Published: March 11, 2022

Plants were important to Shakespeare. From love potions in A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Ophelia’s symbolic bouquet of rosemary, pansies, fennel, rue and daisies in Hamlet, plants appear in the storylines of many of the Bard’s greatest works. 

At CU Boulder, the Colorado Shakespeare Gardens serve as a tranquil, historic lesson on plants prevalent in Shakespeare’s time. Founded by Marlene Cowdery in 1991 and now a donation-based program within the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, the gardens are maintained by nearly 20 members — including master gardeners, teachers and CU alumni. On Saturdays from spring to fall, members can be seen gardening in the courtyard between the Hellems Arts and Sciences Building and the Lucile Berkeley Buchanan Building. 


white rose
columbine flower
cymbeline lily
flax flower


Approximate number of plant species in the gardens


Types of trees in the gardens 


Members of the gardens, with 5-6 regular maintenance volunteers 


Annual cost to maintain the gardens 

450 hours 

Volunteered approximately each year to maintain the gardens

Unusual plants

Samphire (King Lear) and pomegranate (All’s Well That Ends Well, Romeo and Juliet and Henry IV, Part 1)

June and September

Best months to visit the gardens

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Shakespeare play that mentions the most plants and flowers 

The Plant-Lore & Garden-Craft of Shakespeare (1884)

Primary source of information for gardeners about featured plants

New members and volunteers are welcome. Anyone interested can email

Take a virtual tour of the gardens.  

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Photos courtesy Colorado Shakespeare Gardens