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Dear Matthew Alice:

Does San Diego have an official city flower?

-- A Gardener, San Diego

Of course we do. We don't have a modern library, but we do have a city flower. Back in '64 when things were a little slower down on C Street, the council was locked in the War of the Roses. And the Carnations. And the Fuchsias. Mayor Curran or the carnation growers or somebody decided a city just wasn't a city if it didn't have an official flower. In a secret council vote carnations won handily, maybe because roses were already claimed by a ton of unimaginative cities, the fuchsia was subject to embarrassing mispronunciations, and most compelling of all, the carnation growers had already organized a carnation festival, with carnation maidens and free flowers, to celebrate the victory. As a mere aside, I offer the observation that both Carlsbad and Chula Vista have managed to acquire not only city flowers (bird of paradise and geranium, respectively) but also modern libraries, so it can be done. But San Diego does have a kick-ass motto: Semper Vigilans, Latin for "This is a gated community, and our Neighborhood Watch helicopter has night-vision scopes." The official city flower of La Jolla is kelp. Santee's is a ficus dying of heat exhaustion.

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