By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
What is a Shakespeare garden? As the name implies, a Shakespeare garden is designed to pay homage to the great English bard. Plants for a Shakespeare garden are those mentioned in his sonnets and plays, or those from the Elizabethan area. If you’re interested in visiting a Shakespeare garden, there are several across the country at city parks, libraries, or on university campuses. Many Shakespeare gardens are associated with Shakespearean festivals.
In the United States, some of the largest Shakespeare gardens can be found in New York’s Central Park and Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, and the International Rose Test Garden in Portland, Oregon. Read on for a few tips to get you started.
How to Create a Shakespeare Garden Design
Prior to selecting plants for a Shakespeare garden, it helps to have some knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, which you probably already have if you’re considering a Shakespearean garden design. However, if you’re like most of us, you may have to dig into your memory banks a bit to come up with ideas.
Shakespeare was an avid gardener, or so they say. It appears that he loved roses, which he mentioned at least 50 times. You can even purchase a William Shakespeare rose, a lovely burgundy rose created by an English breeder.
Other plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s work include:
- Bachelor’s button
Elizabethan gardens of Shakespeare’s time tended to be formal, often divided equally into symmetrical flower beds. Beds were frequently defined and protected by a hedge or stone wall, depending on available space. However, gardens inspired by Shakespeare’s writings can also be less formal, such as a meadowor woodland garden, with deciduous or fruit trees to provide shade.
Most public Shakespeare gardens include placards or stakes with the name of the plant and the associated quote. Other common features are garden benches, sundials, concrete urns, brick pathways and, of course, a statue or bust of the world’s greatest playwright.
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Published: Thursday, 26 March, 2020 at 12:00 pm
When designing a garden it can be difficult to know where to begin. How do you assess the space, draw up a plan, start planting? And what about paths, boundaries, seating and screens?
Whether you’re starting with a blank canvas or have inherited a garden that’s been designed by someone else, if your plot is small or shady, or you’re designing just one border, help is at hand. We’ve assembled a selection of garden design features to inspire and guide you through the process, from ways to break up a space to ideas for garden seating.
Browse our garden design features, below.
The basics of garden design
If you’re starting from scratch it’s important to get to grips with the basics of garden design. Find out how to start a new garden, discover nine garden design tips, be inspired by flower show planting ideas and don’t miss Joe Swift’s three golden rules of garden design. If you’re looking for ways to divide the garden, see four ways to break up a space.
Designing a border
Do you have deep or narrow borders? What plants should you grow in them and have you considered colour schemes and planting styles? Discover plants for a prairie-style border. Learn how to design and plant up a border and how to combine plants. For more border design tips, see below.
Designing a garden isn’t just about plant choices. You may need to consider your boundaries – will you opt for a fence or hedge? And what about paths and seating areas? Discover 11 ideas for garden fences and nine ideas for garden seating. Perhaps a raised bed is on the agenda? For more inspiration on hard landscaping, see below.
Design tips for small gardens
Sometimes designing a small garden can be more difficult than designing a large one. Small gardens tend to have greater areas of shade, particularly if they’re narrow. Also, you may run the risk of trying to cram too much into the space. Find out how to make the most of a small garden. Be inspired by our tips for designing a front garden, and browse our list of ideas for designing a courtyard.
Other design ideas
If you’re after something a little different, why not consider designing a gravel garden? Or how about an outdoor room? You could also browse our summer house ideas if you’re looking for more than a garden shed. Lighting may also be a consideration in your garden – discover six of the best garden lighting ideas. For inspiration on which trees to plant browse our pick of trees with attractive bark.
Collections, Research, and Programming
In addition to 130 acres of themed gardens, The Huntington has significant holdings of botanical living collections including orchids, camellias, cycads, and bonsai, examples of which may be found throughout the grounds. These core collections are being preserved, expanded, studied, and promoted for public appreciation, and support many areas of botanical research including conservation and cryopreservation. The collections also serve as the foundation of The Huntington's educational programming, including botanical lectures, gardening workshops and demonstrations, and plant sales.
Shakespeare Garden. 2nd Season, 1926. ©1926 Louis Buhle. All rights reserved. For reproduction permission, contact [email protected] To see more historic images of BBG, visit bbg.org/discover/historicimages/
" > Show larger version of the image Shakespeare Garden 1926 Shakespeare Garden. 2nd Season, 1926. ©1926 Louis Buhle. All rights reserved. For reproduction permission, contact [email protected] To see more historic images of BBG, visit bbg.org/discover/historicimages/ Shakespeare Garden
Impressionistic colors and textures in BBG's Shakespeare Garden. Photo by Jean-Marc Grambert.
