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Botanical Shakespeare in Concert

Shakespeare's plays are full of music, and 10 of his songs are full of flora.

The lovely lilting music accompanied by the high, clear tones in the distinctive Renaissance song-style makes for a memorable program, punctuated by fascinating facts about the botanical landscape of the period.

This program has met with much delight at Chicago Botanic Garden, LongHouse Reserve on LI, The Coffee House Club in NYC,

Word on the Water book barge in London, &c.

We’ve had the renowned Christopher Morrongiello on the Lute,

Marcia Young on the Renaissance Harp, and in the UK, Nouvelle Ancienne.

(This program, inspired by the musical troupe Galileo’s Daughter that evolved out of Dava Sobel’s fascinating book, can be customized for your needs.)

Shakespeare in the Wild

Finding Shakespeare all around you, the poetry growing in your back yard,

in public parks, even median strips. Seeing your world come alive with literature, history, characters, and plots! See where Shakespeare is urging care for the

environment & Speak the Speeches (audience involvement).

Plus, Adventures in amateur foraging.

The Primrose Path of Alliance

Shakespeare is on your side, but some still feel intimated

by the language, like they just don't or can't 'get it'.

 Plants provide an easy way in.

 We'll take you by the hand & lead you down the garden path

in a much more casual & conversant way, so that you can approach the Bard

till you can Speak the Speech with ease. Refreshing!

Hamlet's Poison: The Mystery of Hebanon & Shakespeare's Other Deadly Plants

A Law & Order-like examination of Shakespeare’s poison plants, including

what killed Hamlet’s father. Scholars & enthusiasts alike have long been fascinated with The Mousetrap’s murder in the garden.

We examine the symptoms of the various specimens, and use forensic evidence

to catch the conscious of the king!

Queen Elizabeth I: Her Plant Passions & the Beginning of Competitive Gardening

After participating in the Chelsea Flower Show in 2018 and reading

Trea Martyn’s fantastic Queen Elizabeth in the Garden (Bloomsbury) came the realization that Queen Elizabeth initiated the idea of garden competition, going for the gold, and the country’s passion for flowers and landscaping.

She may have been the first environmentalist leader.

Find out how that’s reflected in Shakespeare!

Floral Fashion: 16th C. Pantone Colors of the Year—Peach & Carnation

Yes, they did (sort of) have colors of the year in Elizabethan times – they were

very fashionable folk! Queen Elizabeth was often given fruit as gifts, as well as flora in jewelry and clothing. An exploration of the botanical impact in clothing, emblems and mottos, and how these plants show up in Shakespeare.

(Falstaff hated carnation!)

A Growing Romance: Love and Marriage in Shakespeare's Flora

Together we will wax poetic on the following points of passion

and muse on Scents Memories:

Beauty’s Rose

 Helen Mirren & Anne Page on Turnips

Courtship & Weddings

Shakespeare’s Lovers vs. Married couples — who fares better?

Bouquets and Bachelor's Buttons

How to style a wedding (or anniversary)

Secrets & Discoveries in BOTANICAL SHAKESPEARE

Words, words, words –in writing, especially Shakespeare, plants are not as straightforward as they seem. The controversy about Peonies & Ling, Line, Lime and Lavender.  Not to mention the naughty Medlar. & are you up to the Caraway Challenge? Correcting a 400 year old mistake!

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Shakespeare on a Plate

Shakespeare's organic! And a locavore!

The Elizabethans weren't big on veggies -

but that doesn't mean they didn't eat them!

We toss about Shakespeare's salad days and talk about the edible plants

in Shakespeare: planting them, growing them, eating them,

easy recipes, all with a healthy side of history.

Plus: why they used candied caraway seeds, when grains were great, 

and a mini tasting menu.

