Grow a Shakespeare Garden

Craft a garden inspired by the plays and poems of the bard himself — William Shakespeare — with a look back on history and a few helpful hints.

| Summer 2019

The ‘Ophelia’ rose cultivar is a pale, soft pink.
Photo by Flickr/Swallowtail Garden Seeds

William Shakespeare’s scripts and sonnets are strewn with plant imagery — flowers, trees, orchards, meadows, and herbs. In his works, women’s lips are compared to roses; gardeners give political speeches; and herbs are used as symbols of characters’ personality traits.

The Bard clearly knew a lot about plants and horticulture and respected the natural world. Having grown up in the countryside, Shakespeare can be assumed to have had some gardening experience. More than that, during the 16th century — and specifically the reign of Elizabeth I, when he was writing — gardening was the newest craze. The upper-middle classes and aristocracy installed private gardens on their properties and filled them with fragrant flowers, healing herbs, and decorative topiaries, all arranged in elegant, cohesive designs. Shakespeare and his audience understood plants and their appeal, and today, Shakespeare inspires many gardeners.

Shakespeare Garden Central Park, New York City
Photo by Getty Images/johnandersonphoto

Shakespeare-themed gardens are fairly common. Most are public, located in large parks or historic landmarks, and designed to include plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays and poetry in Elizabethan layouts. However, using a few simple ideas, you could create a personal Shakespeare garden. Here are a few suggestions to help you design an Elizabethan garden in your own backyard and fill it with plants of which the Bard would approve.

Elizabethan Garden Design

The Elizabethan garden was an intimate space, closed off from the outside world. You, too, can create a wonderful private world of your own with just a few easy additions to the edges of your garden: Use hedges, walls, or trellises with vining plants growing up them to define the garden. Benches and décor can also be placed strategically around the perimeter of your plot to create the feel of a closed-in space.



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