“Viola! Viola! Dang fol dee dido-la!”

Edmonton’s official flower, incredibly, is the French marigold, Tagetes patula. The Edmonton Public Library’s InfoFile explains:

A three person Flower Selection Committee was appointed on February 13, 1964 by Mayor William Hawrelak. It’s criteria were “a) that the flower help to beautify the city; b) be distinctive, relatively inexpensive and of a hardy variety; c) lend itself to the general character of the people, the City, location and climate; d) be capable of creating a particular civic pride, emanating from emphasis in various ways being placed upon the flower.”

Public input was solicited, and the peony was their first choice, the marigold second and the petunia third….

The marigold won the day in part because Mrs. Elsie Park Gowan wrote a poem called “Marigold! Marigold!” and sung it (to the tune of “Sweet Betsy from Pike”) in front of the selection committee. The committee was also swayed by the flower’s colour. It was suggested that the gold and green of the marigold was a symbol of everything from wheat fields to the uniforms of the Edmonton Eskimos.

Lest we think the people in 1964 were peculiarly and collectively insane, and American-pioneer-ballad-based decision-making couldn’t happen today, The City of Edmonton, on its website, steadfastly maintains that the marigold “symbolizes sunny Alberta and Edmonton’s role in the Klondike Gold Rush of the 1890s,” and that “the flower’s many varieties celebrate diversity.”

Behold Viola adunca (unless it is another viola; I’m not sure). It appears this time of year in older neighbourhoods, here and there, in the grass between the sidewalk and the street.

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