Henry Homeyer: Daffy the corgi’s most fitting flowers

By Henry Homeyer
©2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

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 or, especially, a meal or 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, we reluctantly called the vet.

Daphne had short legs but a big personality.

We buried Daffy alongside her cat friend, Winnie, who passed naturally at age 23 in June of this year; as well as with 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.

Purple Majesty Harry Lauder’s walking stick

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.

In her grave, I put 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.

Close up of February Daphne.

I sent Daffy off with diamonds – “Pink Diamond,” that is – 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. So 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.” So 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.

Snowdrops bloom in March and always delight me when they do.

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.

This Tithonia blossom is about 2in. wide on a 6ft. tall plant with many others.

Roses also went in the grave; 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. But 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. And after all, she was the Dog of Joy.

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Filed Under: Community and Arts LifeHenry Homeyer's Notes from the Garden

About the Author: Henry Homeyer is a lifetime organic gardener living in Cornish Flat, N.H. He is the author of four gardening books including The Vermont Gardener's Companion. You may reach him by e-mail at henry.homeyer@comcast.net or by snail mail at PO Box 364, Cornish Flat, N.H. 03746. Please include a SASE if you wish an answer to a question by mail.

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  1. Ruth Winkler says:

    This past Sunday, you spoke so lovingly about your Daffy I could not help but cry. We, too, have a dog and cat cemetery on our property and I make sure the snowdrops and forget-me-nots will continue to fill their individual spots each spring. Summer ferns cover them as well. Thank you for your column. And my deep condolences on the passing of Daffy.

  2. Liisa Kissel says:

    Henry, so sorry to hear you lost Daffy and Winnie. Thank you for the lovely story. The cat cemetery at my place is the final resting place for many beloved pets, including Pushkin, in whose honor we planted some spring-blooming Puschkinia, along with snowdrops and maidenhair fern.

  3. Sue Starr says:

    So sorry to hear about Daffy’s passing, but what a wonderful life she had with you!! My Cardigan Welsh Corgi named Libby died at age 15 about 6 weeks ago, and we commemorated her similarly. I am raising hybrid daylilies here in Chester, and a particularly appropriate seedling was blooming at the time of her burial; copper colored with a complicated center. I am going to register this flower with the AHA as “Libby’s Legacy”.