Shakespeare’s famous for his colorful characters and timeless themes, but plant-lovers have another reason to love him: the Shakespeare gardens he created and immortalized.
From the lovingly restored historical gardens of Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon Avon estate to the seasonal wonders of New York’s Central Park, Shakespeare gardens have steadily gained popularity throughout Europe and the United States since the 1900s. These cottage-style or formal gardens feature plants and flowers mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays and grown in Shakespeare's private garden.
While more than 30 locations exist in the United States, only two existed in Texas until recently. Now, visitors can check out a Shakespeare garden up close at Mercer Botanic Gardens.
This English Renaissance-style garden features antique roses, boxwoods, and seasonal color with an open sitting area perfect for relaxing and visiting with friends.
The project took shape after Mercer employee Al Friedl read Shakespeare’s Flowers by Jessica Kerr, which details the plants and herbs that appear in more than 50 of Shakespeare’s plays. Inspired, Friedl realized a Shakespeare-themed garden was something everyone could appreciate.
“Plants and herbs were a major part of life in Elizabethan England,” said Friedl. “Historians, Shakespeare buffs, and gardeners may feel inspired to learn about the plants used for food, medicine, and decoration in Shakespeare’s day. Everyone else can simply enjoy the garden’s beauty and serenity.”
After discussing the project with Mercer Interim Director Jim Nutter and Commissioner R. Jack Cagle who are both Shakespeare enthusiasts, Friedl decided to donate funding to make the garden a reality.
“We turned an underutilized grassy area into a serene garden that we hope inspires a love of Shakespeare and gardening in a new generation,” said Nutter. “Mercer prides itself on connecting people with plants. Now we’re connecting people with plants and literature.”
If you are inspired by Mercer’s Shakespeare Garden, make one of your own. Many plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays can survive in Houston’s hot climate. Complete guides of plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays are listed online or in several print publications such as Shakespeare’s Flowers by Jessica Kerr and Shakespeare’s Garden: Or The Plants And Flowers Named In His Works Described And Defined (1864) by Sidney Beisly. Shakespeare’s Garden by Jackie Bennett tells about the gardens that William Shakespeare knew as a boy and tended as a man.
For more information about the garden opening, contact Mercer at 713-274-4160 or visit www.hcp4.net/community/parks/mercer.