" > Show larger version of the image Shakespeare Garden Impressionistic colors and textures in BBG's Shakespeare Garden. Photo by Jean-Marc Grambert. Peonies
Herbaceous peonies (Paeonia lactiflora) are among the beautiful blooms on the path between the Fragrance and Shakespeare Gardens. Photo by Sarah Schmidt.
" > Show larger version of the image Peonies Herbaceous peonies (Paeonia lactiflora) are among the beautiful blooms on the path between the Fragrance and Shakespeare Gardens. Photo by Sarah Schmidt.
Shakespearean Garden: Recreate an Elizabethan Garden
The English gardens of past centuries have long ago disappeared. The passage of time dictates changes, not the least of which are altering styles and fashions. Still, elements of bygone gardens persist, and contemporary herb gardens in particular owe much of their character to the popular designs of sixteenth-century England.
This period of relative peace and prosperity began with the ascension of Henry Tudor, ending England’s great civil war, the War of the Roses (1455 –1485), and culminated in the reign of Elizabeth I (1558–1603). During this time, the need for castle walls and communal fortress towns diminished. With the increased distribution of land, the opportunity arose for the construction of individual homes and gardens. More and more, the gardens of middle- and upperclass Englishmen became places for recreation and enjoyment. The virtually endless introductions of plants from abroad and the publication of the first widely available English gardening books fueled this trend.
This was also the time of the great poet and playwright William Shakespeare (1564–1616), whose sonnets and plays are liberally sprinkled with images of flowers and herbs. Although Shakespeare was neither professional botanist nor horticulturist, he is often associated with the gardens of his era. Henry Ellacombe, vicar of Britton and the author of The Plant-Lore and Garden-Craft of Shakespeare (1896), explains:
His knowledge of plants was simply the knowledge that every man may have who goes through the world with his eyes open to the many beauties of Nature that surround him. . . . He had the great gift of being able to describe what he saw in a way that few others have arrived at: he could communicate to others the pleasure that he felt himself, not by long descriptions, but by a few simple words, a few natural touches, and a few well chosen epithets, which bring the plants and flowers before us in the freshest, and often in a most touching way.
If you are an admirer of Shakespeare, you may want to honor him by re-creating an Elizabethan garden, planted with a selection of herbs and flowers that appear in his works. But what did these gardens look like? Let’s take a walk from an imaginary manor house through its adjoining garden and find out.
A “curious-knotted garden”
The front door of the manor house opens directly onto a broad, grassy terrace that parallels the front of the house. The terrace is edged with an ornate railing and affords a perfect spot from which to view the garden below.
The garden is a large square, 200 feet on a side. A continuous arbor, perhaps of honeysuckle, surrounds the garden. This “thick-pleach’d alley”, as it is called in Much Ado about Nothing (“pleached” meaning “woven or entwined”), acts as a wall to those outside its framework, but to those who stroll along its avenues of intertwined trees and vines, it is a cool and shady walkway.
Stone steps lead down the 8 feet from the terrace to a sand-covered pathway, or forthright, several feet wide that runs perpendicular to the terrace and straight through the center of the garden. A second pathway, intersecting the forthright, cuts the garden into four squares.
Each quarter of the garden is in turn divided into small beds. Most are in geometric shapes, but a few are fashioned into the outlines of lions and dragons. Small pathways lead to and around each bed, creating intricate and symmetrical patterns that delight the eye from the elevated terrace.
Some of the beds are raised a few inches above ground level and are edged with wood, tile, or even the shank bones of sheep. Others are level with the pathways and are edged with short, clipped hedges of hyssop, thyme, savory, germander, or boxwood. Within some of the beds are designs fashioned from intertwined, clipped hedges, creating a “curious-knotted garden”, as one character describes it in Love’s Labour’s Lost. Other beds boast low-growing mazes of santolina. Most beds are filled with flowers and herbs carefully interplanted so that similar colors are not massed together, but are distributed throughout the space.
Large topiaries fashioned from yew or privet dot the garden. At the intersection of some of the small pathways are decorative urns and potted topiaries. Rosemaries assume the shapes of cats and peacocks.
Where the two main pathways intersect, a marble pedestal surmounted by a sundial sits upon a grassy circle. Though stately in appearance, the pedestal and sundial conceal a practical joke typical of the era. A few turns of a wheel hidden in a nearby arbor send water along a pipe and jetting out through the sundial into the face of an unsuspecting admirer.
Middle- and upperclass Elizabethans spent a great deal of time in their gardens, and gateways cut into the arbor offered access to shady seats or “pleached bowers” in which to rest or pass the day.
