16. The Evergreens: Austin

Photograph of a white umbrella magnolia flower in bloom. It is surrounded by large, bright green leaves.

The tree in front of you with smooth, gray bark is an umbrella magnolia. Austin Dickinson planted the original on the property; this is one of the offspring. If you are looking at it in a season with leaves, you will see that the leaves are one to two feet long. Maybe not quite as large as umbrellas, but you get the idea. It has showy white flowers in the spring, and six-inch cones that hold the ripening seeds in the fall.

Susan Dickinson kept her flower beds in this area of the property, away from the street. She grew roses and other fragrant flowers. Susan’s daughter Martha remembered being asked to “run up to the garden … and get some rosebuds from the Baltimore Belle bush, and some sprays of heliotrope and sweet geranium leaves” to make buttonhole bouquets for the annual Amherst College commencement celebrations. In midsummer, a great bank of hollyhocks grew against a backdrop of evergreens. 

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Here’s a poem about roses that Emily Dickinson sent to Susan:

Pigmy Seraphs - gone astray -

Velvet people from Vevay -

Belles from some lost summer day,

Bees exclusive Coterie -

Paris could not lay the fold

Belted down with emerald -

Venice could not show a cheek

Of a tint more lustrous meek -

Never such an ambuscade

As of briar and leaf displayed

For my little damask maid -

I had rather wear her grace

Than an Earl's distinguished face -

I had rather dwell like her

Than be "Duke of Exeter" -

Royalty enough for me

To subdue the Bumblebee.

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