With Shakespeare’s 400-year anniversary tomorrow (23 April), we’re enjoying looking back at his incredible life through the eyes of garden writer Jackie Bennett and photographer Andrew Lawson in their new book Shakespeare’s Gardens (£25, Frances Lincoln). Shakespeare’s knowledge of gardens and plants was largely influenced by real gardens in his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon, from his birthplace at Henley Street where he learned about herbs, and his married life at Anne Hathaway’s home, now known for its cottage planting, to his exceptional knowledge of medicinal plants, gained through his son-in-law at Hall’s Croft.
Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Henley Street
‘Here’s flowers for you: Hot lavender, mints, savoury, marjoram’ – The Winter’s Tale
This is where the bard’s family lived and Shakespeare was born in 1564. He spent all of his childhood here where his father, a glovemaker and tanner, ran a workshop. Outdoors the family would have had space for small animals, pigs and geese plus room for veg, herbs and an orchard area. In the 19th century, the gardens were restored and gradually developed further with the Victorian era which favoured wide paths, yew hedges and heathers as the main garden layout Newer additions feature David Austen roses such as Rosa Falstaff and Gentle Hermione, designed to represent Shakespearian characters.
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Cottage Lane, Shottery
‘And in the wood where often you and I. Upon faint primrose beds were wont to lie’ – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Here Shakespeare celebrated courtship and marriage to Anne Hathaway who inherited the picturesque thatched farmhouse and gardens from her family. The gardens would have been much simpler in Tudor times with plots dedicated to rearing animals, and any extra space given to edible produce such as beans, cabbages and herbs. From the mid-nineteenth century, cottage garden style was emerging in the garden world with the addition of fragrant flowers and herbaceous plants. Further development was undertaken with advice from 1920’s garden designer Ellen Willmott to add topiary, shrubs and cottage-style flowers, which visitors enjoy today.
Hall’s Croft, Old Town (pictured)
‘There’s fennel for you, and Columbines: there’s rue for you; and here’s some for me: we may call it herb-grace o’Sundays’ – Hamlet
Shakespeare bought the land and orchards on this site, which he gave to his daughter Susanna on her marriage to physician John Hall; here they built Hall’s Croft. Shakespeare learned more about the medicinal properties of plants, their powers and dangers, which are evident in so many of his plays. In today’s garden, visitors can still see the historic layout, with the garden sitting in two halves, on the new and old sides of town and a 250-year-old Mulberry on the boundary line. The garden style now celebrates mid twentieth-century style from its restoration by Shakespeare’s Birthplace Trust. Visitors can see crocus, scillas, double daisies and more, while along the pathways roses are underplanted with irises, delphiniums and herbaceous plants. There’s a nod to the Elizabethan era too, with the colourful combination of bulbs, hardy annuals and short-lived perennials, plus the more recent addition of a herb garden featuring plants listed in Dr Hall’s casebook, including comfrey, sage and thyme.
Adapted extract from Shakespeare’s Gardens (Frances Lincoln).
We love the illustrations and garden photography in this beautiful book – perfect for your coffee-table!
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