Monday, July 30, 2012

Shakespeare Garden At Northwestern University Is A Study In Beauty


                                      I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
                                     Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
                                     Quite overcanopied with luscious woodbine,
                                     With sweet musk roses and with eglantine.
                                     Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight.

                                                    A Midsummer Night's Dream (2.1.255-60)

I took a midsummer day's tour of the Shakespeare Garden at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, during my recent trip to sweet home Chicago. 

The garden, tucked in between Hawthorn trees and tall hedges on campus near the Frank W. Howes chapel, is 95 years old and is on the national register of historic places.

Looking up at the castle-like structure with spires in the background, for a brief moment it looked a little more like the Bard's native England instead of the Chicago area.

Ah, well it looks more like the back drop of Chicago from this vantage point. And it certainly felt like Chicago with temperatures in July reaching almost 100 degrees and the humidity seemed just as high. 

But the heat didn't stop at least one student from taking advantage 
of reading in the shady nooks of this lovely garden. 

Eight garden beds fill a 70 by 100 feet garden plot that is divided in half both by turf grass and a sundial. 

The beds are divided by pavers and boxwood hedges.

The garden was designed by renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen in 1915 in response to the Drama League of America's suggestion to plant gardens to commemorate the 300th year of William Shakespeare's death.  It was also considered a gesture of wartime sympathy for British allies and to celebrate strong ties between the United States and Great Britain.

As a result, numerous Shakespeare Gardens 
popped up in the United States. 
This one is maintained by the Garden Club of Evanston.

Many of the themed gardens are similar in that they feature the plants and flowers mentioned in his numerous works. You may also find some of these quotes in the gardens and
possibly a bronze bust of the famous poet.

What I hope you find is a surprisingly beautiful garden,
 like I did at Northwestern University, and a great spot to sit and enjoy the tranquility

and beauty of the whole garden,

with flowers at the height of their bloom season that lull you 
'with dances and delight.'

At this garden, Jensen planted lots of the flowers Shakespeare mentions in his works, such as balm, broom, carnation, columbine, cowslip, daffodils, daisies, flax, lavender, lilies, mallow, marjoram, pansy, peony, violets and wormwood.

Some of them you might recognize and others you might not.

You might be inspired to google some of the plants Shakespeare writes about, like I was (for example from the opening quote above, apparently woodbine is honeysuckle and eglantine is sweetbriar, or a rosa rubiginosa).

But while it is useful and fun, especially for gardeners, to identify flowers and plants (even better if you can recite both the common name and the Latin name), it certainly isn't necessary to enjoy a garden just 
for its beauty or scents.

 Next time you are in a garden, whether or not it has a Shakespeare theme, remember that even the Bard himself would advise us not to get too hung up on names and labels. Otherwise, we might not see the forest for the trees. One of Shakespeare's most famous lines, from the tragic story of Romeo and Juliet, challenges us to reconsider the importance of names:

"What's in a name. That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

This is GardenEnvy.

Copyright 2012 by Jeannine. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Mission Hills Garden Designs Bring The Indoors Outside

Garden furniture. Outdoor rooms.
Apparently, that is mostly what I noticed during 
some of the garden walks I took around San Diego this year.

My last post, about the La Jolla Secret Garden Tour,
 featured my fascination with tablescapes in the garden,
and after the Mission Hills Garden Walk on May 12,
I came home with lots of pictures of sofas, chairs and dining tables.

Furnishing the back yard and patio like an extension of your indoor living space is useful in a mild climate like San Diego, where we can comfortably garden and use the patio all year.

And, by way of explanation, I guess there is good reason my eyes wandered from the plants and zeroed in on furniture--since I have been considering furnishings for my own yard this year.

This garden is decked out in earthy tones, repeating the color scheme of the house, and was a highlight of the Mission Hills garden walk. Though it seems to be just your average size urban lot,
 there is room here for vines,


 shrubs, small trees, a water feature, a fireplace, outdoor grilling and lots of furniture--clearly designed for entertaining and relaxation. Sort of like a great room, but it's outdoors instead.

 Seating included a concrete garden bench (above) softened with pillows,

 a set of weathered wood chairs around the outdoor fireplace

 and even traditional rockers on the deck.

The deck also includes this banquette bench flanked with outdoor curtains.
 This garden has it all. And it works nicely.

It is an eyeopener to see just how much you could do in a small space.
 The distressed wood dining table seats ten, mismatched chairs but coordinated fabrics, and is encircled with thyme planted in between the flagstone. 
Hands down, this was my favorite thing on the whole tour.

In addition to the long table, there are several bistro table sets, of various styles, tucked into small nooks throughout the garden. I loved the idea of adding tables for two, perfect for mingling on a smaller scale or having that morning coffee while reading your email.
 (Since this garden walk, I have already added a bistro set to my own patio.)

 I was captivated by the gates too, both the simple wood lattice entrance covered in flowering vines and this fantastic medieval-like wood and iron door. Both make me want to see what lies beyond.  

Another one of my favorites on the tour is this historic, prairie-style 1916 Mission Hills home.

I enjoyed it both for the gardens and, again, for the outdoor living space

that features a contemporary yet classic fireplace and sofa grouping. Though I usually leave garden tours inspired to be a better gardener, this tour inspired me to think about how to make my own outdoor space feel more like a comfortable indoor room. Living space where I can also enjoy my garden.

Now I can't wait to redecorate!

This is GardenEnvy.

Copyright 2012 by jayro. All Rights Reserved.