Shakespeare garden

A Shakespeare garden is a themed garden that cultivates plants mentioned in the works of William Shakespeare. In English-speaking countries, particularly the United States, these are often public gardens associated with parks, universities, and Shakespeare festivals. Shakespeare gardens are sites of cultural, educational, and romantic interest and can be locations for outdoor weddings.

Signs near the plants usually provide relevant quotations. A Shakespeare garden usually includes several dozen species, either in herbaceous profusion or in a geometric layout with boxwood dividers. Typical amenities are walkways and benches and a weather-resistant bust of Shakespeare. Shakespeare gardens may accompany reproductions of Elizabethan architecture. Some Shakespeare gardens also grow species typical of the Elizabethan period but not mentioned in Shakespeare's plays or poetry.

Shakespeare garden
An illustration from Walter Crane's 1906 book, Flowers from Shakespeare's Garden: a Posy from the Plays


In January or February 1631 Sir Thomas Temple, 1st Baronet, of Stowe, was eager to send his man for cuttings from the grapevines at New Place, Stratford, the home of Shakespeare's retirement. Temple's surviving letter, however, makes no note of a Shakespeare connection: he knew the goodness of the vines from his sister-in-law, whose house was nearby.[1] The revival of interest in the flowers mentioned in Shakespeare's plays arose with the revival of flower gardening in the United Kingdom. An early document is Paul Jerrard, Flowers from Stratford-on-Avon (London 1852), in which Jerrard attempted to identify Shakespeare's floral references, in a purely literary and botanical exercise, such as those by J. Harvey Bloom (Shakespeare's Garden London:Methuen, 1903) or F.G. Savage, (The Flora and Folk Lore of Shakespeare Cheltenham:E.J. Burrow, 1923).[2] This parallel industry continues today.

A small arboretum of some forty trees mentioned by Shakespeare was planted in 1988 to complement the garden of Anne Hathaway's Cottage in Shottery, a mile from Stratford-on-Avon. "Visitors can sit on the specially designed bench, gaze at the cottage, press a button and listen to one of four Shakespearean sonnets read by famous actors," the official website informs the prospective visitor.[3] A live willow cabin made of growing willows, inspired by lines in Twelfth Night,[4] is another feature, and a maze of yew.

New Place, Stratford-on-Avon

The major Shakespeare garden is that imaginatively reconstructed by Ernest Law at New Place, Stratford-on-Avon, in the 1920s. He used a woodcut from Thomas Hill, The Gardiners Labyrinth (London 1586), noting in his press coverage when the garden was in planning stage, that it was "a book Shakespeare must certainly have consulted when laying out his own Knott Garden"[5] The same engraving was used in laying out the Queen's Garden behind Kew Palace in 1969. Ernest Law's, Shakespeare's Garden, Stratford-upon-Avon (1922), with photographic illustrations showing quartered plats in patterns outlined by green and grey clipped edgings, each centred by roses grown as standards, must have supplied impetus to many flower-filled revivalist Shakespeare's gardens of the 20s and 30s. For Americans, Esther Singleton produced The Shakespeare Garden (New York, 1931).[6] Singleton's and Law's plantings, as with most Shakespeare gardens, owed a great deal to the bountiful aesthetic of the partly revived but largely invented "English cottage garden" tradition dating from the 1870s.[7] Few attempts were made in revived garden plans to keep strictly to historical plants, until the National Trust led the way in the 1970s with a knot garden at Little Moreton Hall, Cheshire, and the restored parterre at Hampton Court Palace (1977).[8]

Recent developments

The conventions of Shakespeare Gardens were familiar enough in the 1920s that E.F. Benson sets the opening of Mapp and Lucia (1931) in the not-quite-recently widowed Lucia's "Perdita's Garden" at Riseholme, in words that epitomise Benson's dry touch:

"Perdita's garden requires a few words of explanation. It was a charming little square plot in front of the timbered façade of the Hurst, surrounded by yew-hedges and intersected with paths of crazy pavement, carefully smothered in stone-crop, which led to the Elizabethan sundial from Wardour Street in the centre. It was gay in spring with those flowers (and no others) on which Perdita doted. There were 'violets dim', and primroses and daffodils, which came before the swallow dared and took the winds (usually of April) with beauty.[9] But now in June the swallow had dared long ago, and when spring and the daffodils were over, Lucia always allowed Perdita's garden a wider, though still strictly Shakespearian scope. There was eglantine (Penzance briar) in full flower now, and honeysuckle and gillyflowers and plenty of pansies for thoughts, and yards of rue (more than usual this year), and so Perdita's garden was gay all the summer.
Here then, this morning, Lucia seated herself by the sundial, all in black, on a stone bench on which was carved the motto 'Come thou north wind, and blow thou south, that my garden spices may flow forth.' Sitting there with Pepino's poems and The Times she obscured about one-third of this text, and fat little Daisy would obscure the rest... "

