Pink, small, and punctual,
Covert in April,
Candid in May,
Dear to the moss,
Known by the knoll,
Next to the robin
In every human soul.
Bold little beauty,
Bedecked with thee,
May - Flower, from Emily Dickinson's Herbarium
It is not widely known that American poet Emily Dickinson was a practiced gardener before she became an accomplished poet. When she was 11, Dickinson wrote of helping her mother tend the annuals and perennials in their cottage garden—roses, cyclamen, tulips, and more. Her youthful enthusiasm for botany inspired her at age fourteen to mount a HERBARIUM, a favorite pastime for girls in the 19th century. In an 1845 letter to her friend Abiah Root, Dickinson inquires: "Have you made an herbarium yet? I hope you will if you have not, it would be such a treasure to you; most all the girls are making one. If you do, perhaps I can make some additions to it from flowers growing around here." Dickinson pressed over 400 specimens into a leather-bound album, arranging her specimens artistically, labeling sixty-five of the four hundred with the genus and species according to the Linnaean system of classification.
Her close observation of nature was a lifelong passion, and Emily used her garden flowers as emblems in her poetry and her correspondence. Emily's album of flowers and plants, carefully preserved, has long been a treasure of Harvard's Houghton Library. This volume is now available as a slip-cased hardcover volume. Each page of the album is reproduced in full color at full size, accompanied by a transcription of Dickinson's handwritten labels. Introduced by a substantial literary and biographical essay, and including a complete botanical catalog and index, this volume will delight scholars, gardeners, and all lovers of this brilliant artists unique vision.
The Emily Dickinson Herbarium is available from many online suppliers.
Written for Plant Specialists by Mahlon R Banda
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