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An Olmsted Brothers Shakespeare Garden


June 22, 2021

A Revival and an Unlimited Run

Few garden clubs can boast an Olmsted Brothers designed garden as their local civic project.

With their long involvement with The Shakespeare Garden in Cedar Brook Park, New Jersey, the Plainfield Garden Club (PGC) can. Created by the Plainfield Shakespeare Society in 1927 and tended by dedicated PGC volunteers ever since, the garden features two 100-foot-long borders and seventeen flowerbeds. Nearly every Saturday during the growing season, a group of seven or eight PGC members gather to maintain this historic garden.

The Union County Park Commission hired the Olmsted Brothers to create a garden using plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s works—such as roses, wild thyme, and columbine. In a nod to Frederick Law Olmsted’s earlier “Emerald Necklace” of green parks in Boston, the Shakespeare Garden joined a strand of Olmsted Brothers mini gardens planted within Cedar Brook Park and other parks and parkways dotting Union County. 

The Shakespeare Garden has evolved and is currently enjoying a revival, in spite of challenges. While keeping with the spirit and color scheme of the original garden, PGC members encountered modern issues of cost, sustainability, and aching backs. For a moment, PGC’s involvement was in question. With Henry V’s “once more into the breach” attitude, PGC members reassessed spring-focused only planting and up-graded plantings to encompass summer and fall perennials and shrubs as well. (Not all of the plants in Shakespeare’s repertoire flourished in the Garden State.) Equally important, PGC has strengthened its partnership with the Union County Park Commission, which has contributed funds for deer spray service, topsoil, mulch, and new plant material. Thanks to PGC and the park system, the result is a Shakespearian revival of a living, growing legacy.


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