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Monday, Feb. 12, 2007 | If, in some rush of nostalgia, you seek a trace of the elegant San Diego that survives only in perfumed memories, you will surely be guided to take tea on the terrace at Hotel del Coronado.

Or you may somehow wangle an invitation to lunch, as I once was, with the ladies of the Wednesday Club. They occupy an inconspicuous and normally impenetrable clubhouse on an alley in Hillcrest.

My visit to the Wednesday Club may leave chills in their memories as well as mine. As their luncheon speaker that day, I had the ill fortune of bringing with me their first news of federal indictments that would quickly scandalize San Diego City Hall and convert more than one Honorable into a potential prisoner. As I remember, the ladies and I abandoned other subjects and plunged into a spirited discussion of the declining state of civic affairs.

That scandal has not ended and I have not recently been invited back to the Wednesday Club. For the time being, perhaps, neither they nor I are prepared to risk it.

My alternative source of such memories is a strangely cluttered bit of farmland, a mile or so to the west, near Midway Drive and Pacific Highway. It is the Walter Andersen nursery. One drives past a nearly inaccessible huddle of redwood slats, terra cotta pots; of sparkling flower beds and adolescent trees that beg to go home with you.

A main San Diego post office was once on some part of this nursery, and a used car lot, and visitors parked there to cross Midway Drive to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot. Thousands went to work in that neighborhood each morning, and most of them disappeared inside the metal shelters where shiny signs read “Convair Plant Two.”

But these days, the Walter Andersen nursery almost seems to draw more traffic to this neighborhood than Convair. For those of us drawn to the joy of growing things, it is a place to drop by to see what’s new, to see what’s in bloom and what’s out of the question.

Cars drive away from the gate of the nursery loaded heavy with greenery sticking out of windows, with pots and flats and with sacks of soil and fertilizers. Grown men who duck out early on business lunches stop off at Walter Andersen and make unlikely excuses for getting back to the office late.

The nursery is managed now by fourth-generation Andersens, and it has grown thick with community history. It opened in 1928 in Old Town. A store twice as large operates now in Poway. And there are usually strong young guys to lay out paper seat covers and hoist your prizes into the back seat and trunk of your car.

Getting those heavy buckets home is another matter. We gardeners never suffer buyers’ remorse … except when unloading!

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