Central park shakespeare garden

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“Shakespeare Garden” by eilypily

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A rather less-frequented attraction of the park, the Shakespeare Garden is the perfect place for a relaxing afternoon in Central Park. Stroll along its winding paths amidst the lovely seasonal flora, which is particularly vibrant and lush in the springtime. Due to its serene and romantic atmosphere, the Garden is also a popular spot for weddings.

The Garden covers four acres of plants that change according to season. Included among these are rosemary and pansies – alluded to by Ophelia in Hamlet; thistle – mentioned in the play Much Ado About Nothing; and even a white mulberry tree that is said to have grown from a graft of a tree planted by Shakespeare himself in 1602. Bronze plaques with corresponding quotations from Shakespeare’s plays have been placed sporadically along the pathways to help identify the various species of plants.

Many “Shakespeare Gardens” were created out of reverence for the bard, and they can be found throughout locations in both the US and Britain. Central Park’s Shakespeare Garden was formerly known as the “Garden of the Heart” and was renamed in 1916 to mark the 300th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. Following in the tradition of the other already established gardens, it was filled with the beautiful plants and flowers mentioned in the works of the playwright, as well as those featured in Shakespeare’s own private garden in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Shakespeare Garden is located near the Delacorte Theatre, the site of the annual “Shakespeare in the Park” series held in the summer.

Map This Location

Secrets of Shakespeare Garden

Tucked away on the west side of Central Park between 79th and 80th Streets is Shakespeare Garden. Named for poet and playwright William Shakespeare, the Garden is designed to evoke the Bard’s native English countryside. Featuring hundreds of plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s works, this four-acre landscape surprises and delights visitors each season.

Discover hundreds of plants mentioned in William Shakespeare’s poems and plays, bronze plaques that feature Shakespearean quotes, and rustic benches and railings throughout Shakespeare Garden (West Side between 79th and 80th Streets).

History of Shakespeare Garden

Dedicated on April 23, 1916, the tricentennial of Shakespeare’s death, Shakespeare Garden was originally conceived as a place for children to learn about nature. Former NYC Parks Commissioner Charles B. Stover initiated the idea for the Garden, which was brought to life by Dr. Edmond Bronk Southwick, an entomologist with an office in the adjacent Swedish Cottage. Dr. Southwick transformed this rocky terrain — just southwest of the Great Lawn — into a thriving, beloved garden.

Over the years, care for the Garden shifted to various groups and NYC Parks. In the late 1980s, the Conservancy restored the Garden, extending it to nearby Belvedere Castle, adding meandering paths and constructing and installing rustic benches and railings.

Shakespeare Garden features tulips, crocuses, daffodils, fritillaries, anemones, hellebores, roses, and several other flower varieties each spring.

Why it’s a spring destination

Shakespeare Garden is now home to hundreds of flowers, bushes, and trees that attract butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, and other wildlife. The Garden has become an early spring destination because of its ever-expanding collection of “minor bulbs.” Though these plants are mostly miniature, they are planted in large quantities to provide sheets of color.

This spring, expect to find a new display of daffodils, tulips, fritillaries, and anemones designed by Conservancy Zone Gardener Larry Boes. (That’s in addition to the other plants you’ll find throughout the year in the Garden, including lilies, roses, crocuses, black-eyed Susans, hellebores, and many others.) “There’s something blooming in Shakespeare Garden every day of the year,” Larry says. “Even if it’s under the snow, the hellebores or snowdrops might be blooming.”

With its rustic seating and abundant blooms that attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and other wildlife, Shakespeare Garden is the perfect spot for quiet reflections or a romantic date.

Must-see spots in the Garden

In addition to beautiful blooms, there are various views and spots in the Garden that even lifelong visitors can appreciate. Did you know the Garden features a working sundial and a curved bench with a special feature that makes it perfect for a date? Don’t miss these unique attractions.

