We are deeply grateful to the Heritage Collection Librarian of the Dunedin Public Libraries who provided material on the maze from two histories of the Dunedin Botanic Garden:
Paterson, G. (1970). The History and Development of the Dunedin Botanic Garden, 1863 to 1970. thesis, Thesis for the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture Examination.
Dunlop, E. (2002). The Story of the Dunedin Botanic Garden: New Zealand's First. Dunedin: Friends of the Dunedin Botanic Garden Inc.
The two sources have slightly differing accounts of the maze.
Paterson, writing about the year 1911, says “The first live maze in New Zealand was being formed at this time. The maze was sited uphill of Lindsays Creek within a wide U bend of the creek, but was but was shifted when the creek was realigned and the dog leg of the creek removed. Prior to 1940 it was shifted and replanted in the Upper Garden on a site between the Mexican Border and the Friendship Garden. The perimeter hedge still remains today after the interior maze was removed in 1947. Eleven hundred and seventy-five holly bushes had been grown and a total of 800 yards of ground was trenched and manured in preparation for receiving these plants which were planted at the time when the Arboretum was extended. Much of the Manuka and Kanuka scrub was cleared and over 400 specimen trees were planted.”
Dunlop says in his history of the Botanic Garden in a section entitled “The Maze”: “In June 1910 a maze was planted on the east side of Lindsay Creek near to Opoho Road occupying some 3,600 square yards (3,010 sq.m.), and planted with 1,175 hollies.” The illustration used by Dunlop identifies the species as Hex aquifolium – Holly.
"In his annual report David Tannock commented ‘This is probably the first live maze in the Dominion and should provide a considerable amount of innocent amusement in time to come.’ It was the winter of 1918 before this was opened to the public, and at that stage some children were able to find weak spots in the hedge and created holes trying to find their way out.”
“In 1923 Lindsay Creek was straightened where it entered the Garden to prevent the flooding which had occurred in parts of North East Valley. This made it necessary to remove the maze which was reinstated in the Upper Garden between the Mexican Border and the Friendship Garden. The interior maze was removed in 1947, but the perimeter hedge was still in existence in 1970.”
We learnt from the Duendin Botanic Garden that the remaining hedge of the maze has long since been removed. They thought this occurred sometime in the late 1960's but it might have been shortly after Paterson saw it in 1970. The remaining hedge was removed when there was a revamp of the nursery and construction of a new drive way around the daffodil lawn in the upper garden.
The maze is also briefly mentioned in a biography of David Tannock, the person in charge at the time it was conceived and built. “In February 1903 the Dunedin City Council appointed Tannock superintendent of reserves. On taking up the position in June he made a far-sighted report to the council, detailing how the Botanic Gardens and city reserves could be improved; when he retired, 37 years later, he had achieved all these initial aims and many more.”
“Training at Kew had given Tannock a clear vision of the nature and purpose of a botanic garden. In 1903 the Dunedin Botanic Gardens comprised little besides an acclimatisation reserve, arboretum, aviary, tree and shrub nursery and a propagating house. While Tannock never lost sight of his goal of establishing a true botanic garden, he designed all features to have wide public appeal. He recognised that recreational attractions such as the maze, aviary, band rotunda, deer pen, aquarium and tea kiosk would promote the gardens' popularity. His first major improvement was the winter garden in 1908 …. By the late 1920s the rock garden, rhododendron dell, azalea garden and New Zealand native plant collections had become nationally significant in size and diversity. Other features established or substantially extended by Tannock included the arboretum, rose garden, Shakespeare and knot gardens and various geographical collections.”
The map below shows the Dunedin Botanic Garden in 1912 with the original site of the maze clearly marked as "3".
36 Opoho Road
Availability: Hedge Maze no longer in existence. Gardens can be visited.
Phone: +64 3 477 4000
Getting there ...
More on this garden ...
Biography of David Tannock from Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand