Tag Archives: Emily Dickinson

Roses of Reunion for Gloucester Gardens

Bourbon Rose ‘Variegata di Bologna’ ©Kim Smith 2015

‘Variegata di Bologna’

With Reunion so much in the news, I thought readers might be interested to learn that Reunion is home to some of the most highly scented roses in the world, the Bourbon roses. Bourbon roses grow very well in Gloucester gardens and have the wonderful combined qualities of fabulous fragrance and repeat blooming. I wrote a bit about them in my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities (see chapter 14). Bourbon roses are so named because Reunion was formerly called Isle de Bourbon.

Excerpt from Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! 

A sepal, a petal, and a thorn
Upon a common summer’s morn—
A flash of Dew—A Bee or two—
A Breeze—
A caper in the trees—
And I’m a Rose!

Emily Dickinson

Rosa bourboniana

The Bourbon roses (Rosa bourboniana) comprise one of the most extravagantly scented class of roses, along with having a wide range of growth habit in form and height. From the shrubby and compact ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison,’ growing to about two feet, to the thornless climbing ‘Zephirine Drouhin,’ there is a suitable Bourbon rose available to fill nearly every conceivable desired effect in the landscape.

Named for the island of Reunion, formerly called Isle de Bourbon, Rosa bourboniana is a natural crossing of the China rose (repeat blooming) with the Autumn Damask rose. Reunion belongs to the archipelago of Mascareignes in the Indian Ocean and lies east of Madagascar. Originally discovered by the Portuguese, then colonized by the French in the seventeenth-century, Reunion had a diverse population of settlers from around Africa, Asia, and southern Europe. The Bourbon rose was discovered growing wild in Reunion in approximately 1817.

Hybridized Bourbon roses flower in hues of white to china pink to cerise and purple. The flowers are quartered at the center and filled with overlapping petals. With their sublime fragrance, tolerance for cold temperatures, and freedom of flowering (‘Louise Odier’ remains in bloom from June until the first frost), Bourbons are amongst the most distinctive of all roses.

The following is a list of Bourbon roses successfully growing in our garden, along with one failure noted.

‘Louise Odier’ ~ 1851 ~ Bourbon ~ Delicate china pink, camellia-style flowers, enchanting and intensely fragrant. Blooms lavishly throughout the season, from early June to November, with a brief rest after the first flush of June flowers. Grows four to five feet.

‘Zéphirine Drouhin’ ~ 1868 ~ Bourbon ~ Clear hot pink. Thornless. The sensuous Bourbon fragrance is there, only not as intense relative to some others noted here. Repeat blooms. Twelve feet.

‘Madame Isaac Pereire’ ~ 1881 ~ Bourbon ~ Deep raspberry-magenta. Considered to be one of the most fragrant roses. Six to seven feet. Note: We no longer grow Madame Isaac Pereire as its buds usually turned into brown, blobby globs that rarely fully opened due to damp sea air.

‘Souvenir de Victor Landeau’ ~ 1890 ~ Bourbon ~ Deep rose pink, richly fragrant and consistently in bloom through October and into November. Pairs beautifully with Louise Odier. Four to five feet.

‘Variegata di Bologna’ ~ 1909 ~ Bourbon ~ Creamy pale pink with rose-red striations. Suffused with the heady Bourbon fragrance. The foliage becomes tattered-looking later in the season. Slight repeat bloom, although it initially flowers for an extended period of time, four to six weeks in all. Tall growing, best supported against a pillar.

‘Souvenir de Saint Anne’s’ ~ 1916 ~ Bourbon ~ Ivory flushed with warm pink and cream single to semi-double blossoms. Sensuous Bourbon fragrance. Compact growing, ideal for the garden room. Continually blooming. Two feet. Note: ‘Souvenir de St. Anne’ is a sport of ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ (1843), with the similar lovely colorway. The unopened buds and blooms of ‘Malmaison’ have the tendency to be ruined in damp air, whereas ‘St. Anne’s’ do not.Bourbon Rose ‘Variegata di Bologna’  Gloucester Garden ©Kim Smith 2015Tips for improved rose culture:

Read more


American Robin ©Kim Smith 2014A quick post for our Robin friends.