  • The Charles B. Stover Bench, also known as the Whisper Bench, is perfect for a moment of reflection and sweeping views of the Garden. This curved bench gets its nickname from this fun trick: whisper into one corner of the bench, and the sound of your voice will travel to the other side for only one other person to hear. It’s on one of the most elevated parts of the Garden, and from here, you can also see the Delacorte Theater, the summer home to the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park.
  • Are you a movie or theater buff? Look for the rustic bench with a plaque dedicated to Richard Burton, a Shakespearean actor who portrayed Hamlet on Broadway in 1964, and Philip Burton, a theater director and Richard’s guardian and mentor. It’s on the east side of the Garden, just steps from Belvedere Castle.
  • As you explore, look for 10 small bronze plaques that feature Shakespearean quotes referencing horticulture. Can you find them all? Keep an eye out for the Garden’s bronze and cast stone sundial as well. Dedicated in 1945, it does work — but don’t forget that it’s set to standard, not daylight savings, time!

Look for the rustic bench in this four-acre landscape that’s dedicated to Shakespearean actor Richard Burton and his guardian and mentor, Philip Burton.

Tips for visiting

No matter when you stop by, you’re bound to find something new — Conservancy gardener Larry Boes explains that the Garden has many regulars who visit frequently, even daily. “It’s a small-scale garden and I like the challenge of making it different every year so people want to come back,” he says.

Visiting with kids? Download our free Discovery Journal for Shakespeare Garden. If you want to explore the Garden from home, watch our Facebook Live video showcasing the Garden’s colorful blooms last spring.

Shakespeare Garden

One of the many hidden gems of Central Park, the Shakespeare Garden is a lovely spot to “stop and smell the roses”.

Nestled between Belvedere Castle and The Swedish Cottage the garden first came into existence in 1913. Known as the Garden of the Heart it was patterned after Victorian era rock gardens. Then, in 1916, to celebrate the tercentennial of Shakespeare’s death, it was rechristened in honor of the Bard and only plants mentioned in his plays were planted there. These include columbine, primrose, wormwood, quince, lark’s heel, rue, eglantine, flax and cowslip, many of which sound as if they would be right at home boiling and bubbling in a cauldron.

Weeds are shallow-rooted, Suffer them now, and they’ll o’ergrow the garden, And choke the herbs for want of husbandry.
William Shakespeare: King Henry the Sixth, Part II (Queen Margaret at III, i)

This quote could have easily applied to Central Park’s Shakespeare Garden by the mid-1970’s. After years of neglect due to budget constraints and general disinterest the Garden had become run down and overgrown. Then in 1975 a group of volunteers stepped in and started to bring the garden back to its former glory. In 1986 the rescue of the garden was complete as a full restoration was undertaken funded by Samuel and May Rudin. The garden was replanted and expanded upward towards Belvedere Castle. The Shakespeare Garden is once again a popular attraction in the park and the perfect place to ruminate after a performance in the nearby Delacorte Theater.

Location: West Side between 79th and 80th Streets

Shakespeare Garden, New York City: Hours, Address, Shakespeare Garden Reviews: 4.5/5

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Shakespeare Garden in Central Park

Even in the world’s largest cities you can still find natural beauty and quiet serenity.

The Shakespeare Garden in Central Park is a good example. Just blocks from New York City’s busy streets, this delightful, four-acre garden has stone walkways, old-fashioned herbs, exuberant flowers and even apples, all dedicated to William Shakespeare. Come along on an early-September tour of this hidden gem.

Located on the West Side of Central Park, between 79th and 80th streets, the Shakespeare Garden has a history almost worthy of a Shakespeare sonnet.

If you like drama, you could even say this garden has experienced its share of love, loss and redemption.

Love

The garden’s story began in the 1880s, when park commissioner George Clausen asked Central Park’s entomologist to create a garden near the nature study center in the Swedish Cottage.

On our visit in September 2015, we found this historic building to be a pleasant setting to enjoy an iced coffee under the trees.

Commissioner Gaynor dedicated the garden to Shakespeare in 1913, according to the Central Park Conservancy.

In 1916, during the 300th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, the garden was renamed the Shakespeare Garden as a tribute of love to the English poet and playwright. It was to become America’s first Shakespeare garden, and would eventually inspire other gardens across the nation.

Loss

As with much of Central Park, the Shakespeare Garden fell into disrepair by the mid-1970s.

The historic garden could have disappeared completely, and the story would have ended here without the generosity and love of volunteers and private donations.

