The College of Saint Elizabeth Refurbishes 92-year-old Garden


The Shakespeare Garden, on the grounds of the College of Saint Elizabeth, was once a beautiful place of pilgrimage. Conceptualized in 1925 by Sister Angela Dorety, the first religious Sister in the United States to receive her Ph.D., the garden was inspired by several of Shakespeare’s plays and poems. Even though gardens dedicated to the bard were popular at the time, Dorety’s vision was revolutionary because she grouped the flowers according to the plays in which they were featured.

Her efforts enabled students and community members to truly experience the scents of the tales. The sweetness of roses, pomegranate and yew mimicked Romeo and Juliet’s epic love story while the bitterness of poppy and thyme are reminiscent of Othello’s tragedy. Each bed, filled with flowers distinctive to one of Shakespeare’s plays, provoked a visceral reaction to the literature it represented.

Renowned horticulturist, Charles H. Totty (1873-1939), was so impressed with Dorety’s rendition that he asserted, “no Shakespeare Garden in the world, not even the one at Avon, the birthplace of the poet, quite reaches the beauty and perfection of the one with which all of us at Saint Elizabeth’s are familiar.”

For the last several decades, the Shakespeare Garden was maintained by Sister Agnes Ruesoff, who cared deeply about nature and literature. Unfortunately, she passed away in the fall of 2016 and the ground’s infrastructure suffered greatly. Now CSE is intent on restoring the garden to its once great splendor.

Jayne Murphy-Morris, director of volunteerism and service learning at CSE, received a grant from the Sisters of Charity to lead this renovation. She says, “The refurbishment of the Shakespeare Garden is really rooted in demonstrating the need to have a place to reflect and think and be.”

The Garden will enable our community, students, staff, faculty and Sisters of Charity to contemplate, “the presence of God in the diversity of creation which compels us to a life of reverence for the sacredness of the earth.” This phrase is the Sisters of Charity statement on climate change.

The main goals of this undertaking are to revive the flowers, supplement plants that need to be replaced, enhance community between CSE and the Sisters of Charity and to provide a garden atmosphere for students, faculty, staff and sisters alike.

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