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Dulcy Mahar's columns collected in new book

by: RITA A. LEONARD - Author Ted Mahar (in hat) and Doug the Wonder Guy still enjoy the late Dulcy Mahars garden in Garthwick, at the south end of Sellwood.Ted Mahar, husband of the late garden columnist Dulcy Mahar, has written a memoir and collected 140 of her most popular columns from The Oregonian into a book, “Back in the Garden with Dulcy”. These essays, many illustrated with her own photos in her garden in Garthwick, comprise a volume of humor, charm, and remembrance.

Ted Mahar spent nearly forty years as the chief film and television critic at the same newspaper. Dulcy had her own career, but when the couple, and their cats and dogs, moved to the Garthwick house, at the south end of Sellwood, with its expansive yard, she began to develop a lively interest in transforming the space into a garden. Her trials and triumphs there were shared regularly in a gardening column, where readers learned to appreciate the joys, secrets, and rewards of experimenting in their own gardens.

For over twenty-two years, Dulcy became the go-to advice columnist for Northwest gardeners. She described both successes and failures as she experimented in her garden landscape, assuring others with humor and charm that gardens were a place for adventure and unexpected beauty.

Remarkably, she had little gardening experience, but she was able to reassure her readers that it was OK to experiment and fail, as long as you enjoyed the process.

Ted met Dulcy at the University of Oregon, and they were married in 1963. After growing up in California, he tells THE BEE, “Dulcy found the whole idea of Oregon’s seasons marvelous,” recalls Ted. “She discovered that each season had its benefits, and she delighted in them all. She had an artistic eye for design, and during winter she studied nearly a dozen gardening magazines for ideas. She had a favorite project every year; the garden never looked the same two years in a row.”

While Ted spent little time in the garden, he enjoyed Dulcy's enthusiasm and artistry there. “Whenever asked, I would help out, but I needed meticulous instructions,” he confesses. “Her garden partner for many years was Douglas Wilson, or ‘Doug the Wonder Guy’, who helped with design and heavy work. He provided a Foreword for the book, and still maintains the garden twice a week.

“Later in her career, Dulcy traveled annually, with a cadre of garden friends, to France, Italy, Spain, and England,” Ted continues. “She traveled explicitly for design and gardening ideas, taking copious notes and photos which she shared with Doug and her readers. She received letters from fans all across the country. Her whimsical and conversational style of writing endeared her to many correspondents, and she often took inspiration from their letters.”

Dulcy’s favorite vegetables were cucumbers and rhubarb. After her battle with ovarian cancer, the last solid food she ate was a piece of strawberry-rhubarb pie made by a neighbor, Emily. Dulcy passed away in July of 2011, but is fondly remembered by friends, neighbors, and countless admirers.

“Back in the Garden with Dulcy”, published by Carpe Diem Books for $22.95, was available in stores November 15. It contains 140 of her more than 1,100 gardening columns – those that were the most-requested for reprinting by The Oregonian.

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