Redemption

In 1987, the history of the Shakespeare Garden took a fortunate turn. The Central Park Conservancy restored and expanded the garden.

The paths were repaved, and rustic wooden benches were added, along with bronze plaque with Shakespeare quotations.

Our informal tour of the Shakespeare Garden took place in the first week of September 2015, nearly thirty years later.

The weather was still quite warm, and the flowers were buzzing with pollinators. I was glad to be here, away from the crowds and street noises for a moment.

The garden was a riot of colors and scents on this Indian summer day. The flowers reached up to our waists or higher, as they swayed in the gentle breeze.

Many flowers in the garden are said to have grown during Shakespeare’s time. A rustic trellis made from tree branches added support to climbing vines in this charming scene.

Phlox! Always a pleasure…

A massive planting of coleus, sweet potato vines and ornamental grasses gave a colorful, contemporary look to a side garden bed.

A shade garden near the Swedish cottage turned a spotlight on the striking beauty of foliage.

The next time you’re in New York, take a break and lose yourself in this delightful urban garden, before rushing off to watch a free summer Shakespeare play at the nearby Delacorte Theatre. You’ll be glad you did.

Learn More

Shakespeare Garden on Central Park Conservancy’s website with Marcia Gay Harden interview

High Line Takes Root in New York City

Ceremony Locations ” Shakespeare Garden

Weddings in Shakespeare Garden

Shakespeare Garden is located near W 81st Street entrance to the park. It derives its name from the fact that the designer, Dr. Edmond Bronk Southwick, was an avid reader of Shakespeare. He planted flowers and other plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s writings.

The garden’s diverse array of plants, including columbine, primrose, wormwood, quince, lark’s heel, rue, eglantine, flax and cowslip, are accompanied by small plaques featuring quotes from Shakespearean works that reference the garden’s flowers.
— NYC Parks

The two acre garden is set on a hill, with a path that winds around to the south side, up the hill, to a stone landing which is the perfect spot for a private wedding ceremony. Others have chosen to have their wedding right in the garden itself, or at the top of a wooden staircase from the base of the garden.

Shakespeare Garden, Descending the Stairs :: Steve WorthShakespeare Garden, Bride and Dad at the top of the stairs :: Steve WorthShakespeare Garden, Walking through the Garden :: Steve WorthShakespeare Garden, Entering the Garden :: Kira Yustak Shakespeare Garden, Ceremony on the Stone Terrace area :: Steve Worth Shakespeare Garden, Walking down the Garden perimeter :: Steve Worth Shakespeare Garden, Ceremony in Progress at Top of Gardens :: Steve Worth

If you are interested in having your wedding in Shakespeare Garden, please have a look at our package, tips for planning your wedding in Central Park, and contact us to check availability for your date!

Garden of Shakespeare’s Flowers

You may have read Romeo and Juliet in high school or viewed the modern adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays across the silver screen, but have you ever witnessed the colorful outburst of various blooms that have illustrated the famous lines of the Bard? Located in Golden Gate Park, Shakespeare’s Flowers takes after the themed garden spread of plants and flowers mentioned within the works of William Shakespeare. Often, examples of such an attraction are cultivated in parks, universities, and by locations where annual Shakespeare festivals are held.

There are more than 200 flowers and plants situated at the Shakespeare’s Flowers location. Transporting visitors into the pages of historic comedies, tragedies, and sonnets, bronze plagues engraved with notable quotations accompany the floral arrangements. It is here that guests congregate to admire and absorb the cultural and educational significance of the garden. Shakespeare’s Flowers is also a popular place to hold an outdoor wedding as the romantic scene of calming green and colorful displays of nature intensify the warm surroundings.

Exploring the Garden of Shakespeare’s Flowers

Upon stepping inside the intricately designed gate of Shakespeare’s Flowers, a sundial soon greets you along a path fashioned from brick. Continuing down the walkway, towards the left, a chart of the garden contents identifies the various types of plants that dance about the pages of Shakespeare’s works. Throughout the garden, a variety of benches provide the perfect place to rest your feet and take in the sights. Many visitors come with their collection of plays and become completely submersed in the tranquility and comfort that the garden presents.

