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Emily Dickinson’s Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Iconic Poet (2019) is set in America in Amherst, Massachusetts, and in her family home, called the Homestead.


Emily Dickinson (1830-1885), the American poet, was an avid gardener. She studied botany and had a small glass observatory and flower garden in her home in Amherst. She sent fresh, dried, and pressed flowers to her friends. These flowers are mentioned in her many poems. 

The Homestead was built in 1813, where she was born, lived, and died. Her older brother William (Austin) and younger sister Lavinia (Vinnie) were both keen gardeners. 

This book takes a year, and the four seasons, in the life of a garden and weaves in Dickinson’s poems, with excerpts from letters, botanical drawings, and photographs. 

There are daisies, violets, hollyhocks, lilies-of-the-valley, crocuses, honeysuckles, peonies, roses, clover, hyacinths, daffodils, marigolds, nasturtiums, pansies, bluebells, dandelions, and more – there is a comprehensive list at the end of the book. The book not only mentions flowers and trees in Dickinson’s garden, but also the flowers, gardens, and nature trails around her neighbourhood and during her travels. 

In addition to Dickinson’s poetry, the author also uses her own poetic sentences to describe the garden’s plants, such as:

‘If summer is the sea, then alyssum is the foam on the waves.’ 

This is an interesting look at the history of Emily Dickinson’s home and garden, and of her friends and associates that also appreciated its colour and grace.


Photographer: Martina Nicolls

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