As mid-summer approaches we are reminded of the many flowers that thread throughout Shakespeare’s works. In this year of his 400th anniversary, we reflect upon some of the beautiful flowers that are often used in our Hagley Flower School workshops, that were also favourites of this great poet and playwright. We draw inspiration from his works influencing some of our romantic, country garden designs.
A Garland of flowers for the “Bard of Avon”
William Shakespeare displays a great knowledge of flowers, plants and herbs in his sonnets and plays, describing throughout his many works both the wild and cultivated flowers of his time with full awareness of their beauty and symbolism.
Love’s Labour’s Lost?
When daisies pied and violets blue
And lady-smocks all silver-white,
And cuckoo buds of yellow hue
Do paint the meadows with delight
Shakespeare’s parents came from farming families and Stratford-upon Avon, surrounded by countryside, meadow and woodland would have provided a playground for his early years.
The trees and plants of the garden and orchard together with hedgerow and meadow flowers were full of meaning, their beauty and fragrance perhaps providing the poetry of his soul.
He has left behind a wonderful image of the Tudor garden which still informs our love of the cottage garden to this day.
Roses, lilies, daisies, violets, buttercups, pansies, columbine, honeysuckle, carnations, daffodils, primroses, marigold, oxslips, crown imperial.
Herbs of rosemary, thyme, parsley, mint, marjoram, camomile, garlic, hyssop, lavender, balm, fennel, rue, wormwood and saffron.
Shakespeare mentions roses in his plays and sonnets more frequently than any other flower.
• What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Romeo and Juliet
Lilies were another favourite – flowers an emblem of beauty comparable with gold and the matchless scent of the violet.
Violets – the colour, perfume and nodding habit are mentioned many times throughout his works, another firm favourite.
Carnations the flowers of midsummer and symbolic of middle age are also known as gillyvors or gillyflowers.
Pansies known also as heartsease –and “love-in-idleness”
From An Illustrated introduction to Shakespeare’s Flowers by Dr Levi Fox
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
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.
What influences your floral style? We’d love to hear from you.