By Francesca Filanc.
(Editor's note: This is the first in what we hope will be an ongoing series written by various members about what former SDHS Horticulturists of the Year are doing these days. Do you know a past HOY? Or, would you like to research what a former HOY is doing now? If so, would you be willing to write about them and update us about what they are doing currently? Please contact the editor, Karen England, at email email@example.com)
Normally I am given great freedom in what I write about each month for Let's Talk Plants!, as long as it has to do with plants and gardens. I had an idea for this newsletter, but Karen England gave me an assignment for January 2021. Karen asked me if I would write about what Pat Welsh has been up to lately and I am delighted to write about my sweet mother and what she has been doing since being honored as Horticulturist of the Year in 2003.
All of you know my mother as a writer and television personality who has won numerous awards for TV and for articles and books she has written. ‘Pat Welsh’s Southern California Gardening - A Month-by-Month Guide’ is considered the 'Bible' for Southern California gardeners, having been published with three editions by Chronicle Books. The most recent edition is all organic gardening. The book is available as an eBook and one can also find used copies to buy online. ‘All My Edens’ is a lovely book to read and re-read, even just a chapter here and there, about Pat’s adventuresome and incredible life and how it pertains to gardening. Pat also wrote the American Horticultural Society's Southwest Smart Garden Regional Guide and she took most of the photos in the book.
Mum was also considered the ‘Julia Child’ of gardening, winning an Emmy for her three minute gardening segment shown every Friday night on the Channel 39 News in the 1980s. Mum went on to do many programs for HGTV and NBC shown nationwide. Some of the many "How-to" videos she made for national television can be seen on PatWelsh.com.
Mum is a performer, comedian and for many years she gave talks on gardening. Pat’s last public talk was in 2019 for Roger’s Gardens where she had presented many times previously.
Mum is now 91 and a half and still has a very full life despite the restraints and difficulties of Covid-19 this past year.
Before Covid-19, Mum decided to retire from giving talks, and instead focus on finishing the books she was writing and her desire to paint every day like her father, my grandad, did the last 10 years of his life.
Pat finished writing 'Alex and Me’, a fantasy about Alexander the Great’s horse Bucephalus, and is finishing ‘Life as a Path with Sign Posts from Trees’.
Mum is currently painting my two poodles. Last summer, while visiting her almost every day, she started drawing the dogs, Byron and Prince, because she said "they pose beautifully, like statues, whenever Francie goes into the house to make us both a Vodka Martini". Hence, the name of the painting is ‘Where is She?’
Pat used to belong to a lovely group called 'The Painting Ladies', started by her friend Agatha Youngblood years ago. The ladies would paint in Agatha’s beautiful garden every Monday. Around Valentine’s Day every year Agatha would put on a tea, invite friends and family, and the ladies would display the beautiful art that they had created that year. In later years, when it was hard on Agatha to have everyone to her beautiful home every week, the ladies would take turns hosting in each of their gardens. This went on for many years and then, because of life’s circumstances, it stopped.
Mum missed all of these dear friends and decide to start Painting Ladies in her own garden. Unfortunately, most of the original group could not join, so Mum started inviting new people to her garden to paint. A Covid-19 difficulty for Pat has been taking a recess from Painting Ladies for almost a year. Pat looks forward to the vaccine coming in 2021 so that she can resume Painting Ladies in her garden.
One of the original painting ladies and good friend from the Del Mar Garden Club suggested the garden club improve the dull street wall downtown at the old Catholic Church, now the County Library. So, Pat spearheaded the community beautification project of the library wall as a gift to the community. Inspired by the Watts Towers in Los Angeles, California, that were built and embellished by Simon Rodia in the 1920s-50s, Pat got excited about the Library project, especially because she just finished making multimedia garden art in own garden using found materials.
It was then that renowned bas-relief artist Betsy Schulz . . .
. . . "teamed up with Pat Welsh in 2002 and 2003 to help Welsh realize her dream of cladding the wall in front of the Del Mar Library with found objects, brick, and stone. Together they designed the wall and created a presentation for the City of Del Mar to approve. They built the wall with community volunteers and contractor Dean Johnson. Funds for construction of the mural were raised through public donations, and at the end of the project the artists donated extra funds to the Del Mar Garden Club and Del Mar Library. Donors, or their beloved family and friends, were recognized with sculpted tiles of Garibaldi, the California state marine fish.
2014 Update: After 10 years, the wall needed a little repair work do to water damage. Pat Welsh and Betsy Schulz with the help of the Del Mar Foundation, received generous donations which enabled the waterproofing of the back of the wall by Island Construction. The front of the wall was repaired by Pat Welsh, Betsy Schulz, Kathryn Schmiedeberg and dedicated volunteers. Now the wall looks better than ever and ready for the next 100 years." - https://betsykschulz.com/project/del-mar-library-mixed-media-mosaic-wall/
Also, there is a wonderful children’s book, still available for purchase at the Del Mar Library, called “The Magic Mural and How it Got Built: a fable for children of all ages”, written and illustrated by Pat Welsh, with photos by Betsy Schulz, published in 2005 by the Friends of the Del Mar Library, sales of which support the Library.
Currently, since Covid, Pat’s days consist of taking a walk most days along with painting, writing, or zooming with family and Garden Club friends.
Her granddaughter, my daughter, Yvette, had a wonderful idea early in the pandemic to “Nana Zoom” once a week. This went on for several months and was an inspiration to all of us, something special to look forward to each week. Mum told the stories of her childhood to her grandchildren and great grandchildren. Yvette has taped all the zooms for posterity. The Nana Zoom was so great because it all gave us an opportunity to see all of our children and grandchildren once a week especially since Yvette and family live in Spain. The Nana Zoom was a great source of joy to connect with all our family and hear the amazing stories that Nana Pat would impart. Pat is a storyteller and we were enthralled with her stories. In one story that Pat was telling, one of my granddaughters, Jade, got big eyes because Nana was telling how Mum’s Dad remembered being born.
"Nana, I remember being born too!" Jade, 10, exclaimed with great excitement.
Mum has also been Zooming with the Olivenhain Garden Club and the 'In the Garden' Garden Club. Still teaching us all!
Mum is a wealth of knowledge, inspiration, and wisdom to all of us who are lucky enough to be in her orbit.
Lately Mum has met young girls and women on her daily walks. Pat gets depressed like the rest of us at times, but then she gets right back on the horse with her positive thoughts and dives into painting, writing, taking a walk or puttering in the garden.
I am so lucky to have such a wonderful mother. And I am so grateful to have been given this project to write about Pat for the SDHS in January 2021!
Mum’s attitude is "do what you love and do it well!"
Pat on the left and Francesca on the right enjoying Christmas lunch in Pat's kitchen on Christmas Day 2020.
Mum is looking forward to traveling again once we can do it safely. We plan to travel to a fly-fishing lodge where Mum will paint and I will fish. We will also travel to Oregon again to visit her brother and his wife.
Happy New Year and Happy Gardening!