A vibrant red new daylily has been officially named after the late Debbie Froese. The few plants already available are being sold to raise money for Froese’s charity of choice, and names are being put on a waiting list for divisions of the perennial for next year. (Pam Erikson/Special to Langley Advance Times)

Flowers pay tribute to Langley mayor’s late wife

The late Debbie Froese will live on with all the bright red daylilies that will brandish her name

Literally minutes after Marilyn Morgan put up a post on Facebook about a tribute to her late mother, Pam Erikson’s phone began ringing off the hook.

Erikson, owner of Erikson’s Daylily Gardens, recently received word that she could officially name one of her newly cultivated daylilies after her long-time friend, Debbie Froese – who passed away of cancer in early January.

“When Debbie passed away, we’d been good friends for a lot of years, and I had said to [her daughter] Marilyn ‘I’ve got a really nice red daylily, I’d like to name it for your mom, if that’s okay?’,” Erikson recounted. The suggestion was welcomed by Froese’s family.

According to Erikson, Froese’s favourite colour was always red. In her hybridizing program, Erikson didn’t have a lot of new red daylilies. But, there were a couple, and it was the most vibrant of those the gardener earmarked to name in her friend’s honour.

RELATED: Langley mayor’s wife loses battle with cancer

“This is a perfect one for her,” said Erikson who first met Froese when their children were going to school together. Then, they became friends when the Froese family opened the initial JD Farm Specialty Turkey Store out of their home.

“I loved her…” Erikson said. “She was probably one of the kindest, gentlest people I’ve ever know – ever. That was just her manner. She was just an amazing lady…”

Since being given the official nod to register the Debbie Froese daylily recently, Erikson divided up the clump and gave plants to each of Froese’s children and her husband, Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese.

Left with only 14 other plantings in this inaugural year, Erikson chose to sell each of them off for $100 each, with all the money going to one of Debbie’s favourite charity – the Langley Christmas Bureau.

Several of Debbie’s closest friends heard news of the plants first, and within minutes, Erikson was down to only four remaining plants to “sell.”

“The post went up this morning, and my phone hasn’t stopped ringing,” Erikson said. “It was a little over the top.”

RELATED: Hundreds attend celebration of life for Debbie Froese in Langley

With any fledgling tuber, she is left with very few clumps that can be grown and divided in the first few years. Such was the case with this tribute daylily.

Realizing instantly the demand was going to be bigger than she could fill, Erikson decided to take people’s names, and do a lottery this Sunday for the last four of this year’s plants. In the meantime, she’s offering to leave the rest of the names on a waiting list for more of the lilies, as they come available in spring 2021 and beyond – same terms apply with a minimum $100 donation to Froese’s charity of choice, she said.

“The first year they’re introduced, you don’t have that many… The thing is, I’ll grow it for years and years, and we’ll just keep a waiting list of people,” Erikson said. “People are already saying, ‘put me on the waiting list.’ And every year when I’ve got some more, I’ll dig it up, we’ll sell it again, and it will just keep a constant flow of little bits of money going back to the charity. Every little bit counts.”

It may, she warns, take two or three years for her to have a enough plants available to fill all the existing and expected orders.

Money will be given to a cause close to Froese’s heart. She was one of the founding wives of the Mayors’ Wives Tea (now called Thanks for Caring, a Christmas Tea fundraiser), which has been an annual sell-out fundraiser supporting the Langley Christmas Bureau, and Froese was involved in raising thousands of dollars for the charity that cares for struggling families in Langley.

Since this year’s tea had to be cancelled due to COVID, Erikson felt this was a way of helping raise some money for a cause so important to her friend.

RELATED: In memory of Debbie Froese, Langley firefighters donate to Volunteer Cancer Drivers

The tribute daylily meant a great deal to Froese’s family.

In her Facebook post, Morgan said “The words ‘thank you’ just don’t seem enough to express how incredibly appreciative my family is to Pam Erikson of Erikson Daylily… What a beautiful tribute. Thank you. I can’t wait to plant it at her house. Mom was an amazing woman that touched so many.”

Anyone still interested in buying a plant (by minimum donation of $100 to the Langley Christmas Bureau) can enter for Sunday’s lottery by emailing pamerikson@uniserve.com by end of day Saturday. Otherwise, those interested in having their name added to the first-come, first-serve waiting list for next year, can also email Erikson at the same address.

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Debbie Froese’s daughter, Marilyn, posted this to Facebook today, and Pam Erikson’s phone has been ringing none stop. (Screengrab)

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