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Actual Factual Cobb: What's a jonquil and why is Smyrna obsessed?

Howdy! This is "Actual Factual Cobb," and thus is much better than the rest of the Internet. In this column series, I — Ben Brasch — will keep rootin' for answers and tootin' news about Cobb County from questions you ask until the esteemed AJC fires me upon realizing how much of the newsroom's coffee budget is expended on me.

If we're about to have a whole festival dedicated to some random flower, I figured we should talk about why it matters.

It's the pride of Smyrna gardens. It's the biggest happening in Smyrna every year. It's the logo of Smyrna — the Jonquil City.

But what the heck is a jonquil?

According to the city website: "A fragrant short-tubed, yellow flower with long narrow leaves that blooms in great quantities in Smyrna in the Spring."

Here’s what you need to know about the Jonquil Festival this weekend

Great! We solved that! Nancy Drew would be proud. Just go ahead and check out the latest Mike Luckovich cartoon

I guess you could, but don't you want to know why Smyrna is called the Jonquil City?

As with many a good story, it starts in a burlap sack.

Specifically the one sent to Smyrna in 1883 by the son of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Taylor.

Actual Factual Cobb: How did the county's cities get these crazy names?

The Taylors bought 80 acres on Atlanta Road near the old Brawner hospital. (Hence the Taylor-Brawner House.)

Their son in Spokane, Washington, sent a burlap sack of jonquil bulbs to his parents who then distributed them to neighbors. Those are considered to be the area's first jonquil bulbs, according to the Smyrna Historical Society.

The Taylors may have moved to Spokane in 1907 to be with their son, but you can see the flowers they left behind all over the city in parks and home gardens, in a blanket of yellow.

Being Smyrna's only paved road in the late 1920s and early 1930s, Atlanta Road was lined with front yards repping King Alfred jonquils. Snowbirds heading back to the Midwest and Canada (some things never change) would buy bunches of jonquils for 10 to 15 cents a dozen.

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In 1937, 18 women established the Jonquil Garden Club. Here's where we fan the floral flames of history. I'll let the historical society explain: 

"For a number of years, a number of members of the Smyrna Business Men's Club claimed that they introduced the name 'Jonquil City'. However, the ladies of the Jonquil Garden Club and the Spring Hill Garden Club agreed that Smyrna was first given the title by Smyrna Native, Lena Mae Green" at a convention in Ontario.

None of that has stopped thousands of people from enjoying the Fall Jonquil Festival every year since the early 2000s.

The festival also means Smyrna's long history with the jonquil isn't being uprooted anytime soon.

I, Ben Brasch, am a reporter with the AJC. To submit “Actual Factual Cobb” questions, contact me at ben.brasch@ajc.com or on Twitter at @ben_brasch, or via the form below.

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