Emily Dickinson: Things You Didn't Know About The Famous Writer, Horticulturist

By | May 26, 2020

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(Aromatica Poetica)

Whether you're a fan of poetry or prefer HBO, you know Emily Dickinson, the poet from Amherst, Massachusetts who spent the 1800s writing private pieces and sharing very little of her life. While she was alive, only 10 of her poems were published, her work gaining prominence only after her death in 1886. Before then, she was known to her neighbors in New England primarily as a horticulturalist and baker, but her love of gardening and baking are all but forgotten today.

A Botanist First

The young Emily Dickinson was educated at a local primary school before moving on to Amherst Academy (now Amherst College) for seven years and then attending Holyoke Female Seminary for one year until 1848. In all that time, her main focus was botany. From the age of nine, one of her most passionate pursuits was taking care of her family’s garden. Scholars have never found any gardening notebooks belonging to Dickinson, so she either never kept them or they were destroyed, but letters to her friends and family detail her extensive garden.

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(Emily Dickinson Museum)

A Greenhouse Of One's Own

Dickinson's green thumb grew in her family's greenhouse, where she in turn grew a wide range of plant life that wasn't normally found in New England, including ferns, gardenias, and jasmine as well as "heliotropes by the aprons full." Built in 1855 by Edward Dickinson, the greenhouse was essentially just a long-windowed room until Emily turned it into a year-round garden. Unfortunately, the greenhouse was torn down in 1916 by the home's new owners, but in 2016, a plan was launched to reconstruct the building to its former glory.