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Will’s Garden

By David Wright
Town Historian

Wills Garden

If you’ve not visited the Shakespeare Park recently, you owe yourself a visit. Will’s Garden, on the grounds of the former Theatre, is in full bloom and the garden is glorious. Will Geer’s original intent for the garden was to grow herbs and plants mentioned in William Shakespeare’s plays.

Sixty-six years after actor Will Geer created his first garden at the American Shakespeare Festival Theatre, it is still maintained by a group of local, dedicated volunteers. You may follow Will Geer’s Shakespeare Garden Facebook group at https://bit.ly/wggarden.

In the event you aren’t familiar with Will Geer, he played Grandpa Walton on The Waltons TV series, which ran on CBS from 1972 through 1981. We thought you might be interested in learning more about the founding of Will’s Garden in 1958. Mr. Geer was a fascinating, and, at times, controversial actor. Will Geer’s Connecticut home was in Trumbull at 3000 Nichols Avenue. He kept a garden there as well.

The Stratford News

August 1, 1958

Editor’s Interview with Will Geer

     …Will Geer fits in no category that I could discover. Well over six feet, broad of shoulder and lean of frame, the actor strode along Main Street with his shoulder-length hair blowing back in the slight breeze.

     …I love Stratford,” he enthused. “It’s so different from other towns you come to and live in on tour.”

     …”It’s so wonderful to have my own garden here,” he continued. “I’m pretty much of a vegetarian and I like to grow what I eat.”

     We’d arrived at his cottage, and sure enough, a magnificent garden stretched well over 50 feet along the side of a large grassy plot. Lunch was ready in less time than it takes to write about it. We sat at a garden table and munched busily away like two eager bunnies.

     Our fabulous menu consisted of fruit juice, garden salad (cooked beets, ruby lettuce, cucumber, rhubarb, chard, snap beans, kohlrabi, onions, broccoli and mushroom) and raspberries with sour cream for dessert.  “I have a larger garden” said the actor between crunches,” in Mahopac, Putnam County. “I feed 30 dancers there from that one.”

     Since Mr. Geer is playing in all 3 current offerings at the Shakespearean Theatre, how in the world does he garden not only this huge plot, but also in Putnam County?  “I usually work here between 7 and 10 in the morning” he said, “and run down to Mahopac on my day off.”

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