THE BARD IN BLOOM (KNH, July 6, 2013)
Suggesting “the balcony scene” tends to lead people to think of William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet.
Mentioned in that balcony scene, as well as in others of his plays and sonnets, is a rose. The line in Romeo and Juliet, arguably one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, goes, “What’s in a name?/That which we call a rose/By any other name would smell as sweet…”
But what’s in a garden? Well, a requirement for a Shakespeare garden, such as the Raymond Caldwell Shakespeare Garden in memory of Nelda Lewis, is that every plant in it must have been mentioned in a work of Shakespeare, Cherisa York, representative for the Shakespeare Garden on the Kilgore Improvement and Beautification Association board, said. The garden has been a supplement to the Texas Shakespeare Festival since it was dedicated in 1996.
The general design of the garden also lends itself to be a Shakespeare garden, York said. The design is to have boxwood hedges surround the garden, which is an English style.
The climate in the English countryside where Shakespeare grew up is different from that in East Texas, Raymond Caldwell, founder and art director of the Texas Shakespeare Festival, said. That means substitutes must be found for some plants, flowers and trees mentioned in the plays and – substitutes that can survive in this area.
Not only can it be difficult to find plants that can survive, but also Caldwell said the name Shakespeare used might not be the same used today. This is when historical research into the background of the plant in order to get its scientific name helps identify whether the plant still exists today, and if so, how it is known in today’s language.
If the specific plant mentioned in one of the Bard’s works is not available or cannot survive in East Texas weather, York said she tries to find a plant within the same family.
“A lot of the plants, whether they’re flowers or trees or shrubs or herbs that are mentioned in Shakespeare, many of them would not survive in East Texas heat because England is not as hot,” Caldwell said.
KIBA director Wanda Bittick, who helped start the garden, said the plants that work best in the garden are those that are disease free and that like Texas sun.
KIBA has tried to have more perennial flowers than annuals, York, who is also a master gardener, said. Perennials are flowers that will come back year after year without needing to be replanted.
The garden features plants, such as daylilies, salvia, roses, evergreen trees, boxwood hedges, mondo grass, chrysanthemums, violets, marigolds, dianthus, honeysuckle, irises, hydrangeas and daisies. Another aspect of the garden is the herb area, featuring mint, lavender and rosemary. Visitors might also happen upon a dancing bear in the garden – in the form of a shaped hedge.
In addition to the plants in the garden, Bittick said there is also a sun dial, a bust of the man himself and benches.
Caldwell said there used to be identifying plaques stating the common name, the scientific name, and the quote where it was referenced in Shakespeare’s work. KIBA is planning to replace those with ones of better quality, and York said she thought the Texas Shakespeare Festival would provide the plaques.
There were a lot of records and books to look through for information, Bittick said. She added that it took trial and error to find out which plants would survive and which ones needed to be replaced.
With all of Shakespeare’s works and the numerous mentions of plants within them, Bittick said Lewis, who also founded KIBA and the garden, spent nearly a year researching the different plants in books, photographs and reports from others who had visited the Shakespeare garden in Stratford-upon-Avon where Shakespeare lived.
The garden is a “labor of love,” York said. KIBA and garden club volunteers take care of the garden, along with a yard that once a week helps with maintenance and with big projects.
With the most work being done by volunteers, Bittick said it can be difficult to maintain because there is not someone out there every day. Sometimes all of the volunteers will come out on one specific day and work on whatever projects need to be done.
York said it gives her the opportunity to share the love of a garden with the community, especially in a community known for Shakespeare with the festival.
“It is a beautiful place to relax, enjoy the flowers and be outdoors,” York said.
Bittick, York and Caldwell each said they believed more people walked through the garden while the festival was in season and that the festival was what brought them to the garden. Caldwell said he did not think anyone really came for the garden and found the festival because the garden is not promoted enough to bring people here on its own.
The Raymond Caldwell Shakespeare Garden in memory of Nelda Lewis is free to the public, and visitors may bring picnics into the garden if they wish, Bittick said.
The Texas Shakespeare Festival runs until July 28. Shows include The Comedy of Errors, The Foreigner, The Winter’s Tale, Camelot and The Enchanted Forest.
Upcoming TSF performances:
The Comedy of Errors by William Shakespeare Directed by Chuck Ney July 6, 12*, 14*, 19, 21, 25*, 27
The Foreigner by Larry Shue Directed by Raymond Caldwell July 7*, 12, 14, 18*, 20*, 25, 27
The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare Directed by Matthew Earnest July 7, 11*, 13*, 18, 20, 26*, 28*
Camelot by Alan Jay Lerner Music by Frederick Loewe Choreography & Directed by Abe Reybold July 6*, 11, 13, 16*, 16, 19*, 21*, 26, 28
The Enchanted Forest
Written & Directed by Jason Richards July 17, 18, 19, 20, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 at 10 a.m.
All shows start at 7:30 unless denoted by * or otherwise specified
* matinee performance starting at 2 p.m.
By CHELSEA KATZ, email@example.com