Shakespeare Garden


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

Jennifer Williams

 

Jennifer Williams is curator of the Shakespeare Garden, the Alice Recknagel Ireys Fragrance Garden, Bluebell Wood, Daffodil Hill, Celebrity Path, and the confer 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.

Shakespeare Garden. 2nd Season, 1926. ©1926 Louis Buhle. All rights reserved. For reproduction permission, contact library@bbg.org. To see more historic images of BBG, visit bbg.org/discover/historicimages/
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    • The Shakespeare Garden of BBG. Photo by Rebecca BulleneThe Shakespeare Garden of BBG. Photo by Rebecca Bullene
    • BBG's Shakespeare Garden in early autumn. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.BBG's Shakespeare Garden in early autumn. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.
    • BBG's Shakespeare Garden looking particularly lush and lovely in mid-May. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.BBG's Shakespeare Garden looking particularly lush and lovely in mid-May. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.
    • The Shakespeare Garden. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.The Shakespeare Garden. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.
    • The Shakespeare Garden. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.The Shakespeare Garden. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.
    • The Shakespeare Garden. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.The Shakespeare Garden. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.
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      • Prunus armerniaca in the Shakespeare Garden.
"Go bind thou up yon dangling Apricocks, which like unruly children, make their sire stoop with oppression of their prodigal weight." -Richard II, III, iv, 29.Prunus armerniaca in the Shakespeare Garden. "Go bind thou up yon dangling Apricocks, which like unruly children, make their sire stoop with oppression of their prodigal weight." -Richard II, III, iv, 29.
      • Dwarf Iris bloom in the Shakespeare GardenDwarf Iris bloom in the Shakespeare Garden
      • Crocus bloom. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.Crocus bloom. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.
      • Jasmine nudiflorumJasmine nudiflorum
      • Primula vulgaris commonly known as primrose, in the Shakespeare Garden.
"Primrose, first born child of Ver, merry spring time's harbinger." -The Two Noble Kinsmen, I, i, 7.Primula vulgaris commonly known as primrose, in the Shakespeare Garden. "Primrose, first born child of Ver, merry spring time's harbinger." -The Two Noble Kinsmen, I, i, 7.
      • Iris danfordiae in the Shakespeare Garden.Iris danfordiae in the Shakespeare Garden.
      • Aster laevis 'Blue Bird' blooms in the Shakespeare Garden. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.Aster laevis 'Blue Bird' blooms in the Shakespeare Garden. Photo by Rebecca Bullene.
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