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Growing a Shakespearean Herb Garden 
 
by Wendelynn Gunderson June 22, 2005

William Shakespeare must have loved gardening as his works include many mentions of common herbs in Elizabethan England. A Shakesperean herb garden is a creative theme garden that even a beginner can manage. This article dicusses the planning and cultivation of the herb garden and lists several of the herbs most referenced in his works.

Herbs have been prized through the centuries for their many uses from medicinal to culinary. Tribal peoples and healers learned of their medicinal uses and passed their secrets on generation to generation. Even today, many modern medicines have an herbal basis. Today, herbs remain popular for use in aromatherapy, natural cosmetics and remedies as well as for cooking. The most popular use of herbs remains in the kitchen, where they are valued for their aromatic and flavorful contributions to cooking. A kitchen herb garden is essential for many culinary aficionados. Growing herbs is an ideal project for someone with limited space and time to devote to gardening.

An herb garden based on plants and flowers mentioned in William Shakespeare’s works is an interesting way to experience the aromas and flavors that were a part of Elizabethan England. The plants selected for this garden are a combination of herbs that were popular during his life and provide a mix of medicinal, culinary, and aromatic herbs. Keep in mind that all of the medicinal qualities of the herbs are from historical sources and that you should check with your physician before ingesting any herb as a medical treatment. All of the plants rare readily available and can be successfully grown by the average gardener.

Herbs are wonderful in that they can be grown in many different ways. Grown as a container garden on your patio they provide you with lovely color, texture, and aromas. Planted in the ground, they can form the basis of a traditional kitchen garden. You can even grow them in pots on your windowsill.

Planning Your Herb Garden

Herbs require very well drained, alkaline soil and full to partial sun. If you are unsure of your soil conditions, you can purchase a soil Ph test kit at the garden center or call your county’s Extension service office for information. If you are growing your herbs in containers, start with an excellent grade potting soil. Good drainage is vital to growing herbs. How can you tell if you have good drainage? Observe your selected garden spot after the next rainfall. Does it absorb the rain at a reasonable rate or do you notice that the rain is running off almost immediately? If the rainwater is running off quickly, you have poor drainage and the roots of the herbs will not take in the water and nutrients they need. If your soil needs amended to alter either the Ph or the drainage, either the garden center or the Extension Agent will be able to help with your soil preparation.

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