Robins do not eat bird seed. With very little fruit remaining on the branch and the ground once again covered in snow, I made a quick trip to Essex Bird Shop yesterday to pick up a tub of mealworms. Our resident Robins quickly found the little tray we had set out and it was clear that they were very hungry.

Mealyworms for Robins and Bluebirds ©Kim Smith 2014

Oftentimes you’ll see a robin cocking its head, as if it were listening for earthworms. Robins have what is called monocular vision, which means their eyes are on the sides of their heads and that the eyes can work independently of each other. The robin is not hearing the worm, but seeing it! Worms make up about 20 percent of the American Robin’s diet.

American Robin Flock ©Kim Smith 2014American Robin Flock Halibut Point

The Robin is the One

That interrupt the Morn

With hurried — few — express Reports

When March is scarcely on –

The Robin is the One

That overflow the Noon

With her cherubic quantity –

An April but begun –

The Robin is the One

That speechless from her Nest

Submit that Home — and Certainty

And Sanctity, are best            – Emily Dickinson

More about the American Robin:

Birds of Cape Ann: The American Robin and Bird Food!

I Love Sumac!

Eastern Bluebird

DSC08866.jpgThe male Eastern Bluebird shows a brilliant indigo blue on the head and back, with a rusty reddish brown breast. The female is more softly colored overall, with elegant gray wings, tinged in shades of blue, and paler breast.

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)

Several days ago Joey captured (with camera) a pair of Eastern Bluebirds. Everyone who responded in the comment section spoke so fondly of this beautiful bird that I thought we’d all enjoy knowing a bit more about its current status in Massachusetts. And too, sightings at this time of year give reason to share a favorite Emily Dickinson poem—“Before you thought of spring, except as a surmise…”

Before you thought of spring,

Except as a surmise,

You see, God bless his suddenness,

A fellow in the skies

Of independent hues,

A little weather-worn,

Inspiriting habiliments

Of indigo and brown.

With specimens of song,

As if for you to choose,

Discretion in the interval,

With gay delays he goes

To some superior tree

Without a single leaf,

And shouts for joy to nobody

But his seraphic self!

Bluebirds do indeed appear to sing with great joy from the treetops, and reading this poem always makes me smile, thinking about “a fellow in the skies” singing to nobody but his rapt self. As is so typical of her work, Emily Dickinson’s poem is an astute and honest observation of the natural world, but I also interpret her poem to mean that joy is an emotion that doesn’t need an audience; that it can be expressed for the sake of joy itself.


Eastern Bluebirds sing several types of songs; one is a liquid birdsong—sort of a turee song—and another is a soft melodious warble. When trying to attract a mate, unpaired males typically sing from a high perch, and sometimes even in flight. Both male and female sing in all seasons to keep in touch with each other and to signal to nestlings that food is on its way. Bluebirds are in the Thrush Family, as are American Robins, and Robins too sing a lovely liquid birdsong.

 From the Mass Audubon State of Birds:

“The very widespread breeding distribution seen in the Eastern Bluebird in Massachusetts today is, in large part, the result of considerable support received by concerned citizens who, for more than half a century, erected large numbers of nest boxes across the state and helped save the species from near-extirpation.”

What does “extirpation” mean? Not that a species has become extinct from our planet, but that it is no longer found in a particular area. We are very fortunate that the Eastern Bluebird did not become extirpated from our region. Bluebirds are cavity nesters and use suitable bird boxes, tree cavities, and old woodpecker holes in trees and fence posts to build their nests. During the era when settlers cleared forests and planted fields and orchards, the Eastern Bluebird became quite common. In the 20th century their population decreased by nearly 90 percent for several reasons, two of which are because vast areas of New England are reverting to forest, and because the bluebird is competing for nesting sites with the alien European House Sparrow and European Starling. The return of the Eastern Bluebird during the spring and summer breeding period is due in large measure to citizens throughout the state building and placing nest boxes along “bluebird trails.”