“Keep law and form and due proportion”
Don’t despair if you haven’t a plot as large as our imaginary garden. Not all Elizabethan gardens were as large either. You can successfully re-create the same feeling in a much smaller space if you stick to a few simple principles.
First, enclose the garden to give it a sense of privacy and intimacy. “Thick-pleach’d alleys” are wonderful but beyond the time and talent, not to mention financial means, of many people. Brick (although it too can be expensive) or stone walls work well and can also serve as the foundation for espaliered trees and shrubs. Traditional plants such as holly, yew, privet, or hawthorn can be shaped into waist- or shoulder-high hedges. A flat trellis supporting fast-growing vines of roses or honeysuckle is a fragrant alternative to a wall or hedge. Entry into your enclosed garden will be given more importance if it is by way of a gate, which may be fancy ironwork or a plain wooden door the choice depends upon your taste and your pocketbook.
To be Elizabethan, your garden should be square or rectangular and its pattern of beds symmetrical. Pathways, which may be covered with sand, gravel, or a turf made of fragrant carpeting herbs, such as thyme or Roman chamomile, should lead to the beds.
For authenticity, all beds should be edged. Although Shakespeare refers to 170 different plants in his writings, he does not include some of the popular edging plants such as santolina, germander, or dwarf boxwood. If you want your garden to comprise only plants that Shakespeare mentions, use hyssop, savory, thyme, or lavender for edging. The chart on page 47 lists thirty common herbs and flowers that appear in Shakespeare’s works. A complete listing of the plants and their associated quotations (many are referred to more than once) appears in Ellacombe’s book and other works about Shakespearean gardens. Check your local library.
Elizabethan gardens were designed so that there was something of interest throughout the year, be it the patterns of the knots and beds in winter, the flowers and foliage in spring and summer, or the ripening fruit and pods in autumn. Fragrant plants were valued because they could be enjoyed both in the garden and the home. To follow the Elizabethan example, fill your beds with intertwined knots, mazes, topiaries (rosemaries are a good choice), and/or a variety of smaller flowers and herbs, such as primulas, dianthus, calendula, marjoram, oregano, dwarf hyssop, Johnny-jump-ups, burnet, lemon balm, violets, and dwarf savory. Potted plants could include those invasive mints.
Elizabethans also loved to decorate their gardens with fountains, urns, and sundials (squirting ones are not necessary). Carved and painted wooden animals were often mounted on posts. Have fun decorating your own garden, but follow the lead of the two gardeners in King Richard II: within “the compass of [your] pale/Keep law and form and due proportion.” Balance your designs and think symmetrically.
Ideally, you should be able to view the garden from above because the elevation will make the overall design more apparent. In addition to terraces, sixteenth-century gardeners often built mounts, or artificial hillocks, expressly of viewing the garden. Although a mount may not be feasible, you can site the garden so that the view from a nearby deck, gazebo, or house will be equally satisfying.
Many features found in today’s herb gardens—the edged beds, topiaries, knots, and symmetry—are descendants from sixteenth-century England. Of course, the English did not invent them, but they did perfect them during this age of great gardens and great literature.
Jim and Dotti Becker live in Williams, Oregon their family farm, Goodwin Creek Gardens, specializes in raising herbs, everlasting flowers, and fragrant plants organically. They are coauthors of An Everlasting Garden (Interweave Press, 1994).
The Shakespeare Garden, courtyard area next to the Mary Rippon Theatre, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80306. (303) 494-5844.
The Highlight Garden is planted with a selection of flowers and herbs mentioned in the plays of the current season’s Colorado Shakespeare Festival (June 23–August 13, 1995). The Formal Garden is planted with herbs and flowers representative of the Elizabethan period. Open daily tours Tuesdays and Saturdays before the performance.
The Shakespeare Garden at the American Shakespeare Theater, 1850 Elm St., Stratford, CT 06497. (203) 381-9518.
The garden contains sixteenth-century herbs that are mentioned in Shakespeare. Open daily, April–September.
Shakespeare Garden, Northwestern University between Sheridan Road and the lake, north of east end of Garrett Place, past the chapel garden, Evanston, IL 60204.
The formal garden, designed by landscape architect Jens Jensen, includes parterres, knot gardens, and even “a bank where the wild thyme blows”. Open daily.
Meadowbrook Herb Garden, 2808 S. Race St., Urbana, IL 61801.
The herb garden behind the farmhouse in Meadowbrook Park has a central knot surrounded by four theme beds: tea, dye, medicinal, and Shakespeare. Open daily.
