12. The Evergreens: Landscape of Austin and Susan Dickinson

A photograph of a stately, ochre-coloured home with central tower. A flowering quince with bright red blossoms blooms in the foreground.

The Evergreens in front of you was a deliberate fashion statement. With its square tower, tall windows and broad piazza, it was a country villa in the Italianate style. Austin and Susan made The Evergreens into a new social hub for the town. 

When we approach the Evergreens, we enter the era of the romantic in the history of American landscape design. Unlike the simple, old-fashioned flower and vegetable gardens of the Homestead, Austin and Susan Dickinson decorated the exterior of their home with the same sophistication that they used inside.

Broad lawns were set off by clumps of trees and shrubs, strategically placed to create views, yet still look perfectly natural. With the help of the hired men, Austin collected plants from the local woodlands and wetlands, trees like dogwoods and birches, shrubs like rhododendron and swamp azalea, and planted them on his property. He bought others from nurseries. To adorn the grounds, he laid out curving paths and placed wooden benches for to rest and contemplation.

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Emily and Austin’s mutual interest in nature is apparent in an early poem that Emily sent to her brother, “A Burdock - clawed my Gown.” A burdock, by the way, is a kind of thistle with a prickly seedhead. 

A Burdock - clawed my Gown -

Not Burdock's - blame -

But mine -

Who went too near

The Burdock's Den -

Bog - affronts my shoe -

What else have Bogs - to do -

The only trade they know -

The splashing Men!

Ah, pity - then!

'Tis Minnows can despise!

The Elephant's - calm eyes

Look further on!

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