March-ing With Emily

One of our most well-known American poets, Emily Dickinson, also dedicated herself to the extensive gardens she tended alongside her mother and sister Lavinia.

A serious student of botany, the creator of an extensive herbarium, and an enthusiastic propagator of plants, Dickinson necessarily became attuned to the weather, the changing seasons, and the innumerable pollinators that frequented her plants; observations about her roses, lilacs, peonies, daisies, foxgloves, and zinnias fill her poems.

She also lived in Amherst, Massachusetts, where winter tends to linger; her longing for the transition from snow to spring blooms sometimes is palpable. Her poetic celebration of the changes wrought by March’s arrival pairs wonderfully well with this assortment of photos from my wanderings on the weekend of March 19-20 .

DEAR March, come in!
How glad I am!
I looked for you before.
Put down your hat—
You must have walked—
How out of breath you are!
Baby Blue Eyes ~ Nemophila phacelioides
Dear March, how are you?
And the rest?
Did you leave Nature well?
Oh, March, come right upstairs with me,
I have so much to tell!
Pink Evening Primrose ~ Oenothera speciosa
I got your letter, and the bird’s;
The maples never knew
That you were coming,—I declare,
How red their faces grew!
Indian Paintbrush and Butterweed ~ Castilleja indivisa, Packera glabella
But, March, forgive me—
And all those hills
You left for me to hue;
There was no purple suitable,
You took it all with you.
Downy Phlox ~ Phlox pilosa
Who knocks? That April!
Lock the door!
I will not be pursued!
He stayed away a year, to call
When I am occupied.
Texas Dandelion ~ Pyrrhopappus pauciflorus
But trifles look so trivial
As soon as you have come,
That blame is just as dear as praise
And praise as mere as blame.


Comments always are welcome.

66 thoughts on “March-ing With Emily

  1. I think that your dandelion is the prettiest that I have ever seen. I love all of the bright beautiful colors of these spring flowers and appreciate the fact that you identified them for us. Thanks too for sharing the words of Emily Dickinson.

    1. Another common name for the Texas ‘dandelion’ is Smallflower Desert-chicory; a name that makes clear its relationship to the blue flower known as chicory. It is beautiful, and it’s just exploded in the past few days. Its willingness to grow anywhere makes it one of our most common urban wildflowers. I used to think it was being mown down on a daily basis, until I realized that it opens in the morning and closes in early afternoon, when it seems to disappear from the fields and medians.

        1. Of all the things I’ve felt guilty about in my life, that’s pretty low on the list. Granted, I almost always refrain from spreading those invasive seeds now, but the operative word is ‘almost.’

    1. Even though Dickinson advised telling all the truth, but telling it slant, sometimes it’s just too oblique for me to fully enjoy (or understand) it. But I read this one as you did: filled with excitement at the turning of the season. As for our paintbrushes, they’re beginning to pop up everywhere now. They’re not yet dense, but their scattered presence is a lovely hint of things to come. We have several species, and I’m hoping to find one or two new ones this year.

  2. Nice! And such a bright collection of flowers. As I read Dickinson’s poems, I couldn’t help but think that even though Massachusetts is not that far from Maine, March must be very different there than it is here. No Mainer, however reclusive, would ever write such poetry about March.

    1. Out of curiosity, I checked the distance between Amherst and Bangor, Maine: three hundred miles, give or take. That’s enough to make a difference. It’s roughly two hundred and fifty miles from Houston to Dallas, and that’s enough to make what’s possible in a garden quite a different story. One example that comes to mind is hellebores; they’re just not possible here, but they do well in Dallas. Here’s a fun thought: what kind of poem would Emily have written if she’d lived in Bangor — or next to you, for that matter?

      1. Sure is! Three hundred miles is a big difference. And you made me giggle to think of Emily writing a poem about March in Bangor or Winthrop. It would have been a poem of despair.

  3. Dear Linda, this post was absolutely enchanting. Your bright photos and Emily Dickinson’s brilliant poem were perfectly complementary. Great title too. Thanks for this beautiful taste of March.