Shakespeare Garden, Ellis Blvd., Ellis Park, Cedar Rapids, IA 52405. (319) 398-5080.
A formal planting contains plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s writings. Open daily.
Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 1000 Washington Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11225. (718) 622-4433.
The garden includes more than 300 herbs in Elizabethan knot, rose, rock, culinary, medicinal, wild-flower, Shakespeare gardens, and a fragrance garden for the blind. Open year round, Tuesday–Friday, 8 a.m.–6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Closed Monday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, January 1.
Shakespeare Gardens, Central Park, west of Belvedere Castle, New York, NY.
Irregular beds contain herbs and flowers mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets. Open year round during daylight hours.
Shakespeare Garden, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601. (914) 437-5686.
Brick pathways intersect among beds of plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s writings. Open year round, dawn–dusk.
Elizabethan Garden, U.S. 64, Manteo, NC 27954. (919) 473-3234.
The Shakespeare herb garden is located near the gatehouse. Open March–November, 9 a.m.–5 p.m.
Dutchmill Herbfarm, 6640 NW Marsh Rd., Forest Grove, OR 97116. (503) 357-0924.
Call for directions. Theme gardens include a Shakespeare garden. Open May–July and September, Wednesday–Saturday, 12 noon–5 p.m.
Elizabethan Herb Garden, Pittsburgh Civic Garden Center, 1059 Shady Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15232. (412) 441-4442.
The walled garden contains 130 species, with more than 50 in the Shakespeare bed. The garden was designed and maintained by the Western Pennsylvania Unit, The Herb Society of America. Open daylight hours.
The Herb Farm, 32804 Issaquah-Fall City Rd., Fall City, WA 98204. (206) 784-2222.
The small, well-maintained theme beds include a Shakespeare plot. Open year round. Call for hours.
Beisley, Sidney. Shakespere’s Gardens. London: Longmans, Green, 1864.
Bloom, J. Harvey. Shakespeare’s Garden. London: Methuen, 1903.
Ellacombe, Henry. The Plant-Lore and Garden-Craft of Shakespeare. London: Edward Arnold, 1896.
Kerr, Jessica. Shakespeare’s Flowers. Illustrations by Anne Ophelia Dowden. New York: HarperCollins, 1969.
Rohde, Eleanour Sinclair. Shakespeare’s Wild Flowers, Fairy Lore, Gardens, Herbs, Gatherers of Simples and Bee Lore. London: Medici, 1935.
Savage, F. G. Flora and Folk-Lore of Shakespeare. London: E. J. Burrow, 1923.
Simmons, Adelma. The Shakespeare Book, Plants of Shakespeare. Coventry, Connecticut: Caprilands Herb Farm.
Singleton, Esther. The Shakespeare Garden. London: Methuen, 1923.
Spurgeon, Caroline. Shakespeare’s Imagery and What It Tells Us. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1965.
The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
Early C20 formal gardens designed by Ernest Law on the site of Shakespeare's last home and garden, with pleasure grounds designed by Law with advice from Ellen Willmott.
In the late C15 Hugh Clopton, who had made a fortune as a mercer in London, and who in 1492 had served as Lord Mayor, built a large house in Stratford, adjacent to the Chapel of the Guild of the Holy Cross which he had endowed. Leland commented c 1540 that New Place was a 'pretty house built of brick and timber' (Chandler 1993). Sir Hugh's family continued to own New Place in the early C16, but by 1545 it had been let to Thomas Bentley, physician to Henry VIII. The site of the Great Garden, which until 1544 belonged to Pinley Priory, was added to the Clopton property in the mid C16. Bentley died in 1548 and was succeeded by Alderman William Bott, who bought the property when William Clopton was forced to sell in order to settle bequests under his father's will (Halliwell-Phillips 1864). Bott sold the house in 1567 to William Underhill, a noted Catholic recusant, who in turn sold the property to William Shakespeare in 1597. The house was in 'great ruyne and decay and unrepayred', and extensive work was undertaken in 1597 (Fogg 1986). Shakespeare's wife lived at New Place from its purchase, and the poet himself lived there permanently from 1610 until his death in 1616. As his only son, Hamnet, had died in 1596, Shakespeare entailed the property through his daughter, Susanna Hall. Susanna lived at New Place until her death in 1649, having entertained Queen Henrietta Maria there in 1643. Susanna Hall's daughter, Elizabeth, was married to Thomas Nash, who owned neighbouring property from c 1630. In 1649 she married as her second husband John Barnard, who was knighted at the Restoration. Lady Barnard, the last of Shakespeare's heirs, died in 1670, and New Place was sold first to Sir Edward Walker before passing back to the Clopton family. Extensive alterations were made for Sir Hugh Clopton in the early C18, but in 1753 the property was sold to the Rev Francis Gastrell, a canon residentiary of Lichfield Cathedral. Under Sir Hugh Clopton, New Place had been opened to visitors, including David Garrick who visited in 1744. Canon Gastrell, however, resenting such intrusions, felled a mulberry said to have been planted by Shakespeare