Eastern Bluebird and Winterberry

If you are fortunate enough to have bluebirds visiting your backyard, you may want to provide them with supplemental food. Bluebirds are primarily insectivores. They do not visit bird feeders because their bills are not designed for cracking open seed and nut shells (but they will eat hulled sunflower seeds). They eat berries at this time of year because there aren’t any insects. The winterberries won’t last long on the bush with flocks of hungry birds descending to your garden. Mealworms (which aren’t really worms at all, but are the larval form of the darling beetle) are the most nutritious supplement you can provide bluebirds. For more information on feeding mealworms to bluebirds go to this fact sheet: North American Bluebird Society’s Mealworms Fact Sheet.

For a wonderful FREE downloadable 15 page education packet designed for grades 1-5, with coloring pages and puzzles follow this link: Education Packet

For more information on how to build, and where to site, bluebird nest boxes, along with plan drawings, follow this link:  Getting Started with Bluebirds

To read more about the devastating effects of European House Sparrows and European Starlings follow this link: House Sparrow Control.


Just this past week, 15 Eastern Bluebirds were spotted at Allens Neck Wildlife Sanctuary in Westport, Massachusetts. See tomorrow’s post for information about an upcoming Bluebird Nestbox Walk at Allens Neck.


Additional images courtesy Google image search.

The Most Cherished Gifts of All ~ Our Daughters and Sons

For Christmas Liv gave me an early edition of Emily Dickinson’s poems. I cried. The poems of Emily Dickinson play a beautiful role in my book, Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities, but the sweetest poem found within the books’ pages is the poem written by Liv, when she was only twelve.

Emily Dickinson early edition poem s©Kim Smith 2013

Emily Dickinson, published 1892

When Liv was twelve I hired her to transcribe the first draft of the manuscript for Oh Garden, which I had written in longhand, to our then new computer. I had not yet learned how to use the computer and she was quite proficient. The original manuscript included recipes and illustrations, but no poetry. She took her job of transcribing very seriously and one day, about halfway through the project, announced that I needed a poem for the book. She dashed upstairs to her bedroom, returning only half an hour later with her contribution, “My Mother’s Garden.” Her tender poem suggested to me that I include more poetry and it was a joyous experience searching for just the right poem to illuminate each chapter. The book grew to comprise many poems by Emily Dickinson, along with works by Federico García Lorca, John Keats, Amy Lowell, Chinese painter- poets, and even a funny and sweetly sarcastic poem by Dorothy Parker titled “One Perfect Rose.” When the time came, I showed my publisher, Mr. Godine, Liv’s poem. He was delighted to include “My Mother’s Garden” and it can be found on page 206.

Now I keep this cherished gift of Emily Dickinson poems by my bedside table and each time I reach to read it or simply when the cover catches my eye, I am reminded of her gentle, thoughtful love and of the most cherished gift of all, my daughter.

My Mother’s Garden

An exotic sunset-tinted rose

Intoxicating breath of a magnolia

The small windy brick path

Leading to a hidden paradise

Butterflies flutter their own petal-wings

Over the smiling face of a daisy

A hushed lullaby to the garden sings the stream

Honeysuckle vines twist their elegant tendril,

Grasping the delicate lattice

Gorgeous, vibrant hollyhocks stretch their faces

Towards the radiant sun

Drinking in the soft light

Soon the sweet mellow silence is broken

By a joyful cry of children,

Two, three, now four

Suddenly the garden is a place of singing and frolicking and dancing,

Youthful and inviting.

This blessed garden’s soul shines forth in each and every existence

From the flitting butterflies

To the smallest thriving plant

To the noisiest child that finds peaceful comfort,

In the gentle haven.

                    -Written by our Liv when she was twelve

Emily Dickinson Quote of The Week from Greg Bover

“My friends are my estate.”

Born to an Amherst Massachusetts family with deep Puritan roots, Dickinson was better known in her lifetime as a gardener than as a poet. Famously reclusive, she spent decades brooding on the mysteries of life and death, and became more and more preoccupied with the latter. A few of her poems were published in the The Atlantic Monthly, but the vast majority of the more than 800 she wrote were not known to the public until after her death. A complete collection did not appear until the 1950’s.

Because I could not stop for Death-

He kindly stopped for me-

The Carriage held but just ourselves-

And Immortality.


Gregory R. Bover