Biblical and Shakespeare gardens

Some gardens grow only the plants mentioned in either the Bible or the works of Shakespeare.

Shakespeare garden
Ingfbruno, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight;

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Both the Bible and the works of Shakespeare have a lot to say about plants. “A rose by any other name,” Jesus cursing the fig tree, “you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” and many many more. Shakespeare’s works mention 175 different plants; Biblical references range from aniseed to wormwood, maybe as many as 400 in all. Some keen garden designers sensed an opportunity here, and planted public gardens with a very specific set of rules: this garden can only contain plants mentioned in the Bible, or plants mentioned by Shakespeare.

Shakespearean gardens seem to be the more popular choice: there’s one in Stratford-upon-Avon; New York’s Central Park; and the botanical gardens of Brooklyn, Johannesburg, and Dunedin. I imagine they are popular for weddings. There are biblical gardens in Jerusalem, Scotland, Alabama, Fukuoka, and Missouri – these are usually decorated with relevant scripture so that people can reflect on the source while they enjoy the flora.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s