in 1756 and in 1759, as the result of a dispute with the Corporation over poor rates, demolished the house. The site passed through various hands in the late C18 and C19, with some building taking place on the Great Garden, including, in 1827, the Royal Shakespearean Theatre which was designed by Mr Chantry of London. In 1861 J O Halliwell-Phillips raised a public subscription to purchase the adjacent Nash's House and the grounds of New Place, which were vested in the Corporation of Stratford. Some clearance took place in 1862 and the Royal Shakespearean Theatre, by now an assembly room, was demolished in 1872. Simple pleasure grounds were then laid out on the site and the property was transferred to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1884. By 1910 the Trustees were concerned that Nash's House was not attracting visitors, and a comprehensive restoration scheme was implemented under the architects Guy Dawber and Guy Pemberton. At the same time schemes for remodelling the gardens in a more appropriately 'Tudor' style were considered, but the outbreak of war in 1914 caused the project to be deferred. In 1918 Ernest Law (1854-1930), one of the Birthplace Trustees and a London barrister, submitted designs for a sunken garden similar to those which he designed at Hampton Court Palace (qv), Esher Place, Surrey and Brompton Hospital Sanatorium, Frimley, Surrey (DNB). Law's scheme was implemented in 1919-20, while Ellen Willmott (1858-1934) advised the Trustees on the planting of the wilderness bank in the Great Garden in the early 1920s. Today (2000) the site of New Place, the early C20 Knot Garden and the site of the Great Garden remain the property of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING The site of New Place and the Shakespeare Gardens are situated in the centre of the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, to the east of Chapel Street and to the north of Chapel Lane and some 450m north of Holy Trinity Church. The c 0.5ha site comprises the site of New Place and the early C20 Knot Garden which extend to c 0.1ha, and the Great Garden, which extends to c 0.4ha. The site is bounded to the west by a low brick and stone coped wall adjoining Chapel Street, and to the south by a similar low brick wall surmounted by metal railings which separates the site from a minor road, Chapel Lane. The southern boundary is also screened by a high, early C20 yew hedge which is ornamented with regularly spaced geometric topiary shapes. To the east the site adjoins the grounds of the early C19 Infirmary, more recently the Conservative Club, from which it is separated by a high brick wall. To the north, further brick walls enclose the site from commercial properties fronting Sheep Street, and to the north-west from commercial properties and the Shakespeare Hotel in Chapel Street. Nash's House, since 1884 the property of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trustees and a museum, stands at the north-west corner of the site. The site is generally level, with a terrace wall retaining the higher Knot Garden and site of New Place to the west above the level of the Great Garden. There are significant views east to the late C19 buildings of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, and south across Chapel Lane and the buildings of King Edward's School to the spire of Holy Trinity Church. To the south-west the medieval buildings of the Guild Chapel stand to the south-west of Chapel Lane, while to the west shops and timbered buildings overlook the site from the west side of Chapel Street.
ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES Today (2000) the site of New Place and the Knot Garden are approached from Nash's House at the north-west corner of the site. This arrangement has pertained since at least the restoration and remodelling of Nash's House in 1912. Two gates lead into the Great Garden from Chapel Lane: that c 80m east of the junction of Chapel Lane with Chapel Street is flanked by tall brick and stone piers which support a single wrought-iron gate, while that at the south-east corner of the site is closed by a similar wrought-iron gate.
PRINCIPAL BUILDING New Place, the substantial town house purchased by William Shakespeare in 1597 was demolished by the Rev Francis Gastrell in 1759. The house stood at the western end of the site, at the junction of Chapel Street and Chapel Lane, and in the C16 comprised two ranges arranged around a central courtyard. Today (2000), the brick foundations of the cellars and a centrally placed well survive surrounded by lawns to the south of Nash's House. The shadow of the north gable of Shakespeare's New Place remains visible on the exposed south gable wall of Nash's House. Since the early C20 the gardens have been related to Nash's House (listed grade I), an early C17 timbered house which stands at the north-west corner of the site. In the C19 the house was given a neo-classical stucco facade with a porch supported on columns (Fox 1997), which was removed under the supervision of the architects Guy Dawber and Guy Pemberton in 1912. At the same time windows and doors were inserted in the south-east range of the building overlooking the gardens to the south.
GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS From a door in the south facade of the east range of Nash's House, a stone-flagged walk with cobbled edges leads south to a flight of stone steps which descends to the site of New Place at the south-west corner of the site. A similar stone-flagged walk extends east below the south facade of Nash's House, with a narrow, stone- and box-edged flower bed to the north planted with seasonal bedding and wisteria which is trained up the brick facade of the house. To the south of this walk a rectangular lawn is divided by a gravel walk which leads south to a memorial stone which is set against the southern boundary hedge. The south-west lawn has rectangular herb beds to the west, from which a grass slope descends to the level of the foundations of New Place. The south-east lawn is enclosed by gravel walks and is dominated by a mulberry tree planted in 1969 by the Shakespearean actress Dame Peggy Ashcroft. To the north and adjacent to the stone-flagged walk, the south-east lawn is bounded by two rose beds, while to the south an informal hedge of roses separates the lawns from a further narrow lawn which is enclosed to the south by the boundary yew hedge. A flagstaff stands on this lawn. To the east of the lawns and to the south-east of Nash's House, a trench enclosed by oak railings supported on turned balusters with ornamental finials reveals the foundations of the east range of New Place, and a further well the railings were designed by Ernest Law in 1919-20. The layout of the west garden incorporating the foundations of New Place forms part of Ernest Law's scheme of 1919-20.
At the south-east corner of the lawns there is access to a tunnel arbour of timber trellis construction planted with trained fruit trees, which extends east along the south side of the Knot Garden. The Knot Garden is screened from the lawns to the west by mature espalier apple trees. The Knot Garden comprises a square, sunken enclosure surrounded on each side by a raised, stone-flagged terrace walk retained by a low brick wall. This is surmounted by a low oak balustrade supported on ornamental balusters which are surmounted by decorative finials. Law's design for the rails was inspired by the depiction of a garden on C16 tapestries at Hampton Court Palace (Law 1922). At the centre of each terrace a shallow flight of stone steps descends to stone-flagged walks which divide the sunken area into quarters. The steps to the west are aligned on the entrance to the west garden, while those to the east are aligned on the gate leading to the Great Garden. To the south the steps lead to an arched trellis pavilion at the centre of the tunnel arbour which is planted with laburnum. To the south of the pavilion a yew arbour with a stone-flagged base shelters a timber seat. The tunnel arbour runs parallel to the southern boundary of the site, and encloses two narrow lawns, each with a central rectangular rose bed, which are screened to the south by the yew boundary hedge. To the north the Knot Garden is enclosed by a high brick wall planted with fig trees, which screens the garden from neighbouring properties. The sunken parterre is laid out in four box-edged 'knots' of different design, which are planted with a mixture of seasonal bedding, low shrubs and herbs. At the centre of each knot is a standard rose.
The Knot Garden formed the centrepiece of Ernest Law's 1919-20 scheme for New Place. Its interpretation of 'Tudor' themes was derived from a study of sources including Bacon, Lawson and 'Didymous Mountaine', as outlined in Law's own account of his work at Stratford (Law 1922). The plants for the Knot Garden were provided through public subscription, which achieved the support of a wide cross-section of society: the standard roses were provided by the Royal Family, while other plants came from more humble donors. In 1925 Ellen Willmott advised the Trustees on the planting of the Knot Garden, purchasing bulbs for the Garden (Trust minutes, 1925). The Knot Garden replaced the informal mid C19 garden which was recorded on the Board of Health plan (1851) and the OS maps of 1886 and 1914.
