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Henry Homeyer: A tribute to Daphne, a dog who noticed the flowers

  • Daffy was named after this shrub, Daphne mezereum.

  • The author’s late dog, Daphne, was named after this shrub, Daphne mezereum. They were among the flowers he included in her grave, in addition to a sunflower to reflect her sunny disposition (“like Daphne, it was a short one”); a stem from a Bartlett pear, which Daphne had enjoyed eating; and several others.

  • Above: Daphne, or “Daffy” for short, had short legs but a large personality. Right: Stems from Purple Majesty Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick seemed fitting to place in Daphne’s grave after she died, as she had trouble walking later in life.

For the Valley News
Published: 9/11/2020 9:52:44 PM
Modified: 9/13/2020 12:29:40 PM

Daphne mezereum was the registered name of my corgi, Daffy, who passed away on Aug. 25 of this year. Born in 2006, Daffy was my constant companion who was always ready for an adventure — especially if it involved a snack. When her back legs gave out, she figured out ways to propel herself forward with glee — ignoring the inconvenience, and trying to overcome the pain. Finally, when the pain was nearly constant, and we reluctantly called the vet.

We buried Daffy alongside her cat friend, Winnie, who passed naturally at age 23 in June of this year as well as Abby, Stanley and Emily, all good dogs who have passed on and been buried in a quiet shady place on our property. Each had their graves decorated with flowers from the garden. Let’s take a look at some of the plants I grow, and that I used to commemorate Daffy and celebrate her life.

Of course I cut branches of her namesake, Daphne mezereum or February Daphne. It is a fabulous shrub that blooms in May here in Cornish Flat, displaying pinky-purple fragrant flowers in abundance. It is slow-growing, so easy to maintain. No need to do much pruning — other than stems I cut to force in a vase each year in April.

And I put in her grave a couple of stems from a Harry Lauder’s walking stick shrub. A walking stick seems fitting for a dog that had trouble walking. It’s a curly hazelnut that would not really be good as a walking stick — there are no straight bits. Mine is a variety called red majestic of the European filbert (Corylus avellana).

In the spring the leaves are a deep red-purple but develop a greenish tinge as the summer progresses. I have mine in a flower bed and have been able to keep it to a 6-foot-wide and -tall tree by annual pruning.

I also sent Daffy off with diamonds. Pink diamond, that is. It’s a lovely variety of Hydrangea paniculata. I bought one that is a “standard,” meaning that it came with a straight trunk that had branches grafted on at the 4-foot-high level. It started out as a shrub with some height and never suffered from the awkwardness common to many hydrangeas that start as multi-stemmed shrubs.

At the bottom of Daffy’s grave I placed boughs from a Canadian hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). This is a native evergreen tree that grows well in sun or shade. In 1972 I dug up several growing wild in a field nearby and planted them as a hedge. They are now 50 feet tall or so. My late sister, Ruth Anne, lived in Canada and loved Daffy fiercely, calling her “the dog of joy.” These boughs commemorated them both. I no longer promote planting hemlocks because an insect pest, the wooly adelgid, is decimating them — though thankfully not in my area, as yet.

Of the woody plants, the last I placed in Daffy’s grave was a stem from my Bartlett pear. Daffy, always hungry, would gorge on the pears that fell on the ground beneath this tree, so it seemed fitting to put a branch in.

I cut fresh perennial flowers for Daphne’s grave, too. Phlox have been gorgeous this year, disease-free and fragrant. Daffy is the only dog I’ve had who noticed flowers. I have a picture of her checking out a vase of tulips, but phlox is in all its glory in sunny beds, so I cut some.

Daffy had a sunny disposition, even at the end when she was in pain, so I included a sunflower. Like Daphne, it was a short one, perhaps teddy bear. There are so many great sunflowers out there, many short and with multiple flowers branching off the main stem. They are easily started from seed. Chipmunks love them when they are just starting, so I grow them in 6-packs until they are tall enough to ignore the rodents. Deer love sunflowers, too, however, when they get bigger.

Roses went in the grave, too. My favorites are the knockout roses. Perhaps because they are not fragrant, they don’t seem to be attractive to the Japanese beetles that can plague old fashioned roses. They are fast-growing, and can reach a height of 4 feet in a couple of months even if all above-ground stems died over the winter. The one I selected for Daffy has had 25 blossoms most of the time this summer.

Then we added some Shasta daisies, those wonderful, cheerful flowers with white petals around a central yellow button. My patch of those gets a bit bigger each year in full sun. And Mexican sunflowers (Tithonia rotundifolia), a 6-foot-tall orange annual in the daisy or sunflower family. We start lots of these by seed each year, and I am always delighted by the results.

I suppose there were other flowers we picked for Daphne’s last day, though it’s all a bit of a blur. I do know that flowers always lift my spirits, and certainly, they needed some lifting that day. I’m doing better now, and being in the garden has helped. Later this fall I will plant bulbs on her grave — snowdrops. They are the first flowers to bloom in spring and always bring me joy. After all, she was the dog of joy.

Henry can be reached at henry.homeyer@comcast.net or at P.O. Box 364, Cornish Flat, NH 03746. He is available for garden consultations in the Upper Valley.




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