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Brighter than Fourth-of-July pyrotechnics, more rain-resistant than a tourist's poncho, able to survive late spring frosts and bloom in the dreariest Southeast summer, the hearty primrose soon may become Juneau's official flower.
"You have a plant for all the conditions from sun to shade, gravel to muskeg, that grows from 2 inches to 2 feet tall," said Ed Buyarski, a local landscaper and the president of the American Primrose Society, who has been lobbying the Juneau Assembly to make the flower official. "What more could we ask for?"
Primrose enthusiasts brought several varieties of the flower before the Assembly last week as part of their lobbying efforts. A draft primrose resolution was forwarded to the Assembly's Human Resources Committee and will be discussed at a meeting at 6 p.m. May 12.
"We haven't heard from the iris lobby or the rose lobby or the delphinium lobby yet, and we are trying to beat them to the punch," Buyarski said.
Buyarski and other primrose lobbyists are proposing that Juneau become "Alaska's primrose capital." If the resolution passes, primroses will be planted in many public gardens, Buyarski said. As far as Buyarski knows, no other town has the primrose as its official flower.
"You saw that Fairbanks has the delphinium, and Portland is the rose city. Other towns have certain plants. We would be unique," Buyarski said.
Mayor Sally Smith said she would wait to decide how to vote on the resolution until after she heard testimony in committee.
"I think it's wonderful the gardening club has chosen something. I look on it with favor whenever when there is a group in the know that makes a suggestion," Smith said.
Gardener Vivian Meyers has Dorothy and Wanda primrose blooms sparkling from her yard. Her love for the flowers brought her to testify in front of the Assembly at the last meeting, her first time testifying, ever. She hopes the flower conversation doesn't get too controversial, she said. According to Meyers, most all of the Juneau Garden Club members are behind the primrose.
"It is like a staple for Juneau if you are into gardening," she said. "Primroses divide beautifully and they come back. They are one of the biggest sellers at the garden club sale."
Five hundred species of primroses and thousands of varieties bloom from early spring to early fall, Buyarski said. Juneau also has one type of indigenous primrose, Primula cuneifolia, which grows in the mountains. Buyarski went on a seed-collecting trip to China in 2000 and now has some of Juneau's most exotic primroses in his yard.
"They come in all colors of the rainbow from white to near black," Buyarski said. "I like cheerful stuff in the gloomy weather, and the fragrance some of these you will smell from 20 or 30 feet away."
Buyarski has a landscaping business in which he routinely "inflicts primroses" on his clients. He noted that associating the primrose with Juneau will help make the city a gardening tourist destination.
"We're talking about marketing to tourists," Buyarski said. "You've got more and more people who want to see gardens, and this is just one more selling point for Juneau."
The American Primrose Society will have its annual show in Juneau on Saturday and Sunday, May 17-18, at the Mendenhall Center.