The new book benefits from the author’s recent experience as gardener in residence at the Emily Dickinson Museum. Ms. McDowell writes with authority about the conservatory (later demolished and then rebuilt) where Dickinson grew buttercups out of season and watered cape jasmine and heliotrope ... A visual treat as well as a literary one, this book is illustrated with 19th-century maps, engravings, herbarium pages, seed catalogs, color photos of Amherst, full-page sidebars on tinted paper, and dozens of Dickinson’s poems printed in dark green ink. It is enriched by the work of three New England botanical artists whose lives overlapped Dickinson’s ... Emily Dickinson’s Gardening Life will be deeply satisfying for gardeners and garden lovers, connoisseurs of botanical illustration, and those who seek a deeper understanding of the life and work of Emily Dickinson.
Marta McDowell’s Emily Dickinson’s Gardening Life may prove a perfect choice [as a gift] ... Although no photographs of Dickinson’s garden taken during her lifetime have been discovered, McDowell includes lovely hand-drawn botanical illustrations by Dickinson’s contemporaries and colorful, present-day photos of some of the plants in question, as well as vintage and modern photographs of significant buildings and landscapes ... Taken as a whole, Emily Dickinson’s Gardening Life gives readers the real sense that they can almost slip back in time and survey Dickinson’s garden with her.
In this richly illustrated volume, McDowell delicately unwinds the jungle that was Dickinson’s psyche and chronicles one year in the life of her garden. Throughout, McDowell illuminates the interrelatedness between Dickinson’s pursuit of botany and gardening, her focus on her family, and her never-ending desire to write. Dickinson admirers will find much that is new and affirming here, while this will also delight all who love plants and readers who enjoy unusual approaches to biography.