The plays and poems of William Shakespeare are peppered with mentions of plants and flowers--roses, daisies, pansies, violets and all sorts of herbs and wildflowers. Most of the plants and flowers he mentioned are familiar today, although, in some cases, we know them by different names or grow different varieties of the plants.
Comfortable with both the common folk and the royals, Shakespeare made frequent references to both the wildflowers of the countryside and the formal gardens that gained popularity in the Tudor England of his day. More than 25 scenes from his plays are set in gardens.
He often used references to flowers as a way of expressing ideas about his characters and events; such references describe life in the England of Shakespeare's day and speak to Shakespeare's fondness for the countryside of the town of Stratford, on the river Avon, where he grew up.
Yet, he was no village lad; Stratford was a crossroads and more developed than many remote villages, and Shakespeare's father was a middle-class businessman.
As a boy, Will would certainly have come to know the wildflowers that grew along the river and in the nearby orchards and meadows. He would also have seen formal gardens, which were popular at the time; it was in such formal flower beds and garden walks that Malvolio was spied upon in "Twelfth Night" and that Benedick and Beatrice were fooled by overheard conversations in "Much Ado About Nothing."
Although the playwright spent much of his life in London, he carried a love of country things with him. And when he retired to Stratford at the end of his career, the home he bought had a large garden and orchard of its own.