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Catching Up After A Five Year Hiatus

Notifications kept coming in, but I was remiss in updating my blog.  I hope to remedy that today.  So much has changed in five years.  I’m still alive–yay!  All of my landscaping has matured–yay!  And, I’m in a position to labor in my gardens again–yay!

I want to keep this post somewhat simple and let the photos speak for themselves.  I will just say that as I planted and tended my garden through the years, some things thrived and others did not.  I did create a “poetic space” that was / is very meaningful and inspirational to me, and that I’ve featured in much of my poetry at my blog bitsofpoetry.com.

Like Emily, I’ve cursed my cats for destroying the beautiful birds and, in fact, I made an outdoor/indoor cat enclosure for them this year to save my garden birds.  There were also the years, where like Emily, I focused my attention on recording the wild flora–attending botany walks and always packing along identification books and camera–the modern day version of her herbarium.  I think of her often in what I do.

Here are some comparison photos from around the house.

Back when there was no grass, trees, or flowers and I still had my sweet dog, Elsa.

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Now.

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Originally, we planted a flowering plum in front, but it died.  Aspen are native to our area, so we replaced many of our trees with aspen, like this one in front.  They all flourish here, as do lilacs–but more on those below.

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The roses on the front fence, looking out to the barn last night.

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Also along the front fence, my white tulips.

Here is the before of the front (left) space before the railing was removed.  The railing was purely decorative, and served no functional purpose, so we removed it and opened it up.

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Today, we plant new things every year, but some of it has volunteered itself or remained.  The lilac tree grows in an old metal tub a friend dropped by my house, and which I intend to paint white.  The thyme jumped out of its container and started to grow in the bricks.

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lilac front of house

The center rock planter was completely redone. Here is the before picture.

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I’m going to weed it this week and add red bark, but I’ll show you a few of the flowers that grow around it. (That is another aspen in the center)

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Honeysuckle loves it under the aspen and has crowded out the original clematis.

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Two varieties of peonies also grow very well there.  They were started from bulbs.  You can read about my bulb dreams in this post.  Many of my bulbs survived.

Here are the pictures and an excerpt from that original post so long ago:

The promise of a bulb holds the same hope as a new pet, new love, new career, even a new baby. We project ourselves into the future each time we plant one. It’s hard to foresee what circumstances may thwart our plans: a too-cold winter, a colony of voles, the tractor that scoops up the earth and the bulbs hidden deep beneath; like life, it’s hard to predict what will happen after we plant our dreams.

Yet, some, if not most, make it. The tulip bulb that was accidentally dug up and thrown in the pit and, I thought, gone forever, bursts forth in a clump of compost. The bulbs planted in soil that was too hard, spring up from the ground later than the others, when the April rains have finally softened a space for them to poke through.

There are some that don’t make it, it’s true, but the joy for the ones that survived—returned to you, in a way—rewards our original hope. We just had to wait, have patience, and believe that our loyal labor of love would be rewarded.

Like my snowflakes.  They survived and thrived.  Here they are in spring 2019.

This bleeding heart comes back every year.  It’s lovely.  2019.

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Besides these plants, there are daylilies, daffodils, tiger lilies, lavender, and many other little surprise, some of which I can’t even remember planting.  Unfortunately, all of my crocus were crowded out.  I’ll have to replant some in fall.

This little front planter has gone through various transformations, but this spring I went all out for day lilies, daisies, and geraniums.

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They need a little more growing time to really pop.

The side of the house was monstrously bare. My dream was forsythia and purple sand cherry.  Well, that came true very quickly and the side of the house is now a jungle of yellow forsythia in spring.  The electric company did cut a little of it back, but it’s growing back fast. I love to cut branches of it in the spring for flower arrangements.

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The back planter. Where you see concrete, it is now a sun room with a deck over the top and roof.  I’ll show a variety of those pictures so you can see the transformation.

Here is the front driveway after we’d planted flowering plum.

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And here they are this spring.

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So many changes.  Of the trees we planted, the flowering plum, weeping willow, aspen and lilacs, thrived.  We used lilacs to create a fence barrier between our property and our neighbors, and also growing up over the deck.  The breeze carries their perfume to us during the spring.

lilac back of house

There is a lot to catch up on after five years, and I hope to do a few posts on individual flowers and planters very soon.

Happy gardening!

I’ll leave you with a poem by Emily Dickinson about the lovely lilac.

