With the stylized look of a woodland glade as the Shakespeare Garden's main motif, it appears as if it were a vignette from an old English country scene. Visitors see Shakespeare's plants set forth in a boggy dell, while neighboring trees suggest an encroaching forest. This pastoral illusion is strengthened by gently rolling berms, a few carefully placed trees, and distant masses of perennial color, elements which lend textural detail and expand the perceived size of the garden--thus more fully engaging the imagination of the visitor. However, the ultimate intention of this garden is the creation of a stage for the understanding of Shakespeare's art and its relationship to plants.
Located between the Huntington Art Gallery and the Virginia Steele Scott Gallery, the Shakespeare Garden includes many plants and flowers mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays including poppies, pansies, violets, pinks, carnations, rosemary, daffodils, irises, roses, columbines, and marigolds, in tribute to the Library collection of early editions of Shakespeare. A small plaque next to each of the plants quotes the relevant line or verse: “It was the nightingale, and not the lark, That pierc'd the fearful hollow of thine ear; Nightly she sings on yond pomegranate-tree...” (Romeo and Juliet, Act III, Scene V); “There's rosemary, that's for remembrance....” (Hamlet, Act IV Scene V), etc. Some of the less obvious Shakespearean plants in the garden include wild thyme, garlic, woodbine, grape, crab-apple, myrtle, sweet violet, lemon balm, fern, and holly.
Landscape Architect, Ralph Cornell designed the original garden in a formal style in 1959. Early on it was discovered that many of the plants selected only bloomed in the cool part of the Southern California year so it was decided to expand the collection allowing some non-Shakespearian plants into the garden, and complementing the Library’s fine collection of early Herbals. In 1982 the garden underwent a major redesign by Landscape Architect Ann Christoph to accommodate the new Scott Gallery.
Did you know?
The flagpole in the Shakespeare Garden was made
from the trunk of a Douglas fir from the Pacific Northwest. Brought by
ship to Redondo Beach, it was then loaded onto two horse-drawn wagons
and hauled through the city streets of Los Angeles to its present
location. The flagpole is 148 feet long, with 132 feet above ground and
16 feet in concrete below the ground.
The Shakespeare Garden Collections
Pomegranate, Punica granatum ‘Wonderful’, is mentioned in Romeo and Juliet.
Citrus aurantium, the ‘Chinotto’ orange, is mentioned in Much Ado About Nothing.
English Oak, Quercus robur, figures prominently in many of Shakespeare’s plays and is the oak of Sherwood Forest in the Robin Hood story.
The ‘Apothecary Rose’, the red rose of Lancaster and the white Rose of York , ‘Alba semi-plena’, are from a scene in Henry VI.
Ophelia in Hamlet mentions Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis, for ‘remembrance’.
Primroses and cowslips are common wildflowers of the English countryside and are mentioned in Mid Summer Night’s Dream.
The bust of William Shakespeare commemorates this remarkable man, who wrote 37 plays and 154 sonnets, two narrative poems, and some shorter verses.
Copper Beech, Fagus sylvatica ‘Atropunicea’ is an uncommon deciduous tree in Southern California gardens with highly ornamental red to purple foliage.
Planted throughout the garden is a collection of repeat blooming bearded iris.