Shakespeare's flora

The best known reference in Shakespeare of plants used for symbolic purposes, aside from passing mention, as in Romeo and Juliet, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."[10] is Ophelia's speech from Hamlet:

Ophelia: There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love,
remember. And there is pansies, that's for thoughts.
Laertes: A document in madness! Thoughts and remembrance fitted.
Ophelia: There's fennel for you, and columbines. There's rue for you,
and here's some for me. We may call it herb of grace o' Sundays.
O, you must wear your rue with a difference! There's a daisy. I
would give you some violets, but they wither'd all when my father
died. They say he made a good end.[11]

Shakespeare also uses plants for historic symbolism, such as the plucking of red and white roses in Henry VI, Part I to foreshadow the dynastic struggle known as the Wars of the Roses that would end the king's reign. All the plants Shakespeare names in his plays are mentioned in classical medical texts or medieval herbal manuals.[12]

Central Park

USA-NYC-Central Park-Shakespeare Garden
Shakespeare Garden in Central Park
USA-NYC-Central Park-Shakespeare Garden1
Shakespeare Garden in Central Park

An early Shakespeare garden was added in the anniversary year 1916[13] to Central Park, New York City. In honour of the Bard and the reading of literature, this area is one of eight designated Quiet Zones.[14]

It included a graft from a mulberry tree said to have been grafted from one planted by Shakespeare in 1602; that tree was cut down by Rev. Francis Gastrell, owner of New Place, however[15] The tree blew down in a summer storm in 2006 and was removed. This garden is located near the Delacorte Theater that houses the New York Shakespeare Festival. According to information available on the Central Park web pages, the Shakespeare Garden there does still contain some of the flowers and plants mentioned in his plays.


The rich weave of associations engendered by Shakespeare Gardens is exemplified in the Shakespeare Garden of Cleveland, Ohio,[16] where herb-bordered paths, converge on a bust of Shakespeare. The requisite mulberry tree was from a cutting sent by the critic Sir Sidney Lee, a slip said to be from a slip of the mulberry at New Place. Elms were planted by E. H. Sothen and Julia Marlowe, oaks by William Butler Yeats, and a circular bed of roses sent by the mayor of Verona, from the traditional tomb of Juliet, planted by Phyllis Neilson Terry, niece of Ellen Terry. Birnam Wood was represented by sycamore maples from Scotland. The sundial was Byzantine, presented by the Shakespearean actor, Robert Mantell. Jars planted with ivy and flowers were sent by Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Rabindranath Tagore— as the "Shakespeare of India"— and Sarah Bernhardt.

The Shakespeare Garden inaugural exercises took place on April 14th, 1916, the tercentenary year... E. H. Sothen and Julia Marlowe were guests of honor. After speeches of welcome by city officials and Mayor Harry L. Davis, the orchestra played selections from Mendelssohn's "Midsummer Night's Dream," and the Normal School Glee Club sang choral setting of "Hark, Hark, the Lark" and "Who Is Sylvia?" A group of high school pupils in Elizabethan costume escorted the guests to the garden entrance and stood guard during the planting of the dedicatory elms.... Miss Marlowe climaxed the proceedings by her readings of Perdita's flower scene from A Winter's Tale, the 54th Sonnet of Shakespeare, and verses from the Star Spangled Banner. Her leading of all present in the singing of the National Anthem brought the impressive event to a close."[16]

In later years the Cleveland Shakespeare Garden continued to be enriched at every Shakespearean occasion. Willows flanking the fountain were planted by William Faversham and Daniel Frohman. Vachel Lindsay planted a poplar and recited his own Shakespeare tribute. Novelist Hugh Walpole also planted a tree. Aline Kilmer, widow of the soldier poet, Joyce Kilmer, made a visit in 1919, and the actor, Otis Skinner and the humorist, Stephen Leacock. David Belasco came to plant two junipers.