The Lilac is an ancient shrub
But ancienter than that
The Firmamental Lilac
Upon the Hill tonight —
The Sun subsiding on his Course
Bequeaths this final Plant
To Contemplation — not to Touch —
The Flower of Occident.
Of one Corolla is the West —
The Calyx is the Earth —
The Capsules burnished Seeds the Stars
The Scientist of Faith
His research has but just begun —
Above his synthesis
The Flora unimpeachable
To Time’s Analysis —
“Eye hath not seen” may possibly
Be current with the Blind
But let not Revelation
By theses be detained —

The First Crocus Emerges Alone: March 28 2014

 

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The Crocus emerges like whisper,

Barely heard through cold winds,

Lonely, yet lovely

The spathe slips forward

Stretching toward sunlight.

 

 

Spring at Last: Stages of a Crocus

This diagram is from A Handbook of Crocus and Colchicum for Gardeners by E. A. Bowles Ma.A., F.L.S., F.r.E.S., V.M.H. published by The Garden Book Club, 121 Charing Cross Road, London WC2. in 1955. I found this on a wonderful British site: Ivy Dene Gardens.

“She opens the paper wrappings,
hands delicate as a crocus unfolding
in the morning light. Little hands working
to part the frail chapter of circumstance
where histories float like clouds on an untouchable scrim.”

From, The Vistor, by Anya Russian

Here are the stages of the Crocus, in pictures, taken from my own garden Spring 2011.

1. Leaves push up from the ground.

2. Spathe emerges. You can see the purple of the flower cocooned within. This is like the birthing phase and the spathe is like the womb. It almost looks alien.

3. Bloom pushes out of the spathe.

4. Bloom begins to unfold.

And unfold…

And unfold.

More crocus in The Garden:

Karin Gottshall from her book: Crocus

To read entire book, click on link above.

I was in bed all day with the sun

and a heavy dictionary.
I watched the cat fall asleep
on the wove rug. Outside

a bird unspooled its song in wide,
round loops: drifting off,
coming back. Memory is like that—

words loosed like dust motes,
a dream I slip into: this cat’s
green-eyed mother, her grave

under licorice root and money trees.
Then come the angels of the afternoon
with their wings of flame.

one day language will unbind itself
from me—even to the barest
particulars: the first time

I heard the word crocus, the new
spring sun on my shoulder, smell
of mud—quick freshet
working itself free. At last
to release this word I
into the long blue currents of the sea.

Happy Birthday, Emily Dickinson 183 Years Old Today!

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Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was born December 10, 1830 in Amherst, Massachusetts.   If she were still alive today, she’d be 183 years old!

Emily lived a privileged, but extremely secluded life.  She was even known as “The Woman in White”–a somewhat mystical figure in her day even to the townspeople.  The reason for her seclusion has never been fully known, but  has added to the mystery and the extra passion we bring to reading her poems as we all hope to discover new things.  One of the reasons I started this blog was to connect to her through her passion for gardening as I started my own garden from scratch.

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Some basics facts we know about Emily’s childhood:

She was born into a successful and educated Amherst family who were pillars of the town’s society.  Her paternal grandfather, Samuel Dickinson, had almost single-handedly founded the local Amherst College and her father, Edward, was treasurer of the college for almost forty years and served numerous terms as a State Legislator.

Emily’s mother was Emily Norcross.  While Emily described her father in a warm manner, her correspondence suggests that her mother was regularly cold and aloof. In a letter to a confidante, Emily wrote she “always ran Home to Awe [Austin] when a child, if anything befell me. He was an awful Mother, but I liked him better than none.”

Her brother was William “Austin” and her sister Lavinia “Vinnie”.  She continued to live with Vinnie after the death of their parents and Austin lived next door with his wife and their children.

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In 1840, her father purchased a house on North Pleasant Street. Emily’s brother Austin later described this large new home as the “mansion” over which he and Emily presided as “lord and lady” while their parents were absent.The house overlooked Amherst’s burial ground, described by one local minister as treeless and “forbidding”.

The influence of Emily’s family upon Emily was profound considering she lived with them her entire life–writing, corresponding with friends and gardening.  She is arguably one of the most posthumously successful American  private poets with fewer than a dozen of her nearly eighteen hundred poems published during her lifetime.

They shut me up in prose–

As when a little girl

They put me in the closet–

Because they liked me “still”–

Still!  Could themself have peeped–

And seen my brain — go round–

They might as wise have lodged a bird

For treason — in the pound–

(Sources various biographies, anthologies and Wikipedia.)

