Perdita’s Flowers and Shakespeare Gardens
Today, we’re running off with young lovers Perdita and Florizel, to places where the lavender and gillyvors grow. Come along on our getaway inspired by Perdita’s gifts of flowers in The Winter’s Tale. Our destination: Shakespeare gardens.
During WWI in 1915, a garden of flowers, shrubs, trees, and herbs mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays was established by The Garden Club of Evanston. The memorial fountain bears quotes from The Winter’s Tale, along with As You Like It and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Rosemary, lavender, rue, daffodil, marigold, and mint mentioned in Perdita’s speech are on the list of plants allowed in the garden.
The Drama League of America encouraged the planting of literary gardens to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the playwright’s death. The gardens also demonstrated Americans’ wartime sympathy for the British Allies. Some Shakespeare gardens from that era survive today, and many have been planted since.
Ready for an armchair adventure?
See what grows in Shakespeare gardens across the United States. Here are several to visit online:
Vassar Shakespeare Garden, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY PHOTO: Vassar College
Shakespeare Garden, Seattle University, Seattle, WA – plant list with Shakespeare quotations.
Shakespeare Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn, NY
Shakespeare Garden, Central Park, New York, NY
Garden of Shakespeare’s Flowers, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA
The British Garden of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens was originally a Shakespeare garden, planted in 1916. Today, gardens from cultures around the world are represented.
Perhaps you know of other Shakespeare gardens around the United States. Share your favorites and flowers with us on Twitter and Facebook. Follow and “like” us when you visit!
Here’s flowers for you; Hot lavender, mints, savoury, marjoram. The marigold, that goes to bed wi’ the sun and with him rises weeping: these are flowers of middle summer, and I think they are given to men of middle age.” – Perdita, The Winter’s Tale (Act IV, Scene IV)
Perdita’s flower speech comes in the comedic second act of The Winter’s Tale, in Bohemia’s springtime. She bestows gifts of flowers on Florizel, her lover; on her shepherd friends; and on King Polixenes. During this scene, some flowers mentioned are violets, primroses, oxlips, crowns imperial, lilies, and fleurs-de-luce.
Shakespeare’s audiences would have understood symbolism ascribed to the flowers, William O. Scott wrote in a 1963 article for Shakespeare Quarterly.
For example, lavender is a flower of true love and appropriate for men in the prime of life. Rosemary, for remembrance and penitence, is suitable for men of older age. Perdita makes gifts of both to King Polixenes, first the winter flowers (rosemary, rue) then the summer flowers (hot lavender, marigolds). Shakespeare winks at his audience, because young Perdita does not recognize the king, who is disguised as an old man. Both gifts are appropriate.
THE WINTER’s TALE PHOTOS: The shepherds dance in Bohemia in The Winter’s Tale at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. Photo by Shealyn Jae. Kelsey Murray as the lost princess Perdita and Clay Vanderbeek as Florizel, the prince of Bohemia. Molly Moores as the shepherdess Dorcas, with the flowers that Perdita will share. Photos by Jean Thompson.