    1. I think the energy in her poem gave rise to my title. I could see her marching out to her garden to begin the clearing, cleaning, and planting process with a big smile on her face. It’s going to be hard to keep up with spring now; I have a feeling there’s a lot of pent-up energy waiting to flower.

  4. In phlox you found a “purple suitable.” Now if you could find a rhyme that’s suitable for purple, it’d really be a discovery. Your baby blue eyes is happier-looking than the one I photographed at the Wildflower Center yesterday.

    1. And those baby blue eyes were covered with bees of various sorts. I tried and tried to get a decent photo, but each bee lingered at each flower for only a few seconds; combined with the stiff wind that day, it was quite a challenge. It’s a good thing I’m never on a schedule when I’m out and about. It took a half hour to get one bee-and-flower combination.

    1. I think this is one of her most appealing poems. I suspect that her love of the season and of her gardens gave it that little ‘something extra.’ Many of her poems seem almost perfectly cerebral to me, but this one is filled with emotion. Volunteers have been restoring her gardens; I’d love to visit them. There is a book for those of us who can’t get there.

    1. Her poetry and her gardening meshed beautifully. Even though she tended to be reclusive, I’ve read that she often sent a poem, or flowers, or both to friends and family on birthdays and such. In her way, she was a wonderful naturalist.

    1. I’ve heard very good things about that book. I’ve only read short excerpts, but when I tried to get it at the library, there was quite a waiting list. In time, I’ll have my chance to enjoy it.

  5. Emily’s ebullience is shared by anyone who loves nature’s colorful display as Spring arrives each year!

    During March and April, we can barely drive or hike a few yards without exhaling a series of “oohs” and “aahs” as we encounter a new plant or different color of bloom. What a delightful time of year!

    I lingered over each of your excellent photographs on this rainy morning and wished a few of the flowers would drop by so I could invite them in at which time all our trifles would look so trivial.

    All of your beautiful subjects, except the Baby Blue Eyes, grow in or near our area. Can’t wait to go and seek them out!

    1. We had at least three false starts with the wildflowers this year, and some of our January-flowering shrubs are just now in bloom. No matter. The cold fronts are easing, and we’ve had a little of our own rain, so we’ll be enjoying our own ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ soon.

      I found these Baby Blue Eyes in both the Brazoria and Attwater refuges. The only other time I’d found them growing wild was north of Schulenburg, on one of those country roads. The time for a trip in that direction is drawing nigh — so many flowers, so little time!

  6. Wow… Now I want to go back and read more of her poems. We dipped our toes into her poetry in high school and i enjoyed her work. It’s been quite a while since I’ve read any.

    Note to self: check for her work the next time I go to the library!

    1. You don’t even have to go to the library. Check out this complete list of first lines of her poems, with clickable links. Five minutes of browsing at lunch and you could find some treasures — or some clinkers — that never made the anthologies. For example: check out “The grass so little has to do.” I laughed when I got to the last line of that one. The woman had a sense of humor.

  7. Oh Linda, I can’t think of a better pairing of image and word than what you have posted here. I have a vague recollection of that poem but read it with new eyes and feeling!

    1. This is one of those posts that lurked around in my draft files for a while. I found the poem last year, or the year before, but didn’t remember it until about June. Whoops! This time, I managed to remember it, and was lucky enough to find all these lovely flowers ready to share the page with her words. I think you and Emily share the same sense of excitement when it comes to spring!

  8. Linda, these are gorgeous — especially that dandelion! I never realized Texas dandelions look so much different from the ones Illinois has. And the purple Phlox and Baby Blue Eyes just demand your attention, don’t they? I like the Indian Paintbrush (but I’m sorry, Bluebonnets will always have a piece of my heart).

    1. The Texas Dandelion got its name because it looks so much like a ‘regular’ dandelion. Other names for it are small-flower desert chicory, or false dandelion. It does look a good bit like the blue native chicory that’s common in your area. Whatever the name, I love it. It gets taller than your dandelions, so a field filled with them is quite an impressive sight.

      The baby blue eyes were a treat; that’s not a flower I commonly see. The pink evening primrose will cover roadsides when they really come into their own; sometimes, they’ll produce white flowers, and I especially like those.