The Knot Garden is separated from the Great Garden to the east by a timber trellis screen, on the outer side of which are planted espalier apple trees underplanted with irises. Today (2000) the Great Garden is entered through a mid C20 gate and timber turnstile at the south-east corner of the Knot Garden c 30m south-east of Nash's House. This gate replaces an early C20 timber trellis gate set on the central axis of the Knot Garden which formerly led to a raised terrace at the south-west corner of the Great Garden. The terrace is paved with a geometric pattern of triangular stone flags laid between rows of cobbles, and has tile-edged rose borders to the west with topiary yews framing the axial gate from the Knot Garden. Retained by rustic stone walls to the east, steps descend from a rondpoint on the axis of the Knot Garden to a large, roughly rectangular area of lawn which occupies most of the Great Garden. The terrace rondpoint is ornamented with a late C20 bronze sculpture, The Tempest, by Greg Wyatt, which stands on a pedestal which is set at an angle to the axis of the terrace. To the north the terrace is terminated by a timber bench seat which stands against a brick boundary wall, while to the north-east the terrace leads to a gravel walk retained by a low, rustic stone wall which runs parallel to the brick wall forming the north-west boundary of the garden. A single line of chestnuts and beech grow on the edge of the lawn parallel to the north-west walk, while at the north-west corner of the garden there is a single-storey, lean-to timber shelter which was designed by Guy Pemberton. The gravel perimeter walk continues along the wall which forms the northern boundary of the Great Garden, where timber benches are placed between several mature deciduous trees. To the south of the walk two long rectangular beds are cut into the lawn, and are planted with seasonal bedding. Some 10m south of the perimeter walk a raised circular bed retained by a drystone wall contains a mature multi-stemmed mulberry which is traditionally said to have been grown from a cutting taken from Shakespeare's mulberry which was felled in 1756. At the north-east corner of the Great Garden, c 80m north-east of Nash's House, a service yard containing a late C20 metal glasshouse, a late C20 brick shed and an earlier C20 timber lean-to glasshouse, is screened to the west and south by yew hedges which are ornamented with figurative topiary. Immediately to the south of the service yard, and approached along a short gravel walk enclosed to north and south by yew hedges, a late C18 monument to Shakespeare (listed grade II*) stands against the eastern boundary wall. The sculpted relief of Shakespeare seated between the Dramatic Muse and the Poetic Muse below a bracketed pediment was removed from the Shakespeare Gallery, Pall Mall, London to its present position in 1871.
The perimeter walk continues along the east side of the lawn, with a deep border of trees and evergreen and flowering shrubs to the east, known as the Wilderness. The border is retained by a low drystone edging with recesses for timber benches c 3m from the edge of the bed a further drystone wall retains the eastern area of trees and shrubs. Some 10m south of the Shakespeare Monument stands a single stone column with a metal plaque and inscription recording that it was removed from the C17 town hall which was demolished in the late C18. Ellen Willmott advised the Trustees on the planting of this border in the early 1920s.
The perimeter walk turns sharply west at the south-east corner of the site, and returns parallel to the southern boundary of the site to join the southern end of the raised terrace on the west side of the Great Garden. The south walk is flanked by parallel borders, that to the north edged with low box hedges and divided by six low box hedges which run from north to south. The divisions in the north border are planted with seasonal bedding. The southern herbaceous border is edged with a low box hedge, and is divided by six down-swept 'buttresses' in yew, which extend from topiary ball finials on the southern boundary hedge, and which terminate adjacent to the southern walk in low domes of golden yew. At the central point of the southern border a yew arbour shelters a flagged base and a timber bench. The arbour faces the main lawn and is approached from the lawn by a narrow gravel path flanked by box hedges.
In the late C16 the Great Garden was planted as an orchard (deeds). In the early C17, stables, later converted into cottages, were built on its southern boundary, while in the early C19 a theatre was also built fronting onto Chapel Lane. The remaining, northern section of the Great Garden was laid out as a bowling green with an area of shrubbery to the east. This arrangement is recorded on the Board of Health plan (1851). Following the clearance of the buildings along the southern boundary in the mid and late C19, the Great Garden was laid out with lawns, shrubberies and a perimeter walk (OS 1886). This C19 garden was removed in favour of the present design by Ernest Law in 1918-20.
J O Halliwell-Phillips, An Historical Account of the New Place, Stratford-upon-Avon, The Last Residence of Shakespeare (1864) E Law, Shakespeare's Garden, Stratford-upon-Avon (1922) Victoria History of the County of Warwickshire III, (1945), p 227 N Pevsner and A Wedgewood, The Buildings of England: Warwickshire (1966), p 418 Country Life, 145 (1 May 1969), p 1070 B Elliott, Victorian Gardens (1986), p 230 N Fogg, Stratford-upon-Avon Portrait of a Town (1986), pp 9, 12, 18, 24, 35, 41-9, 85-6, 173 J Chandler (ed), John Leland's Itinerary: Travels in Tudor England (193), p 468 L Fox, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust A Personal Memoir (1997), pp 52-9 Nash's House and the Site of New Place, guidebook, (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust 1998)
Maps S Winter, Plan of Stratford-on-Avon, 1759, (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Record Office ( SBTRO) Board of Health plan for Stratford-upon-Avon, 1851 (Z735/10u), (Warwickshire County Record Office)
OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1886 3rd edition published 1922 1938 edition
OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1886 2nd edition published 1905 3rd edition published 1914 1938 edition
Illustrations S Winter (?), New Place from the south-west, 1759 (SBTRO) Photograph, The Knott Garden, New Place, c 1930 (private collection) Photographs, The gardens at New Place, C20 (DR309/41(50), (SBTRO)
Archival items The following items are all held at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Record Office: Inventory, 1753 (ER1/59) Deeds, 1578(1652 (ER1/76) Plan of New Place and neighbouring properties, 1822 (ER1/86f.62) Cutting from The Illustrated London News, 12 April 1862 with letter from J O Halliwell-Phillips (DR406/108) E Law, Shakespeare's Garden Restored, 23 April 1920 (DR390/28) Shakespeare Birthplace Trustees Minute Book, 1925.
