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Shakespeare's Borders

New planting inspired by Shakespeare's works, life and times

Liberty Smith
Bertie Smith
Town Houses Gardens Team Leader, Bertie Smith

The two long borders in the garden of Shakespeare’s Birthplace are currently undergoing some very exciting changes. The planting that was previously there was very tired, full of bindweed, and had little connection with Shakespeare - a change was needed. Last year I set to work creating a mood board and researched plants that William Shakespeare would have recognised (or even mentioned in his works), plants that are named after Shakespeare’s characters, and plants that share names and meaning with Shakespeare’s family. 

Birthplace Garden mood board
Shakespeare's Borders mood board

Some of the exciting varieties that will be planted are:

Shakespeare’s characters

  • Dahlias ‘Romeo’ and ‘Juliet’
  • Rose ‘Falstaff’
  • Rose ‘Sweet Juliet’
  • Phlox ‘Cleopatra’, ‘Othello’, and ‘Rosalinde’
  • Larkspurs ‘Cassius’ and ‘Titania’ 

Shakespeare and his family

  • Sage ‘Joan’ (his sister)
  • Daylilies ‘Proud Mary’ (his mother) and ‘Give Me Eight’ (to symbolise the eight Shakespeare children)
  • Phlox ‘Miss Mary’ (his mother)
  • Rose ‘William Shakespeare’
  • Iris ‘Shakespeare’s Sonnet’

Plants of his time

  • Crown imperials
  • Daisies
  • Roses
  • Larkspurs
  • Lilies
  • Poppies
  • Eringoes

Let the sky rain potatoes; let it thunder to the tune of Greensleeves, hail kissing-comfits, and snow ERINGOES

— Falstaff, Merry Wives of Windsor.

We will also be reinstating the holly hedges on the opposite side in order to frame the borders and the Birthplace. This will also make the garden feel bigger. Once I was happy with the Shakespeare-related plants, I added a few non-Shakespearian plants to make sure the colours were balanced, structured, and that overall it made a pleasing design all year round. Last Autumn the gardens team got to work, digging out all the old herbaceous planting. We then dug over the entire borders, all the while taking out as much of the bindweed roots out as we could find.

In the meantime, we planted a temporary scheme that would add a burst of colour to the Birthplace garden in time for spring. There are currently 2,500 tulips, 1,500 wallflowers, and 100 crown imperials in yellows and purples adorning the borders, much to the delight and admiration of our visitors. These blooms are inspired by the colours in Shakespeare’s coat of arms. If you are reading this in April or early May 2019 then please do try and visit to see them for yourself, they are looking marvellous! 

Spring Garden at Shakespeare's Birthplace
The spring borders at Shakespeare's Birthplace

When the spring flowers have finished their grand performance, work will begin to plant the new Shakespeare-inspired design. These new plants will take a couple of years to fully settle into their new home and look their best. Overall we hope the stories and meaning behind the new Shakespeare borders will create a much better connection with the house and garden for our visitors to enjoy.

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