Shakespeare Forest Bathing

There are over 30 trees in Shakespeare – imagine being immersed in forest of fantastic poetry, whispered to you on the breeze. We combine the Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku, which means "taking in the forest atmosphere", with Shakespeare. Exploring the scents, sounds, and meaning & magic

in the Bard's woodland landscapes.

(Especially good if there's a sylvan glen nearby.)

Refreshing and illuminating! 

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"Gerit, it was a pleasure. The session was great. I loved how you showed the relevance to our current situation."

Jeffrey Haddow

Playwright, Librettist, and Lyricist

Thank you so much for coming to speak to our docents!  Many of them contacted me after the forum to let me know how much they enjoyed hearing you speak.  I know that a good number of the docents purchased your book from the gift shop after the talk...Please keep me posted on other projects you’ve got in the works, and I’ll be sure to keep in contact with you regarding any new educational initiatives here that might be of interest to you.

Jess Hart

Director of Education

Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids, MI

We've never had a launch with so many fresh flowers, performances and even prizes. The store was packed and the book sold like hotcakes! It was a delightfully fun experience hosting a Botanical Shakespeare talk.​

Helene Golay

Owner, The Corner Bookstore, NYC

I want to thank you again for a wonderful event at the Chicago Botanic Garden!  I’ve heard only wonderful comments about your talk, the lute music, and soprano’s voice. You, Christopher, and Hannah provided the audience with a wonderful Sunday afternoon program.
Leora Siegel
Senior Director, Lenhardt Library,

Chicago Botanic Garden, Chicago, IL

...Gerit captivated us with a dynamic, thoughtful and witty presentation

given at an independent bookstore downtown. Cuing off the NYTimes’ recent story, Our Polluted Senses, Gerit countered that Shakespeare’s writing offers the chance to “revive and transform our sensory experiences,”

experiences dulled today by a ubiquitous bombardment of noise, light,

and inferior food (all referenced in the Times story).

“In Shakespeare’s works,” said Gerit, “Plants have people and plots attached to them. They connect to nature, life, emotion, even the military.” She referenced Shakespeare’s eight plays covering the Wars of the Roses as a case in point.“The plants allow you an exciting way into Shakespeare and Shakespeare offers a refreshing way to understand plants,” she said.

Judith Iacuzzi

Garden Club of Evanston, Evanston, IL

When Ms. Quealy mentioned to me that her book, Botanical Shakespeare was being published, I was immediately inspired to create a non-traditional book reading and signing for the people of Newark.

I asked Ms. Quealy if she would do a reading from the book while an Newark artist-led participants in a art workshop based on the illustrations at one of my favorite places in Newark, Riverfront Park. ...The day was perfect. The participants, the beautiful weather and scenery, and of course Ms. Quealy's readings. I think the best part was when she invited a little girl to read with her while her family completed their art projects. ​

Suzanne Joblonski, Newark, NJ


I hope very much to hear you speak again in the Chicago area (in fact, believe an invitation may be in the works), and trust there are no tech issues this time. The fact that you were not flummoxed by that breakdown was so impressive. People felt personally engaged with you, sans the screen & visuals! You carried it off and the only reason I stood up with your computer is that I am a botanical artist and love the paintings so much.

Claudia Lane

Garden Club of EvanstonEvanston, IL

Thank you so much for speaking to our docents. It provided another unique way

to learn about plants! It was a delight to meet you and show you around

Meijer Gardens. Best of luck in your exciting upcoming projects!
Julie Francke

Curator of Horticulture Education

Meijer Gardens, Grand Rapids, MI

Click here for more press and praise on Botanical Shakespeare

Look what the AMAZING 92nd Street Y made from our visit!


The Romeo & Juliet Magnetic Lovers Workshop

An exciting & exclusive* offering for lovers at all stages – a proprietary workshop devised by Gerit Quealy arising from a paper she delivered at the British Shakespeare Association, drawing on her experience with Botanical Shakespeare, myriad wedding articles, & her co-authorship of Wedding Cakes & Flowers  and set amongst flowers & bowers

flush with love & meaning.



