Charlotte Bass is obsessed with the idea of making the marigold America's official flower. She has taken up where the late Sen. Everett I. Dirksen (R-Ill.) left off.
Bass, who lived in the Washington area for 10 years, was back in town this weekend lining up support for her project, and denouncing her biggest enemy - other than apathy - "the rose people."
The way she says the words "the rose people," the flower comes off sounding like a foul weed and its fanciers like enemies of the environment.
Since moving to a 41-acre farm in Stillwenn, Ind., four years ago, Bass has managed to convince the legislators of Indiana, Georgia and Illinois to adopt the resolutions calling on Congress to elevate the marigold to an official place of honor beside the bald eagle.
Bass' husband, Ralph, a retired Air Force colonel, served as a special assistant to Rep. and now Sen. William L. Scott (R-Va.).
She came up with the idea of boosting the merits of the hardy yellow annual while writing a column for the weekly Globe newspapers in northern Virginia.
Bass is not the first American to pick up the trowel on behalf to the flower. Dirksen, the late Senate minority leader, introduced a bill proposing the marigold as the "national floral emblem" in each Congress for more than three decades. Although Dirksen's language was flowery, the bills here blossomed.
Bass' goal originally was to have the marigold made the official flower in time for the Bicentennial, pointing out that "it doesn't belong to any state or nation, and is capable of growing almost anywhere."
But the "rose people" picked up one the idea of making their flower the national symbol about the same time and the battle was joined.
From her Indiana residence, "Lilac Manor on Marigold Lane," which she admits is a pretentious name for a modest house at the end of an unpaved road, Bass has carried on the fight with religious zeal.
When the rose fanciers point out that her beloved marigolds give off an unpleasant odor, she counters with the observation that "roses have thorns."
Scientists have developed a couple varieties of marigolds that do not smell bad, she added, and besides, the odor is in the leaves. If you rip off the green foliage, you end up with a beautiful, long-stemmed, thornless flower that will outlast a rose in a vase by two and a nd a half weeks per blossom.