Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Annals of Bygone Nashville- Rachel Jackson's Honeysuckle

This strange looking plant, with its bracts that look like clowns' collars, came from a plant sale a friend and I went to a few years back at The Hermitage, the plantation home of General Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, and the first man from the boisterous and rising West to win the presidency. Prior to Jackson our Commanders in Chief were New England patricians and aristocrats from Virginia.

Jackson's name and legacy are everywhere here. His nickname was Old Hickory, and I live just off the long and winding Old Hickory Boulevard. Nashville has the General Jackson River Boat, Old Hickory Lake, the Hermitage Hotel, the suburb of Hermitage.

His wife Rachel, shy and religious, had a garden at The Hermitage. It has been preserved, along with antique roses like River's Charles the Fourth, a rose I bought at that plant sale and grew in my garden in Bellevue. This rose must have been grown all over the state, for to my astonishment I once came across a feral bush alongside a slough near Reelfoot Lake in West Tennessee.

Rachel loved her garden, and when she died in 1828, the year Jackson won the presidency, her sad husband buried her in it. She never made it to the White House as First Lady. She died from a bad heart, and some say a broken heart from a scandal over whether she was ever legally divorced from her first husband. Washington never changes. Then as now, the Smear lives.

I believe this Honeysuckle is Lonicera reticulata. A form of it called "Kintzley's Ghost was propagated in the 1880s.


Kay G. said...

I saw an old black and white movie not long ago about Andrew Jackson and his wife. The movie spoke of the gossip about her and how much it affected her. I think I liked her much more than I did Andrew Jackson (hope you don't mind me saying that!)

betsy said...

Kay G.- I am not certain Jackson was likeable, but he was a war hero, and he brought populism into America's new republic, and tore the governance of the country from the grasp of the Adams dynasty and the New England patricians who seemed to feel they had a God given right to it-