Sweep Up Your Shakespeare


Did you know a broom is from Broom?

"I am sent with broom before,

         To sweep the dust behind the door," says Puck.

Cynthia Main of SunHouse Crafts joins us to teach you how to make a real broom (from Broom) and all manner of other useful household items. Shakespeare’s storehouse of everyday plants makes great rakes, Walnut spoons, or a handy wooden spork to replace your precarious plastic.

Fun & eco-friendly.

Shakespeare & the Dyer’s Hand

Some of the most vibrant colors in clothing came from distilled plants.

Historic dye-maker Jennifer Ratcliffe joins us for this fun & informative hands-on workshop on how to make dyes out of plants & flowers the old-fashioned way.


Images: 92nd Street Y



Growing Shakespeare: Arranging Bouquets & Poesies, Corsages & Flower Crowns

Usually done with a local florist, with a bouquet bar.

A triumphal Henry V arrangement for a recent victory? A beauteous lover’s bouquet a la Romeo & Juliet or Rosalind & Orlando? An engagement arrangement a la Florizel & Perdita? Bad blood a la Iago?

How ’bout a Hamlet posy for that big decision that’s looming?

Or make a whole play bouquet from some fabulous flora.

Also fun as a competition!

Planting Shakespeare: Turn your Yard & Garden into a Botanical Bard Bonanza

Usually done with a local gardener or Garden Club,

Community garden for Children, Classroom suggestions.

From Fairy borders to Falstaffs veggie patch, Shakespeare in your garden

goes way beyond the Elizabethan knot.

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The 'Incomparable' Philip Herbert

Not to do with the book per se, but Ms. Quealy has discovered a letter from Philip Herbert, one of the ‘Incomparable paire of brethren’ to whom Shakespeare’s First Folio is dedicated, in his own handwriting. It was just published in the Sidney Journal.

Competition! Shakespeare Bouquet Arrangement

Who can do the best Midsummer Night’s Dream or Romeo & Juliet arrangement with ONLY the plants listed in the play?

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Play with Your Plants: Shakespeare’s Skits, Sketches & Soliloquies

Many of the plants could not be contained in one quote — we needed to include the whole conversation

for context (for example: Ophelia’s “There’s a daisy.”) Over 70 conversations to choose from: man-to-man, woman-to-woman, male & female. Can be done with professional actors or intrepid audience members. Makes a good acting class too. Fun, funny, entertaining & illuminating.

WAR OF THE ROSES, distilled

A 10-minute Play

Eight of the Shakespeare history plays deal with the decades-long War of the Roses between the fractious

York & Lancaster factions. We discovered that distilling it down to just the rose quotes

can tell the whole story!

6 actors needed, and some roses of course.

(It’s rather lovely that they’re fighting with flowers… but it can also be vicious – roses have thorns)

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Other possibilities:

War of the Roses

Blue Bard, or Shakespeare After Hours

The naughty bits, the sexy plants, the raunchy metaphors and all-around bawdy behavior involving the Bard’s botanicals, including a dirty gesture & a non-PC epithet. Only for adults & the open-minded.

Warning: Sexual content, not ready for Prime Time; NSFW

Opening Up a Whole World, One Plant & One Quote at a Time

Every plant has an interesting story to tell, from the many uses and meanings of Marigold (Calendula)

to Rushes & Reeds. Pick 3–4 plants & we’ll do a deep dive on each one, a world in itself!

Plants that are People

Angelica, Pimpernel, Peter Quince, & all those Fairies, etc.

What do they mean? Why are they there? Are they edible?

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Planting & Growing Shakespeare

Botanical Shakespeare is the perfect springboard for creating your very own  Shakespeare-themed garden, plot or pot. However, if you would like some guidance, curation, & further insight into planning & planting your garden, Gerit is available for consultations, conceptualization & championing you on. Contact below with any inquiries.

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