As you move to the farthest end inside of the garden, a locked box set inside a brick wall beckons your curiosity. Surrounding the scene are six panels of bronze, where contained in the box, a bust of William Shakespeare resides. There are only two in existence and can be observed with the say-so of park officials. Until then, you will just have to read the panels, which contain floral quotations donated by an array of cultural associations from the area.

Brief History of Shakespeare’s Flowers

While the garden paying tribute to William Shakespeare is often called, “Shakespeare Garden” (among other names), the California Spring Blossom and Wildflower Association originally established it as the Garden of Shakespeare’s Flowers. With a history dating back to 1928, the garden was the brainchild of Alice Eastwood, who served as the long-running director of botany for the Academy of Sciences. Inside the garden, a stone bench was placed in her honor, located close to the back of the grounds.

Straight From Shakespeare

Flowers and plants played an important tool of imagery throughout Shakespeare’s literary masterpieces. While some of the blooms are rather recognizable, others are not too familiar. Below are a few quotes from some of Shakespeare’s works that detail his affinity for the use of blooms throughout his plays and sonnets:

a) Poppy and Mandrake: The poppy has been seen as both a symbol for death (for its blood red color) and sleep (in reference to the opium it contains) in literature. The plant genus, Mandragora, belongs to the nightshades family and possesses a long history in connection with the Hebrew Bible, magic, spells, and witchcraft. In Cleopatra and Antony, Shakespeare makes mention of the plant as an ingredient in a drink that puts people to sleep for long periods of time.

“Not poppy, nor mandragora,
Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world,
Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep
Which thou owedst yesterday.”
Othello (3.3.368-71)

b) Daisies and Violets:
“When daisies pied and violets blue
And lady-smocks all silver-white
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight, ”
Love’s Labours Lost (5.2.900-4)

c) Roses:
“I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks…”
Sonnet 130

d) Lilies:
“Like the lily,
That once was mistress of the field and flourish’d,
I’ll hang my head and perish.”
Henry VIII (3.1.168-70)

Locating Shakespeare’s Flowers

The Garden of Shakespeare’s Flowers is situated at Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Middle Drive East, located not too far from the Japanese Tea Garden and the San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum. A sign directing visitors to the garden’s free entrance is also in the area.

Shakespeare Garden, San Francisco: Address, Phone Number, Shakespeare Garden Reviews: 4/5

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FORT WORTH, Texas — When he was putting pen to paper in 17th-century London, it seems unlikely that William Shakespeare would suspect that four centuries later gardeners would be reading his works and planning their plants based on his references.

And yet, Shakespearean gardens remain popular today. And what, thee might well inquire, is a Shakespearean garden?

“A Shakespearean garden is nothing but a garden that contains the plants mentioned in his plays,” says Charlie Waldrop, a volunteer for Texas Discovery Gardens in Dallas. Waldrop recently helped the Fair Park attraction revitalize a Shakespearean garden that had been created in the early ’60s but had lost much of its bard-celebrated-flora over the years.

Was Shakespeare himself a gardener? Shakespeare’s body of work indicates that he loved nature, but historians can only speculate whether the bard planted the pansies and poppies in his off-hours.

“Shakespeare displays a great deal of knowledge about plants in his plays and poems,” says Stanley Wells, chairman of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon. “From this, we assume that he tended gardens in his spare time.”

With career success and the accompanying financial reward, Shakespeare purchased New Place, a Stratford house with an extensive garden

“There is no definitive proof to say that Shakespeare was an avid gardener; however, he certainly had a good knowledge of plants,” says Tom Moores, research intern at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. “His work is littered with references to flowers and herbs, often employing flowers in his metaphors and similes used to illustrate people’s personalities. Twenty-nine different scenes in the Shakespeare canon take place in a garden or orchard.”

“He knew plants and plant lore intimately,” says Stephen Greenblatt, Harvard professor and author of Will in the World, a bestselling Shakespeare biography. “It seems clear that this knowledge was not only from books but more from direct experience.”

Public gardens throughout the world often have a designated area devoted to Shakespeare, and you, too, can create a Shakespearean garden in your back yard. Here are six steps to get you started:

1. Plan your garden’s basic design

You’ll need a roomy garden bed that gets at least four hours of sun each day. Prepare the soil as you would for any other garden. Determine the space that you will allocate to plants and any permanent fixtures, such as a brick or gravel pathway. A bench will provide you and your guests a place to sit and reflect on nature.

