The Will Geer Memorial

Flavia PotenzaBy Flavia Potenza

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The Will Geer Memorial
Above: Tom Hayduk Right: Garden Entryway
Theatricum Botanicum’s gardens around the theater this year are exceptionally lush and beautiful following the winter rains. But we were there to see the Will Geer Memorial Shakespeare Garden, where Will Geer’s ashes rest beneath a towering redwood. Like all gardens, it is a work in progress according to Tom Hayduk, who in 2019 signed on with Theatricum’s Restoration Committee to restore the garden. Anticipating our tour, we found him deadheading a rose bush whose blooms were beyond their prime. We began the tour in a place he calls the creek-side picnic area that leads into the garden under a canopy of majestic Sycamore and redwood trees. We perched on a couple of picnic tables as he introduced himself.
Path leading to Boxwood court (l). Inset: Lizard sunning
“A garden is always evolving, it’s not stagnant,” he said. “I had been working here with the former gardener and when Ellen Geer talked about the history of the place, I said I wanted to renovate the Shakespeare garden.” Ellen agreed and he started by getting rid of non-native plants and weeds. “I do a lot of weeding here…weeds I love to take out.”
Hayduk is not just any gardener; he also collects and propagates plants of the Santa Monica Mountains and has the knowledge of a master gardener, rattling off both the Latin and common names of the plants as we wandered through what is a smaller garden than I expected.
The list is long and not all the plants are in Shakespeare’s plays, but that will change somewhat. Some were natives and others were already there and they kept them. The boxwood hedge dominates the area where in the center of the “box,”a lizard sunned itself on a makeshift carved stone pedestal.

Follow a path in the Shakespeare garden and say hello and thanks to Will Geer.
We strolled past rosemary and rue, absinth, oregano, marjoram, lemon balm, royal willow, creeping time (a ground cover of tiny green leaves), pink hedge meadow (?) and mugwort that likes to grow along the creek. None of them were showy, but then most of Shakespeare’s plants had medicinal and culinary properties and had meanings and stories behind them. They weren’t meant as decorative plantings. For now, the roses and daylilies hold court under the dappled sunlight streaming through the canopy of majestic sycamore and redwood trees, stretching what seemed like miles above our heads.

“It will be a lot better when we get a few more species planted and the signs in,” said Hayduk, as we left the garden and walked past the concession stand and Woody’s cabin to the theater entrance which was adorned with colorful flowers. [MORE]

“The stage area will also get some renovation around the entrance, probably this fall,” he said.

From the roses of “Romeo and Juliet” to the lilies of “The Winter’s Tale,” William Shakespeare mentioned plants 200 times in his plays and sonnets. Roses come up 96 times, next in line are oak trees, 36 times. (extension.oregonstate.edu)
Flavia Potenza

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