NY Times On New Emily Dickinson Archive

Enigmatic Dickinson Revealed from The New York Times:

The manuscripts of Emily Dickinson have long been scattered across multiple archives, meaning scholars had to knock on numerous doors to see all the handwritten drafts of a poet whose work went almost entirely unpublished in her lifetime.

 The online Emily Dickinson Archive, to be inaugurated on Wednesday, promises to change all that by bringing together on a single open-access Web site thousands of manuscripts held by Harvard University, Amherst College, the Boston Public Library and five other institutions. Now, scholars and lay readers alike will be able to browse easily through handwritten versions of favorite poems, puzzle over lines that snake along the edges of used envelopes and other scraps of paper, or zoom in on one of Dickinson’s famous dashes until it almost fills the screen.

“To have all these manuscripts together on one site and to have it so thoroughly searchable is extraordinary,” said Cristanne Miller, a professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo and a member of the project’s advisory board.

But the project, organized and financed by Harvard, has also generated enough behind-the-scenes intrigue to fill an imaginary Journal of Emily Dickinson Studies Studies, as one board member jokingly put it.

Since planning began two years ago, there has been a revival of decades-old tensions between Harvard and Amherst, which hold the two largest Dickinson collections. And sometimes-bitter debate has flared on the advisory board, with some members saying that Harvard’s choice of which materials to include provides too narrow an answer to a basic question: Just what counts as an Emily Dickinson “poem,” anyway?

“The scholarship with any major figure produces factions and divisions,” said Christopher Benfey, a Dickinson scholar at Mount Holyoke College, who is not involved with the project. “But with Dickinson, the truly bizarre thing is the quarrel has been handed to generation after generation after generation.”

The trouble began when Dickinson died, in 1886, leaving behind just 10 published poems and a vast and enigmatic handwritten paper trail, ranging from finished-seeming poems assembled into hand-sewn books to fragments inscribed on advertising fliers, envelope flaps, brown household paper, even a chocolate wrapper…

Harvard Has Made Emily Dickinson’s Archive Available Online!!!

Dear Harvard,

You rock!

Love always,

Emily Dickinson’s Garden

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Harvard has made available ONLINE almost the entire Emily Dickinson collection from both their museum and Amherst’s.  I wrote a post asking for this a couple years back–click here

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From the Boston Globe (Sarah Schweitzer):

Emily Dickinson was well known for her reluctance to publish her work. Only a smattering of her poems appeared in print during her lifetime, anonymously and likely without her knowledge. A fellow author scolded her for her reticence: “You are a great poet — and it is a wrong to the day you live in, that you will not sing aloud.”

Now, Harvard will sing aloud for Dickinson. This week, the university plans to roll out the Emily Dickinson Archive that digitally gathers, for the first time in one place, all surviving Dickinson autograph manuscripts and letters, along with contemporary transcripts of Dickinson poems that did not survive in autograph. The website says the aim is to provide a resource from which scholarship can be produced.

The development of the digital collection has not been without bumps and resentments — many rooted in the conflicts over ownership of Dickinson’s work that date to the late 19th century and reflect the deep and abiding fervor that her work inspires.

The project got underway nearly two years ago when Harvard approached Amherst College, another major repository of Dickinson manuscripts. After a prolonged back-and-forth, during which Harvard commenced planning the digital project, Amherst in July agreed to share its collection for inclusion. It estimates that its manuscripts comprise 40 percent of the Emily Dickinson Archive……click here to read full article at their site.

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Thank you, Harvard.

Love always,

The world.

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Mayday, The Celebration of the Goddess Flora (Chloris)

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For the month of May, Flora tells how she was once the nymph Chloris, and breathes out flowers as she does so.

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Aroused to a fiery passion by her beauty, Zephyr, the god of the wind, follows her and forcefully takes her as his wife. Regretting his violence, he transforms her into Flora, his gift gives her a beautiful garden in which eternal spring reigns.

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In Roman mythology, Flora (Latin: Flōra) was a goddess of flowers and the season of spring. While she was otherwise a relatively minor figure in Roman mythology, being one among several fertility goddesses, her association with the spring gave her particular importance at the coming of springtime.

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Her festival, the Floralia, was held between April 28 and May 3 and symbolized the renewal of the cycle of life, drinking, and flowers. The festival was first instituted in 240 B.C.E but on the advice of the Sibylline books she was given another temple in 238 B.C.E. Her Greek equivalent was Chloris, who was a nymph and not a goddess at all. Flora was married to Favonius, the wind god, and her companion was Hercules. On May 23 another festival was held in her honor.

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