Garden Design Ideas - The Shakespeare Literary Herb Garden
There are times when I think modern man and woman might not be as smart as people from the past. When you think about it, the Bible and the works of Chaucer and Shakespeare are rich in references to herbs. Yet, the average person knows little about herbs or most plants.
Now we all know that Shakespeare was no ordinary man but few of us are aware, that he wrote with quite a lot of knowledge of more than eighty herbs and wild flowers. His works include references to over one hundred and seventy plants. It was obvious, that he was not only aware of their various usages but also their symbolic literary associations. He didn’t invent the literary garden, but he and others did much to contribute to its popularity. Literary Herb Gardens are also called “Elizabethan Gardens” or “Shakespeare Gardens.”
Shakespeare’s Literary Garden
“Sweet flowers are slow and weeds make haste.”…William Shakespeare
History is real sure that Shakespeare didn’t have formal training as a botanist or horticulturist, yet he had a huge impact to literary gardens, even in his time. Any literary garden should be designed around the old fashioned formal Elizabethan style, with sharp looking clipped knots of evergreen shrubs, and a fairy flowers planted, along with both fragrant and attractive herbs. Perhaps, most of the Elizabethan gardens have fallen out of favor over time, yet the modern herb garden still often follows the Shakespearean literary garden image.
If you like Shakespeare, you might consider honoring him by having an Elizabethan herb garden that includes flowers and the plants he mentions in his works. Your literary garden would have:
- Honeysuckle surrounding the perimeter of the garden
- Stone steps
- Well-trimmed evergreen shrubs
- A rectangular or square shape in overall design
- Geometrical shapes for each divided area
- Raised planting bed (edged with wood or tile) — always edged
- Large topiaries
- Decorative urns and potted topiaries
- Rosemary shaped into cats or peacocks
- Two main intersecting paths
- A sundial
- Gates at the entrances
- A Little More Elizabethan Garden Detail
The thought process with Elizabethan gardens was to make sure that they held the visitor’s interest all year round. So great detail was paid to the patterns of the knotted hedges, fragrances of the plants, and the flowers in season. One delightful idea is that in your literary garden design, you include the joke of Shakespeare’s day. Back then, a popular thing to do was to create, where the two main intersections of pathway intersect:
A marble pedestal near the sundial in a grassy circle. It looks elegant and lovely, but they conceal a wicked sense of humor because with a few turns of a hidden wheel in a nearby arbor — the owner could send water through a hidden pipe to spring unexpectedly through the sundial and squirt the unsuspecting visitor.
Literary Herb Gardens
Suggested herbs and plants are:
- Lady’s Smock
- Ox-eye Daisies
- Musk Rose
- Sweetbrier Roses
- Salad Burnet
- Winter Savory
Elizabethan Gardens At Roanoke Island
North Carolina’s Elizabethan Gardens at Roanoke Island, a place where history inspires today. It can’t help it, being located on the same place the colonists first landed on the shores of Roanoke Island. The park is a wonderful example of what a garden club can and should do. Supported by the Garden Club of North Carolina, Inc. — you’ll find no better place for inspiration to create your own literary garden.
It’s one of those “only in America” places where you step outside of our American culture, and step back into history and the romance of another time and another place. This wonderful garden park has been there since 1960.
There you’ll see:
- A romantic 16th style thatched roofed gazebo overlooking Roanoke Sound
- Gaze at a statue of a Virginia Dare
- Stand beneath an ancient live oak believed to be at least four hundred years old
- Visit an old fashioned Shakespearean Herb Garden
- See an American version of The Queen’s Rose Garden featuring pierced brick walls and The Queen Elizabeth Rose which was given to The Elizabethan Gardens by Queen Elizabeth II