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“Here’s Flowers for You” - Plainfield Garden Club Revamps Its Beloved Shakespeare Garden


September 27, 2023

New design is both more ADA-accessible and responsive to climate change

The Olmsted Brothers’ Shakespeare Garden in Cedar Brook Park, New Jersey is a wonderful example of the contributions made by GCA members to support and enrich their communities. For nearly a hundred years, from its installation in 1927, Plainfield Garden Club (PGC) volunteers have tended “their” garden.

Originally proposed as a PGC project by the (now no-longer) Plainfield Shakespeare Society, the garden featured plants that were mentioned in Shakespeare's work. Only forty-four plants and shrubs are found in his writings, so other material from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were used in the 1927 garden. The initial plant lists show a total of 4,484 plants! A new feasibility study aims to make the garden more accessible and responsive to climate change.

In 2010, during a “marathon” meeting, the club planned the restoration of the East Garden. Then in 2023 the club completed a feasibility study funded by grants from The New Jersey Historic Trust and the New Jersey Committee of the GCA. They asked renowned landscape architect Ray Dunetz for a complete redesign to make the garden ADA accessible, more responsive to climate change, and easier to maintain, while incorporating native plants. PGC plans to implement this plan by collaborating with the Union County Board of Commissioners and the Parks Department to ensure the preservation of this historic garden. Work will begin soon.

Over the years, the garden has meant many things to many people. To the members of Plainfield Garden Club, it has been a challenge, full of hard work as well as satisfaction from work well-done. To the community it has brought both beauty and solace. Recently, as a member entered the garden to work, she noticed a small sign left near the entrance that simply read “Friendship.” It had been left by a resident who was experiencing some difficult times, but said that when he sat on the bench, looking over the beauty of the Shakespeare Garden, the world seemed friendlier.

The New Jersey Women’s Heritage Trail highlights the significant contributions of women to historical sites and the places they have left behind. The Plainfield Shakespeare Garden has earned a well-deserved place on the list.



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