List of Shakespeare gardens

Location Site Reference
Bethel Public Library, Bethel, Connecticut Public park or botanical garden [1]
Brookfield Shakespeare's Garden, Brookfield, Connecticut Public park or botanical garden [2]
Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, Brooklyn, New York Public park or botanical garden [3]
Misericordia University University or college campus [4]
Evanston, Illinois Public park or botanical garden [5]
Cleveland, Ohio Public park or botanical garden [6]
Johannesburg Botanical Garden, South Africa Public park or botanical garden [7]
Central Park, New York City Public park, Shakespeare festival [8]
International Rose Test Garden, Portland, Oregon Public park or botanical garden International Rose Test Garden
Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California Public park or botanical garden [9]
The Huntington, San Marino, California Public park or botanical garden [10]
Vienna, Austria Public park or botanical garden [11]
Herzogspark, Regensburg, Germany Public park or botanical garden
Wessington Springs, South Dakota Public park or botanical garden Archived 29 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
Moraine Valley Community College, Palos Hills, IL University or College Campus [12]
Illinois State University University or college campus [13]
Kilgore College University or college campus [14]
Naugatuck Valley Community College, Waterbury University or college campus [15]
Northwestern University University or college campus [16]
St. Norbert College University or college campus [17]
University College of the Fraser Valley University or college campus [18]
University of Massachusetts University or college campus [19]
The University of the South University or college campus [20]
University of South Dakota University campus [21]
Vassar College University or college campus [22]
Blount Cultural Park of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival Shakespeare festival [23]
Colorado Shakespeare Festival Shakespeare festival [24]
Illinois Shakespeare Festival Shakespeare festival [25]
Elizabethan Garden, Folger Shakespeare Library Public park or botanical garden [26]
The Elizabethan Herb Garden, Mellon Park, Pittsburgh, PA Public park or botanical garden [27]
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga University campus [28]
Shakespeare Garden in Cedar Brook Park, Plainfield, New Jersey, USA Public park or botanical garden. Operated by the Union County Park system, it was established in 1927. The Garden appears on the National Register of Historic Places. [29]
Shakespeare Garden in Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC, Canada Public park or botanical garden [17]

See also



  1. ^ Thomas Temple, "A Document Concerning Shakespeare's Garden" The Huntington Library Bulletin No. 1 (May 1931), pp. 199–201.
  2. ^ All noted by Karl P. Wentersdorf, "Hamlet: Ophelia's Long Purples" Shakespeare Quarterly 29.3 (Summer 1978, pp. 413–417) p. 414 note 10, and p 416 note 23.
  3. ^ Shakespeare Birthplace trust Archived 20 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ "Make me a willow cabin at your gate" (Act I, scene v).
  5. ^ Brent Elliott, "Historical Revivalism in the Twentieth Century: A Brief Introduction" Garden History 28.1 (Summer 2000, pp. 17–31) p 21
  6. ^ Eleanour Sinclair Rohde, Shakespeare's Wild Flowers (London: Medici Society 1935), combines two gardening interests, the Shakespeare garden and the "wild garden".
  7. ^ Jane Taylor and Andrew Lawson, The English Cottage Garden; Philip Edinger, Cottage Gardens: "In their lush celebration of color, form, and fragrance, the flower-filled cottage gardens we admire today are a far cry from their medieval English forebears..."
  8. ^ Elliott 2000:22.
  9. ^ "..."Daffodils,
    That come before the swallow dares, and take
    The winds of March with beauty; violets dim,
    But sweeter than the lids of Juno's eyes
    Or Cytherea's breath; pale primroses,
    That die unmarried, ere they can behold
    Bright Phœbus in his strength, a malady
    Most incident to maids; bold oxlips and
    The crown imperial; lilies of all kinds." (The Winter's Tale, IV,4)
  10. ^ Shakespeare, William (1 November 1997). "The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet" – via Project Gutenberg.
  11. ^ "Project Gutenberg".
  12. ^ Montgomery County, Maryland Department of Environmental Protection, site Archived 14 August 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  13. ^ The tricentennial of Shakespeare's death.
  14. ^ "8 Places to Find Peace and Quiet in Central Park - Central Park Your Complete Guide at".
  15. ^ An episode noted in James Boswell's, Life of Doctor Johnson.
  16. ^ a b Shakespeare Garden
  17. ^ Vancouver, City of (2016-06-01). "Gardens in Stanley Park". Retrieved 2018-02-08.


  • Ellacombe, Henry Nicholson (1884). The Plant-lore & Garden-craft of Shakespeare (2 ed.). London: W Satchell and Co. Retrieved 26 November 2014.
  • Shakespeare's Wild Flowers: Fairy Lore, Gardens, Herbs, Gatherers of Simples and Bee Lore by Eleanour Sinclair Rohde (London: The Medici Society, Ltd. Great Britain 1985)
  • Shakespeare's Flowers by Jessica Kerr (Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1969)
  • Fantastic Garlands: An Anthology of Flowers and Plants from Shakespeare by Lys de Bray (Blandford Press: Poole, Dorset 1982)
  • The Shakespeare Garden by Esther Singleton (William Farquhar Payson, New York, 1922, out of print)
  • The Flowers of Shakespeare by Doris Hunt (Webb & Bower Exeter, England, 1980)
  • The Renaissance Garden In England by Sir Roy Strong (Thames and Hudson Ltd, London 1979, republished 1998)
  • Shakespeare's Gardens by Jackie Bennett (Francis Lincoln Ltd in assoc with Shakespeare Birthplace Trust 2016)

External links

Media related to Shakespeare gardens at Wikimedia Commons

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