Description written: January 2000 Amended: May 2000, September 2000 Register Inspector: JML Edited: January 2001
Gardens of Morocco
In late January I was lucky enough to represent the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust on a trip to Morocco with REEP, visiting gardens and attending several meetings. The gardens over there are very different, as you can imagine, as the climate is much warmer to ours here in the UK – although I must add during my visit I had a cosy coat on as it only got to lows of 3 °C! It was interesting seeing their techniques on how they keep their plants watered (they mound up the earth around a plant/group of plants to create a walled pond effect to fill with water), the way they prune a lot of their palms and succulents in public parks (they cut off the bottom most leaves to only leave vertical growth which I assume is for aesthetics), and their use of beautifully arranged tiles (each piece individually hand crafted – I took many, many photos of different tile designs!).
Anglo-Moroccan Shakespeare Garden
Whilst there, one of the main purposes of the trip was to visit the Shakespeare Garden at Cadi Ayyad University in Marrakech. The garden was built in 2014 by REEP as part of their Anglo-Moroccan Shakespeare Garden Project which features some of the plants that Shakespeare mentioned in his plays such as Roses, Lavender, Aloes, and Thyme. It also includes a stage as part of the design for the students to use as a performance space. It’s currently in need of TLC as there have been a few difficulties with the Dean at CAU changing, but as part of our visit the new Dean expressed how they want to help make sure the garden is cared for – with the future of the garden looking very promising with potential to possibly add a knot garden inspired design to the borders.
Here are a few highlights of the other gardens I visited:
Le Jardin Majorelle
Le Jardin Majorelle was created by French painter Jacques Majorelle and took him 40 years to construct. It’s almost 2 and a half acres in size, and is full of exotic plants and bright colours. There’s a great use of water around the garden, including the impressive reflections in the still Lily Pool, a long rill to lead the eye down towards the bright house, and various fountains with satisfying bubbling sounds. The blue that’s used around the garden is known widely around Morocco and beyond as the aptly named “Majorelle blue”.
Jardin de la Menara
The Jardin de la Menara was impressive to take in as you look across the artificial lake towards the pavilion with the Atlas Mountains capped with snow in the background (not a sight normally associated with Morocco!). The lake is surrounded by some thousands of olive, palm, and fruit trees which cover most of the site, which is over 100 hectares. There is a small garden surrounding the pavilion itself that's filled with herbs and exotic treats such as Bird of Paradise plants. My favourite folklore story I heard about this place was that a Sultan, that used to live in the pavilion, would invite certain guests who he would charm over dinner and then have them thrown into the lake to drown. a cheery chap!
Bahia Palace (palace of the beautiful, the brilliant) well and truly lives up to its name. The rooms inside the building seem to blend seamlessly with the outside, so many different and colourful tile arrangements on ceilings, walls and floors with every design a piece of art, and the clever use of small vistas with either a doorway, mirror or plants at the end to tempt you along. Part of the gardens are in the Islamic style of the division of four, whereas other sections are more open and have a very peaceful feel like that of a Japanese zen garden.
Le Jardin Secret
Le Jardin Secret was a must visit before I had even arrived in Morocco as it had been featured on the BBC by Monty Don and in Gardens Illustrated magazine. The garden is split into two courtyards, the Exotic Garden and the Islamic Garden. The Exotic Garden, the smaller of the two, is filled with plants from all over the world and reflects a Christian view of the 'Garden of Paradise' it almost felt like I was in the wild with the sound of the vibrant birdsong and soft running water. The Islamic Garden is, as the name suggests, set in the traditional Islamic style of gardens with the division of four and reflects heaven as depicted in the Quran it was incredibly serene sitting on one of the benches and watching the grasses and lavender sway gently with the smell of the rosemary hedges filling the air – heaven indeed!
Overall, it was heartwarming to see people’s enthusiasm for Shakespeare, as well as gardening, in Morocco. The gardens and parks there are absolutely stunning and I highly recommend visiting if you get the opportunity.