This charming garden in the English cottage-garden style exhibits plants mentioned in the Bard's poems and plays. More than 80 of the plants mentioned in the works of Shakespeare grow here, with spring bulbs being the first to appear as the winter wanes. Common or Shakespearean names, the botanical name, references for relevant quotations and, in some cases, a graphic representation of the plant, are displayed on labels.
A special donation from Henry C. Folger, founder of the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., funded the construction of the original Shakespeare Garden in 1925. Located in the south field of the Children's Garden, it comprised a collection of herbs, flowers, shrubs, and trees flanking a flagstone path. A wooden bench nestling among the greenery completed the peaceful setting.
Over the years, the surrounding Austrian pines shaded out the garden, and in 1979 it was relocated to its present site. An oval brick path, lined on either side with flower beds, leads into the garden, and a teak bench and fountain help create the atmosphere of an English cottage garden of Elizabethan times.
Jennifer Williams is curator of the Shakespeare Garden, the Alice Recknagel Ireys Fragrance Garden, Bluebell Wood, Daffodil Hill, Celebrity Path, and the conifer collection. Born and raised in the South, Jennifer received a BFA from the University of Georgia and pursued drawing, painting, and filmmaking before joining BBG as an intern in 1998. She then served as a member of the grounds crew before moving to the Steinhardt Conservatory, where she specialized in interior display and design. Her background in art has come in handy through the years as she has designed plant exhibits, seasonal containers, and permanent landscapes, including the Washington Avenue Woodland Garden renovation and her current gardens.
In the plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare nature is interwoven with literary genius, providing graphic glimpses into the history and lifestyles of the Elizabethans. Familiar flowers and herbs were used to develop a mood, set the stage and convey the essence of a moral or idea. ''
“ ‘Tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus. Our bodies are our gardens, to which our wills are gardeners; so that if we will plant nettles or sow lettuce, set hyssop and weed up thyme, supply it with one gender of herbs or distract it with many—either to have it sterile with idleness or manured with industry —why, the power and corrigible authority of this lies in our wills.”
Othello, I, 3.