One of the many hidden gems of Central Park, the Shakespeare Garden is a lovely spot to “stop and smell the roses”.
Nestled between Belvedere Castle and The Swedish Cottage the garden first came into existence in 1913. Known as the Garden of the Heart it was patterned after Victorian era rock gardens. Then, in 1916, to celebrate the tercentennial of Shakespeare’s death, it was rechristened in honor of the Bard and only plants mentioned in his plays were planted there. These include columbine, primrose, wormwood, quince, lark’s heel, rue, eglantine, flax and cowslip, many of which sound as if they would be right at home boiling and bubbling in a cauldron.
Weeds are shallow-rooted, Suffer them now, and they’ll o’ergrow the garden, And choke the herbs for want of husbandry.
William Shakespeare: King Henry the Sixth, Part II (Queen Margaret at III, i)
This quote could have easily applied to Central Park’s Shakespeare Garden by the mid-1970’s. After years of neglect due to budget constraints and general disinterest the Garden had become run down and overgrown. Then in 1975 a group of volunteers stepped in and started to bring the garden back to its former glory. In 1986 the rescue of the garden was complete as a full restoration was undertaken funded by Samuel and May Rudin. The garden was replanted and expanded upward towards Belvedere Castle. The Shakespeare Garden is once again a popular attraction in the park and the perfect place to ruminate after a performance in the nearby Delacorte Theater.
Location: West Side between 79th and 80th Streets