By Judy McCarthy • Photo by Renee Gustafson
The calendar tells us it is spring, even though many of the usual signs remain hidden. We northern New Englanders are used to her capriciousness and, in spite of what often seems like the shortest of seasons, we remain hopeful.
William Shakespeare was also a person attuned to spring’s vagaries. His verse is replete with allusions to the seasons and his sensory imagery was particularly acute when describing fickle spring. He mentions well over 80 flowers and plants by name in his plays, and 29 scenes are set in orchards or gardens. If he were alive today, he might want to write one scene in our very own Shakespeare Garden at Grantham’s Dunbar Free
Established in 1997 by Eastman resident Jack Andrews to honor the memory of his late wife, Joyce, the garden, situated directly behind the library parking area is now very well established. Joyce loved flowers and books, so a garden full of plants mentioned in the plays and sonnets of Shakespeare and situated at the library she frequented seems a fitting memorial. Designed by Barbara Burt of New London and lovingly tended to by former Eastman resident Bev Woodhouse and many friends for over 10 years, the garden is now tended to by Bob and Judy McCarthy. A wooden stand, conceived and constructed by Eastman resident John Carroll, is both handsome and serviceable, for it contains a sheet with information about the flowers in the garden and where they can be found in Shakespeare’s verse.
Among the flowers listed are lavender, pansy, iris, wild geranium, fritillaries, lily, columbine, monkshood, primrose, rose, wormwood, violet, scabiosa, aster and daffodil. Other possibilities include bluebells and daisies, yarrow and false indigo and a variety of herbs.
If you have any Shakespeare-mentioned flowers you would like to share, drop a line to the author of this article at mccarthy.judy at gmail.com. As well as a memorial to a wonderful life and a celebration of English literature, the garden might become a friendship garden with hopes that it might serve as the backdrop or setting for some activities.
Several springs past, a group of local children met there on April 23, often acknowledged as Shakespeare’s birthday, to learn about The Bard and celebrate his special day with cupcakes and a song. After an introduction to some of his writings, the children planted marigolds, one of the annuals mentioned in his plays, and took some home to their own gardens in memory of his work.
How wonderful would it be some midsummer’s night to perform a few flowery scenes from the plays, or to recite sonnets from Shakespeare while gathered around the garden?
Stay tuned for information about ways you can get involved in garden and Bard activities. Please, whenever you are at the library, take a minute to walk over to the garden to see what is blooming. Stop awhile and enjoy.
This garden is for you, too.