garden

On Aug 4th, we set up a little sitting area  near the Labyrinth to enjoy watching the butterflies and bees coming to the garden.

Watching the butterflies from the labyrinth sitting area
Watching the butterflies from the labyrinth sitting area

You can even see it from space now, on Google Maps, which is neat

Our Labyrinth on Google Maps
Our Labyrinth on Google Maps, oddly Google caught this the day we rented a bouncy castle

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