Dulcy Mahar was a popular – and more importantly, beloved – garden columnist for the Oregonian for over 20 years. Her columns ran for the past 14 years in the Homes & Gardens of the Northwest section from 2007 until mid-June, when advancing cancer made writing impossible for her.
Her columns were charming and down-to-earth and she had a dry sense of humor that poked fun – gently – at pretentiousness among gardeners, including herself. She spoke with experience, but was always learning something and sharing her weaknesses and idiosyncrasies with her readers. She could be extremely funny and just plain silly, which turns out to have been a magnetic combination. And while she clearly spoke for a generation of gardeners who found their gardening information in books and garden clubs and societies rather than over the Internet – Dulcy herself was 69 when she passed away – she also had avid readers amongst the younger set as well.
I first read Dulcy’s column when I started freelancing for the Oregonian’s Home & Gardens of the Northwest in 1999. Her style at that time was evolving from a more traditional English style (think roses, boxwood hedges, and hostas) towards a more textural, foliage-based style (she experimented with hardy tropicals, succulents and more unusual shrubs). As a result, her garden went through dramatic transformations over the years. Readers followed every development with excitement as she explained what she envisioned and subsequently did, with the help of gardener Doug Wilson (also known as Doug the Wonder Guy). Her neighbor Rosemary Ellis and husband Ted figured into her columns, and gave readers the sense of being part of her neighborhood and even, her garden and her life. And her pets – all rescues – were as much a part of her columns as the plants.
This sense of connection helps explain the outpouring of love that flooded the Oregonian’s mailbags when her column stopped appearing. It surely helps explain the presence of over 2,500 admiring visitors who arrived at her garden on Saturday to say goodbye. It was the perfect gardening day: warm and sunny – ideal for this beautiful and very moving event. I thank her husband Ted, her neighbors and friends, and the volunteers who helped make the day meaningful.
I’m sure Dulcy would have been happy to hear that a whopping $10,000 was raised for the Oregon Humane Society and the Feral Cat Coalition, two of Mahar’s favorite charities.
Anyone wishing to make a donation in Dulcy’s name is encouraged to contact the Oregon Humane Society and Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon directly at 503 285-7722 for the humane society and 503 797-2606 for the coalition.
Here’s a video of Dulcy in her garden talking about her garden, writing and cancer.