Shakespeare also mentions seeds

And in his needy shop a tortoise hung,
An alligator stuff’d, and other skins
Of ill-shaped fishes; and about his shelves
A beggarly account of empty boxes,
Green earthen pots, bladders and musty seeds,
Remnants of packthread and old cakes of roses,
Were thinly scatter’d, to make up a show.

~ Romeo in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Act V, Scene 1

In this scene, the anguished Romeo believes Juliet is dead, and vowing, “Well, Juliet, I will lie with thee tonight,” he plans his suicide by seeking out an apothecary’s shop to buy poison. It’s interesting to think that Romeo’s detailed description of the poor apothecary’s inventory, including “musty seeds…and old cakes of roses” has conjured up the same images of a dusty shop filled with bottles of mysterious things in the minds of countless people over the last 400 years.  I can almost smell the musty scent of the old herbs and dried flowers in the apothecary’s shop, and so could the audiences who watched the play during Shakespeare’s lifetime.

In fact, as I wrote in this week’s Mail Tribune column, Shakespeare mentions plants, seeds and gardening practices more than 70 times in the four plays from Shakespeare’s canon that will be performed during the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s 2018 season: Othello, Henry V, Love’s Labor’s Lost and Romeo and Juliet.

In Romeo and Juliet, the Bard mentions a variety of flowers, herbs, grasses, trees and shrubs:

monkshood (the poison),  pinks, roses, pepper, rosemary, rue, wormwood, rushes, apple, hazel, pomegranate, quince, pear, willow, and yew

I’m growing all of these plants for the Romeo and Juliet garden tableaux, which is part of The Bard’s Garden I’m creating at historic Hanley Farm. More about The Bard’s Garden to come!

For now, I’m sowing lots of seeds (hopefully, not musty seeds) in my greenhouse. It’s my favorite place to be at this time of the year.

My greenhouse isn't an apothecary's shop, but it's fllled with mysterious things!

Lights and heat mats help seed germination.

For me, sowing seeds always begins with cleaning seed trays!


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  • About the Author

    Rhonda Nowak

    Rhonda Nowak is a Rogue Valley gardener, writer and teacher. With more than 25 years of gardening experience and a Ph.D. in literature and language arts education, she combines a love for plants, poetry, and prose in her Literary Gardener blog. ... Full Profile
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