  9. You have pretty much the whole spectrum here. There is a large some kind of tree outside my window that I’m watching for signs of leafing, which might offer a clue to what kind of (obviously deciduous) tree it is. This has been a very windy spring. We have moving scenery here. Tuesday it was barreling along at 25-35 mph with wind sprints of up to 50 mph. (pun intended!)

    1. The past four days we’ve had panhandle-type winds, blowing from the west. Mornings are relatively calm, but around noon they really begin to crank up into that 25-35 mph range you mentioned. Any live oaks that still were holding leaves are going to be stripped of them in another few days, and the pollen count is headed up. There’s an old varnishers’ proverb: if the pollen comes, can love bugs be far behind?

      We were lucky enough to get some rain, and I wouldn’t mind another nice, wet system for us all.

    1. Believe me, I was cheered to find so many lovely flowers. Despite still being few and scattered, they’re a wonderful token of what’s to come. We can march if we want, but Spring finally seems intent on marching right into our neighborhoods!

    1. That’s right! You have a new home and new gardens to enjoy. I suspect you’re pretty well settled now, and I hope your plants have settled in nicely, as well. With all that newness, and the publication of your book, it’s going to be an exciting spring!

  10. Emily was clearly excited for the door to open to spring–and so we all are! You display a lovely collection of…lovelies! In my own garden, the Mountain Laurel, Golden Groundsel and Spiderwort are blooming, as well as a few other things. Each day turns a new page in the spring book!

    1. I’ve not yet seen more spiderworts, although I’ve found three (!) species of Packera — at least, I think I have. Two, definitely. And our Texas dandelions are beginning to put on a real show. Although I’m happy for good working weather, these days have been filled with ambivalence; it would be so much better to be roaming the countryside. Thank goodness we’ve had stiff winds all week to make the thought of flower photography a little less tempting!

  11. Such beautiful wildflowers you have there– lovely photos, Linda! Amherst is where Steve G. lives, and only a half hour from me. Our March weather is very blustery and changeable.

    1. I knew Steve’s in Amherst. In fact, some day I’ll do a post about fiddlesticks that will include a fiddler I think he knows playing atop Mt. Pollux. I’ve given Steve a nudge or two about some photos from Emily’s gardens, even though I know that’s not really his thing. But now I know almost exactly where you are; no wonder you and Steve know each other, and each other’s landscapes!

      1. Yes, we met after I posted a nearby old bridge and he asked for directions. He and his wife have visited to see my gardens and he has come a come times to photograph my waterfall, water being one of his favorite subjects. Nice guy.

        1. It’s funny how this internet works. A few years ago, another Texas blogger and I found one another. We began reading each other’s blogs, and one day we realized that we both were photographing the same lighthouse. After a little back-and-forth, we discovered we live about a mile from one another. Now, we socialize, and I ended up being their kitty sitter!

  12. It seems odd but true that a poem about spring is totally beautiful and credible and naturally mentioning March immediately brings forth the daffodils, tulips and what have you. They are good listeners

    Even here in the southern hemisphere March to me heralds spring eternally. I could not imagine a spring poem starting with Dear September, it has the wrong timbre.
    Why is that?

    1. Don’t you think it’s because of your background? Growing up in the northern hemisphere probably set your associations early. When I think of spring flowers, despite the abundance of our Texas wildflowers, my free associations are forsythia, tulips, pussy willows, and violets — all the flowers I was surrounded by as a midwestern child. It’s common knowledge that baby animals will imprint on their parents — or on a human, in the case of an orphaned animal. I’ve come to believe that we imprint on our earliest place in the world, too, and that those associations never leave us. It’s why I can write about winter and snow. With very rare exceptions, it’s not been a part of my world for decades, but in imagination I still draw on those experiences.

  13. The excitement of spring! It certainly comes through in the poem and the beautiful flowers show the reason for it. Here our March is being unusually warm. It’s daffodil-time with us but I don’t think they’ll last so long in this heat. (Nice to sit out in the garden again though!)

