She stopped for roses and dandelions


 A Wall
Street Journal
piece about the current Emily Dickinson display at the New York
Botanical Gardens states that “one-third of her 1,800 poems and half of her
letters allude to a love of plants and flowers.”

It sounds like a wonderful exhibition—the central focus of it
is a conservatory filled with Dickinson’s favorite plants: roses, columbine,
daisies, tulips, hollyhocks, and jasmine. (Three of these are currently
blooming in my garden.) The staff also had to seed a patch of their grounds
with dandelions, with which the poet had a special affinity.

I don’t find myself reading Dickinson much; my poets for
nature have usually been Wordsworth (I had a friend once who could recite the
entire text of “Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey” from memory,
but only while drunk) and —especially—William Carlos Williams. I puzzled over
“Oh Asphodel, that greeny flower” throughout much of my undergraduate years. I particularly love it when poets talk about flowers I’ve never seen and probably never will
see, or which may not even exist.

My favorite flowers in literature occur not in poetry,
though, but in novels, mainly written by women, in which the characters
actually garden or talk about plants that occur as part of their surroundings.
You’ll often find children in 19th century novels making cowslip tea, for
example.  Some of my favorite
writers for gardening and plant observations are Mary Webb, Joanna Trollope,
Phillipa Gregory (only the 2 Tradescant books), and Carol Shields. If I liked
mysteries, I’d have a lot more.

Has anyone seen the Dickinson exhibit? 

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. Yes, viewed exhibit last week.
    It is wonderful.
    Dickinson poems are all over the NYBGardens and the mockup of her home and gardens is well done and quite beautiful. Worth the trip!

  2. Roses and dandelions are what I’m all about. Besides Emily Dickinson is a local girl so I was happy to see what a beautiful job the NYBG did with this exhibit. I posted about it and even did a little video. I made sure I took photos of the dandelions and the roses. I love gardens and flowers – and veggies in every literary form. I love Louis Bromfield and Malabar Farm too.

  3. I’ve never felt the desire to go to New York City (too many hours of watching Law & Order, I think) until now. The Botanical Garden is one thing – along with various historic sites – that could convince me to go. Add one of my fave poets to the mix … well, I’m going to spend the rest of the day looking for flights to NYC, I think.

  4. I’ve been recommended to your blog from several people. Enjoy what I’ve read so far. Another poem, one of my favorites, takes place in a garden. Patterns, by Amy Lowell. Check it out.

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