Author, expert has deep roots in Del Mar
Pat Welsh was born in the Brontë Country of Yorkshire, England, into a family of garden lovers. They sailed to America in 1939, spent the war years with their family on a farm in Bucks County, Pa., and moved to California, where Welsh graduated from Hollywood High and Scripps College, marrying a Los Angeles lawyer on her graduation day in 1951.
The Welshes moved to Del Mar in 1955 and raised a family after which Pat Welsh’s career as a garden communicator took off.
In 1979, she became first garden editor of San Diego Home/Garden Magazine and later “Newscenter 39’s Resident Gardener;” host of several national videos and infomercials; and author of books, including “Pat Welsh’s Southern California Gardening: A Month-by-Month Guide,” “The American Horticulture Society Southwest Smart Garden™ Regional Guide” and “All My Edens: A Gardener’s Memoir.” “Pat Welsh’s Southern California Organic Gardening Month by Month” is scheduled for publication next year.
Also a lifelong painter and intermittent sculptor, Welsh designed and built in 2003 - with the help of Betsy Schulz and 80 volunteers - the 92-foot-long, mixed-media mural in front of the library on Camino del Mar.
What brought you to Del Mar?
My late husband, Judge Louis M. Welsh, was practicing law in Los Angeles when we met. He was a trial lawyer in the law department of the Santa Fe Railroad, but within the first year of our marriage, Lou went into private practice, eventually founding a large Los Angeles law firm, later known as the Briedenbach firm.
Lou had grown up in Chicago and Indiana and served as an officer in the Navy during the war. After the war, his mother, Frances, and her husband, John Lloyd Wright, built a home in Del Mar on a large piece of property. Like his famous father, Frank Lloyd Wright, John was an architect.
Shortly after Lou and I were married, a jealous competitor of John got him hauled into jail for a minor infraction of the rules pertaining to architectural designers in California. Lou took the case, defended John in court and won on appeal. In payment for legal services, John and Frances gave us a piece of property worth at that time $8,000 and located 15 feet west of theirs, but lower on the hill.
Lou and I and our two children, Francie and Wendy (Francesca Filanc and Wendy Woolf), moved to Del Mar, and I lived next door to my in-laws for 28 years, until they passed away. I am still living in that house. After the Wrights died, Lou and I sold their home to the parents of our late, beloved son-in-law, Peter Filanc.
The two gardens still have a path from one home to the other.
What makes Del Mar special to you?
The aspects I particularly love in Del Mar are the beach, the ocean views, the people and the charming, walkable, winding roads laid out with the help of dray horses before WWII; in other words, before the advent of the bulldozer.
Another reason I love Del Mar is that it is only a short 15- to 20-minute drive across country to my daughters’ homes in Rancho Santa Fe and Carlsbad.
If you could snap your fingers and have it done, what might you add, subtract or improve in Del Mar?
I would be happy if by snapping my fingers I could paint all the buildings on the entire length of Camino del Mar in a rainbow of bright pastel colors such as various hues of tangerine, rose, fuchsia, yellow, green, purple, blue, pink and lavender.
Who or what inspires you?
Nature and beauty of all kinds inspire me. I love this country in all its wondrous variety. I love Beethoven’s symphonies and all his piano sonatas. I love Shakespeare.
My family inspires me. I am amazed at the things they do. Most of us in this family are artists of one kind or another: one actor, three musicians, three composers, four painters, four writers, two producers, one clothing designer and one physicist in a pear tree.
If you hosted a dinner party for eight, whom (living or deceased) would you invite?
Winston Churchill, Clementine, Dalai Lama, Mr. and Mrs. Tony Blair, Dorothy Parker, Edward de Vere and Noel Coward.
What are you currently reading?
I’m reading Book Four of the Crosswick’s Journal, which is called “Two Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage” by Madeleine L’Engle. It’s about her life as an actress and author, and her long, happy marriage.
What is your most prized possession?
Possessions don’t mean a huge amount to me, but my whole house and its contents, especially the paintings, are a setting for life that does mean a great deal.
I would hate to lose my house or some of the objects in it, but I prefer not to choose one favorite thing.
What do you do for fun?
Dinners and visits with my family, visiting friends, going on outings with family and friends, traveling and painting in oils and watercolor are high on my list of ways to have fun. I’m fond of driving trips and going on Elderhostels. I can’t garden any more, though gardening and riding horseback were once among my most beloved pastimes.
Describe your greatest accomplishment.
Oh dear, what a question! I suppose “Pat Welsh’s Southern California Gardening: A Month-by-Month Guide” has helped more people than anything else I’ve done.
What is your motto or philosophy of life?
I believe in being kind whenever possible. Even standing up for what we believe may be a form of kindness. But I don’t always do things right. Since college days I’ve remembered Spinoza said, “sub specii aeternitatus,” which means “under the aspect of eternity.”