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Verdugo Views: Glendale's hibiscus history

BusinessChevy ChaseLos Angeles Times

In the spring of 1963, Ruby Barnett and her husband visited the city of Hiraoka, our Japanese sister city that later became Higashiosaka. During her stay, she toured some of the city's parks and gardens.

At one point, the Hiraoka mayor asked Barnett, founding president of the Chevy Chase Estates Garden Club, if Glendale had an official city flower. And she had to say that she didn't know.

“I felt embarrassed not knowing Glendale's official flower,” she later told the Los Angeles Times (Oct. 6, 1963).

Once back home, Barnett shared the question with Marge Tucker, then president of the garden club. And they began a quest to find out if the city had an official flower, and if so, what it was.

After an extensive search by city staff through council records and correspondence, they had their answer. “We found that on May 15, 1941, the City Council adopted a resolution proclaiming the hibiscus as the official flower.” It had been suggested by the Glendale Chamber of Commerce Auxiliary, she told The Times.

Armed with this information, the two of them went off to City Hall to visit the mayor, Herman Barnes. They had a plan in mind: a request that the city proclaim a Hibiscus Day to celebrate the bloom. They suggested a day in October, as the plant has a long blooming period that often extends into November.

Mayor Barnes and the rest of the council looked favorably upon their suggestion and went them one better, proclaiming a Hibiscus Week, which that year would be Oct. 4 to 11.

With that, the garden club members went into high gear, writing a letter to 500 local businesses, asking them to support Hibiscus Week by placing an arrangement of colorful hibiscus in their window display or in the lobby of their business.

To kick off the week, Barnett and Tucker presented a hibiscus floral spray to the city; they placed it in the City Hall rotunda as City Manager C.E. Perkins and Mayor Barnes looked on. Fresh displays were placed there each day of that week.

Garden club members planned to take photos of flower arrangements appearing in shops and businesses. Residents on two streets, Chevy Chase Drive in Chevy Chase Canyon and East Glenoaks Boulevard in Oakridge Estates decorated their mailboxes with fresh hibiscus blossoms for the enjoyment of motorists using those streets.

Other residents also got into the act. One, Harriette Walker, who lived in the 500 block of Cumberland Road, wrote the garden club concerning a hibiscus plant she and her husband had planted 32 years before. “When it is in full bloom it is a gorgeous thing to behold.” A photo of the Walkers' hibiscus plant was published in the Glendale News-Press, Oct. 10, 1963.

When Hibiscus Week ended, garden club members celebrated their efforts at a luncheon affair. Colorful centerpieces filled the tables.

And yes, they were hibiscus flowers.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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