Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

NOTE: To use the advanced features of this site you need javascript turned on.

Home Articles Seasonal Articles Shakespeare's Plants
Shakespeare's Plants Print E-mail

Since springtime is when one’s fancy turns to thoughts of love, and it is also Shakespeare’s birthday, it is a perfect time to celebrate the herbs of The Bard!

William Shakespeare, April 23, 1564-1616

The vivid imagery in Shakespeare’s works include so many accurate observations, such an understanding and passion for growing things, that many scholars believe that the Bard himself, was a gardener.  Many important scenes take place in gardens—lovers meet, wars begin, games are staged. A rich knowledge of plants and plant lore is woven throughout his works.
Here are a few of the herbs and selected flowers that appear in Shakespeare’s writings:

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oslips and the nodding violet grows.   (Cowslips, Primula veris)
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine   (Virginia creeper, or possibly honeysuckle)
With sweet musk-roses with eglantine
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight.
A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream

When daisies pied and violets blue
and lady-smocks all silver-white       (toothwort, Dentaria laciniata)
and cuckoo-buds of yellow hue         (buttercups, Ranunculus acris)
Do paint the meadows with delight.
Love’s Labour’s Lost (V.ii)

Rosemary and rue: these keep
Seeming and savour all winter long
Grace and remembrance to you both.
The Winter’s Tale (IV, iii)

In Henry VI, the scene depicting the beginning of the War of the Roses, when Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, picks a white rose, and the Earl of Somerset pluck the red Apothecary Rose

Here’s flow’rs for you,    These are flow’rs
Hot lavender, mints, savory, marjorum
Of middle summer, and
The marigold, that goes to bed
I think they are given
wi’th’ sun,
To men of middle age.
And with him rises weeping.

The Winter’s Tale 4.4

Thirty Herbs and Flowers from Shakespeare’s works:

Aloe    Aloe vera   A Lover’s Complaint
Balm/Lemon balm  Melissa officinalis  Antony and Cleopatra  5.2
Bay laurel   Laurus nobilis   King Richard II 2.4
Briar/Sweetbriar  Rosa eglantine   A Midsummer Night’s Dream 3.1
Broom    Cytisus scoparius  A Midsummer Night’s Dream 5.1
Burnet    Sanguisorba minor  King Henry V 5.2
Chamomile   Chamaemelum nobile  King Henry IV, Part I 2.4
Carnation   Dianthus   The Winter’s Tale 4.4
Cowslip   Primula veris   The Tempest 5.1
Eringo/Sea Holly  Eryngium campestre  Merry Wives of Windsor 5.5
Fennel    Foeniculum vulgare  Hamlet 4.5
Gillyvor/Gillyflower  Dianthus   The Winter’s Tale 4.4
Holly    Ilex aquifolium  As You Like It 2.7
Honeysuckle   Lonicera periclymenum Much Ado about Nothing 3.1
Hyssop    Hyssopus officinalis  Othello 1.3
Lavender   Lavendula angustifolia  The Winter’s Tale 4.4
Marigold/Calendula  Calendula officinalis  Pericles 4.1
Marjorum/Marjoram  Origanum sp.   The Winter’s Tale 4.4
Mint     Mentha   The Winter’s Tale 4/4
Myrtle    Myrtus communis  Anthony & Cleopatra 3.12
Pansy    Viola tricolor   Hamlet 4.5
Parsley    Petroselinum crispum  Taming of the Shrew 4.4
Poppy    Poppy somniferum  Othello 3.3
Rose    Rosa    The Merry Wives of Windsor 3.1
Rosemary   Rosmarinus officinalis  The Winter’s Tale 4.4
Rue    Ruta graveolens  The Winter’s Tale 4.4
Savory    Satureja sp.   The Winter’s Tale 4.4
Thyme    Thymus sp.   A Midsummer Nights Dream 2.1
Violet    Viola odorata   King Henry V 4.1
Wormwood   Artemisia absinthium  Love’s Labour’s Lost 5.2

Source for quotations:  The Riverside Shakespeare, Boston:  Houghton Mifflin, 1974

If you have not room for a period garden, a container of some of the Bard’s favorite plants can keep you company while you read his sonnets.  Or,  perhaps you’d like to make an arrangment, wreath, or Elizabethan tussie-mussie of the herbs and flowers of Shakespeare’s world.

A Bibliography:

Beisley, Sidney  Shakespeare’s Gardens.  London, Longmans, Green, 1864
Bloom, J. Harvey.  Shakespeare’s Gardens.  London: Methuen, 1903
Damrosch, Barbara.  Theme Gardens.  New York, Workman, 1982
Ellacombe, Henry. The Plant-Lore and Garden Craft of Shakespeare. London, Edward Arnold, 1896
Kerr, Jessica.  Shakespeare’s Flowers.  New York:  Harper Collins, 1969
Martin, Laura.  Wildflower Folklore.  Old Saybrook, Connecticutt, Globe Pequot, 1984
Rohde, Eleanour Sinclair.  Shakespeare’s Wild Flowers, Fairy Lore, Gardens, Herbs, Gatherers
of Simples and Bee Lore.  London:  Medici, 1935
Sanders, Jack.  Hedgemaids and Fairy Candles. Camden, Maine:  Ragged Mountain Press,1993
Savage, F. G.  Flora and Folklore of Shakespeare.  London:  E.J. Burrow, 1923
Simmons, Adelma. The Shakespeare Book, Plants of Shakespeare. Coventry, Connecticut: Caprilands Press
Singleton, Esther.  The Shakespeare Garden.  London, Methuen, 1923
Spurgeon, Caroline.  Shakespeare’s Imagery and What it tells Us.  New York, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1965


For the true Shakespeare lovers, there are several Shakespeare Gardens that are open to the public:
# Colorado:  The Shakespeare Garden, courtyard area next to the Mary Rippon Theatre, Boulder
# Connecticutt:  The Shakespeare Garden at the American Shakespeare Theatre,  1850 Elm St., Stratford.
# Illinois:  Shakespeare Garden, Northwestern Univ, Evanston
# Illinois:  Meadowbrook Herb Garden, Urbana
# Iowa:  Shakespeare Garden, Ellis Park, Cedar Rapids
# New York:  Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn
# New York:  Shakespeare Gardens, Central Park
# New York:  Shakespeare Garden, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie
# North Carolina:  Elizabethan Garden, Manteo
# Oregon:  Dutchmill Herbfarm, Forest Grove
# Pennsylvania:  Elizabethan Herb Garden, Pittsburgh Civic Center
# Washington:  Herb Farm, Shakespeare theme garden,  Fall City