Some Shakespearean gardens feature a bust or image of the writer as a focal point. A selection of busts of the bard is available at www.statue.com, with prices starting at $84. Additional elements might include a traditional sundial or antique-looking flower pot. Check out the sundial assortment at www.outdoorfurniture.net. Prices start at about $40.

2. Research plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s writing

In working on the Shakespearean garden, Waldrop researched the various plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s work. A complete list of those plants is at www.lomonico.com/supplementallist2.html. It comes from “The Plant-Lore and Garden-Craft of Shakespeare,” written by Henry N. Ellacombe in 1884.

Reference guides to Shakespeare’s plants are found on Amazon. These include “Shakespeare’s Flowers,” written by Jessica Kerr and illustrated by Anne Ophelia Dowden, and “Shakespeare’s Garden: Or the Plants and Flowers Named in His Works Described and Defined,” a reprint of Sidney Beisly’s 1864 book.

An inspirational tome is “Shakespeare in the Garden” by Mick Hales, a prominent landscape photographer, featuring shots of Shakespearean gardens and an illustrated compendium of plants.

Plants had symbolic significance in the 1600s, and Shakespeare’s every mention of a flower, tree or herb is considered important to the text. One familiar example is the rose, which has long been emblematic of romantic love. It is cited more than 50 times in Shakespeare’s work, including, of course, Juliet’s famous words from Romeo and Juliet:

What’s in a name?

That which we call a rose

By any other name

Would smell as sweet.

Other references include:

I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,

But no such roses see I in her cheeks …..

— “Sonnet 130”

Yet nor the lays of birds nor the sweet smell

Of different flowers in odour and in hue

Could make me any summer’s story tell,

Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew;

Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,

Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;

They were but sweet, but figures of delight,

Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.

— “Sonnet 98”

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,

Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,

Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,

With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:

There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,

Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight.

— “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray,

love, remember: and there is pansies. that’s for thoughts.

— “Hamlet”

When daisies pied and violets blue

And lady-smocks all silver-white

And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue

Do paint the meadows with delight.

— “Love’s Labours Lost”

3. Select plants that thrive best in your climate.

Waldrop made a list of Shakespearean plants appropriate for North Texas. From that list, the garden received an infusion of flowering plants, including lilies, lily of the valley, roses, columbine, salvia, chrysanthemum, delphinium, marigold, yarrow, larkspur and echinacea, or cone flower. Pretty nonflowering specimens, such as lamb’s ear and ferns, were added, along with various herbs, including chives, lavender, dill, parsley, fennel, rue, basil, mint, chamomile and creeping thyme. An established pomegranate and a fig bush, both mentioned by Shakespeare, were already in place.

Be sure to look for plants that are appropriate for your garden’s conditions.

If you thinking of roses, you may want to search for the William Shakespeare rose created by English rose breeder David Austin (www.davidaustinroses.com/american/showrose.asp?showr=3651). The plant produces velvety burgundy flowers.

4. Select plants and their placement based on their individual characteristics.

“Know what season they bloom and consider the different heights and colors,” Waldrop says. “It’s like planning any other garden. Anyone can do it.”

You might start with a visit to a local public garden; take along a notebook and jot down how the plants are arranged in the garden.

5. Consider using only natural products in the garden

Waldrop thinks an organic garden is historically appropriate since any garden in Shakespeare’s time would have been maintained using natural methods. “They didn’t have all those packaged things,” he says.

6. Add plant identification signs with appropriate quotations.

Most public Shakespearean gardens feature plant markers with the plant’s name and a related quote. You can make your own quotation plant stakes using products from www.metalgardenmarkers.com or www.idealgardenmarkers.com.

You also can purchase a showy garden wall plaque featuring a sun face and Shakespeare’s quote, “Love comforteth like sunshine after rain,” from www.cliffandcanyon.com. It is $70 and can be personalized.

With planning, plants and some well-thought-out touches, plus sunlight, water and botanical TLC, your Shakespearean garden will provide you with a calming respite for years to come.

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