Margaret Lauterbach

Try a theme garden based on the Bard

A low-water theme is perfect for southern Idaho gardens.
A low-water theme is perfect for southern Idaho gardens. Idaho Statesman file

Happy birthday and, unfortunately, death day, William Shakespeare. Yes, he died on the estimated anniversary of his birth. He enabled our understanding of human failings, and enriched our language. Some theme gardens feature plants he mentioned in his plays and sonnets, from “Rosemary, that’s for remembrance…” to “pansies, that’s for thoughts.”

The Huntington Gardens in Pasadena, Calif., has 12 theme gardens, including a Shakespeare garden, planted with damask and musk roses that he would have known, as well as fennel, daisies, violets, thyme, willow and pomegranate trees, and other plants he mentioned in his plays and sonnets.

Individual gardeners sometimes plant their own Shakespeare gardens or follow other themes. One popular theme is a Mary garden, featuring plants that refer to the Virgin Mary. Rosemary is one, Lady’s Mantle, Lady’s Bedstraw, Marigold, etc. Many plants evoke the Virgin Mary and Jesus, if you use the medieval names of plants. See

Other themed gardens may evoke memories of ancestral gardens with plants handed down through the family; a Japanese garden with carefully raked sands; one with all blue flowers; plantings designed to attract birds, butterflies and/or beneficial insects; a rainbow garden with all colors of the rainbow flowers; a Three Sisters vegetable garden (beans, squash and corn); a cutting garden; or one of the most challenging, a clock garden.

The clock garden should feature plants that bloom at certain times of the day, according to where they’re placed on the “clock face” of the garden. If it’s expertly arranged, a person could stand in the center as a human gnome and tell time by the flower on which their shadow falls.

In our area, a desert garden or a native plants garden requires little supplemental water, if any, once established, so would serve as a xeriscaped area.

Some plant a garden of different scents, often for a relative or friends who have diminished eyesight. That could also feature leaves or paths of different textures. For children, one could plant storybook plants from their favorite books. Some folks have Harry Potter-themed gardens, for instance.

‘ReLeaf Boise’

Boise, the City of Trees, can always use more trees, and you can help. The occasion is “ReLeaf Boise,” set to increase the city’s trees by 80 more in public rights of way on April 30. Volunteer planters must attend a tree planting class Thursday, April 28, from 6 to 7 p.m. Your first step is to register, online or by telephone. For information, see or call 608-7617. You can also email When you register, you’ll be informed of the location of the training session.

Volunteers or teams of volunteers must provide their own tools and equipment, including a truck or trailer to haul trees, two or more spades, rake, bucket for water, hand pruner, pick, a tarp (for temporary storage of dirt or grass), hat, drinking water, sunscreen and a city map.

The Community Forestry unit of Boise’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation has teamed with volunteers for tree planting since 1990, planting thousands of trees in public areas. The trees not only provide shade and habitat for wildlife and beneficial insects, but also they remove toxic substances from our air, emit oxygen, control erosion and help to recharge and retain groundwater.

Volunteers new to this area also may meet some of our nicest people while helping the community.

Send garden questions to or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.