    1. That gave me a smile, Ann. I don’t usually think of daffodils as a spring ephemeral, but with the right (or wrong!) conditions they certainly can be. Still, the warmth is no doubt appreciated by other plants, not to mention by a few garden-sitting humans. I can imagine Emily sitting in her garden at the end of a day, too, just soaking in the pleasures of a new season.

    1. The dandelions have an especially pretty bud. Sometimes, they have a lovely pink tinge on the outside before they open. The color can vary from a very deep sunflower yellow to almost lemonade. Prolific and pretty is a great combination.

  14. I’ll have to wait until May to find a Massachusetts bouquet comparable to yours. Love the images, especially the phlox and the pairing with the purple stanza in the poem.

    1. I had a hard time deciding which purple flower to use: there are several blooming now in that blue/lavender/purple family of colors. My problem now is which direction to go.The nice thing about the lengthening days is that there’s time for close-to-home places after work, and farther-away destinations on the weekends. Still, sometimes an odd paralysis sets it. Here? There? Who knows!

  15. Lovely collection. The Pink Evening Primrose looks a little like it’s made of paper! I saw a lot of white ones in Southern California, in the desert. They covered a lot of ground. I did not know about the relationship Dickenson had with plants and gardens.

    1. The primrose does look rather crepe-papery. As the season goes on, they tend to have smooth, silky petals. These may have had a hard time unfolding. The most crinkly flower we have might be the white prickly poppy, which is a relative of a species in your area. I really like them, perhaps because I grew up in an era where crepe paper was a decoration of choice for parties and such.

      I only learned of Emily’s gardening prowess, and love of flowers, after I became interested in native plants myself. I went all the way through high school and college never hearing one word about that aspect of her life. Odd.

    1. I was delighted to have such a variety of colors emerge at just the right time for this post. Of course, the Texas dandelion, primrose, and paintbrush are among our earliest flowers, and it’s not at all strange to see them beginning to bloom on roughly the same schedule. Still, it was great fun to find them all on the same weekend.

    1. I was so pleased to find such a variety of flowers, and to remember that I had Miss Emily’s poem tucked away for use in March. I’ve forgotten it in the past; it doesn’t do any good to post a poem about March in July or September!

  16. Wonderful collection of your early wildflowers and equally wonderfully paired with Emily’s words. And every time you quote her, I feel remiss and just a tiny bit guilty for not visiting, photographing the gardens there, and then doing a post about Emily’s yard with maybe a tour of her home to boot. One of these days. During my college years it was a big thing to visit her grave in town but I never did or have. Guess I should get with the program.

  17. Well, you know… I have a little secret. I much prefer tromping around in nature and discovering this flower or that one to visiting an intentional garden. Gardens are pretty, and the effort that goes into them can bring great satisfaction to anyone who loves to putter in the dirt, but believe me: it’s not going to bother me one bit if Miss Emily’s garden keeps sliding to the bottom on your to-do list. Besides: local attractions often are the hardest to get around to seeing. I still haven’t been over to NASA, and it’s maybe three miles away. One of these days!

    1. Well, and not knowing how NASA deals with their landscape, I’d rather be in a muddy quagmire than a modern structure and its surrounds too. I’m about the same distance from the Eric Carle Museum as well as Emily’s digs and haven’t been there either and I do literally drive by both dozens of times a month. My little secret…which I bet you’ve already recognised by some of my posts…is that I prefer photographing the insects that visit our gardens than the plants themselves. As far as Emily’s Place, while I’d probably enjoy the gardens you also might assume that I’d be even more interested in the house full of antiques…and I would.

      1. Actually, our NASA installation is remarkably nature friendly. They have nice fields that they cut for hay every year, quite a few deer, help with the preservation of the Attwater’s Prairie Chicken, and devote some land to growing food for animals in the Houston zoo. I found an old press release about it, and learned a few things myself. I know there is a community garden over there, too. Obviously, you have to have clearance, etc., to set up a plot, but I know one woman who had a veggie garden there. Obviously, it’s easier to have a garden in your back yard, but where land is limited, as it is around here, it’s nice to have options.

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