East Woodland path to the Office

History of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Winter 1912/1913

Eloise Butler
Eloise Butler, ca 1910-20 at birch tree grove.
Photo courtesy Minneapolis Public Library, Minneapolis Collection, M2632B

Eloise spent the winter months on the east coast at Malden Mass. visiting her relatives and sourcing plants for shipment to Minneapolis during the growing season. This was her custom following her retirement from teaching in 1911.

When she returned in the spring she was prepared for a busy season of planting during which she would add 993 plants of which 73 species would be newcomers to the Garden (Note 1). A number of these plants she sourced from East Coast suppliers while she was there and were shipped to Minnesota during the planting season.

When Eloise returned from the East Coast she resumed lodging with friend Jessie Polley in south Minneapolis.

1913 would be a more normal year for weather compared with 1910 and 1911. Precipitation would be a little below the normal average - but it would not set records for precipitation or temperature. There would be one snowfall in February of almost 9 inches but after April 1st only a few inches of snow came.

Spring 1913

Preliminary notes about the plants.Native Status: Some of the plants obtained by Eloise Butler in the early years of the Garden were not native to Minnesota or if native, may have been difficult to establish in the Garden. Most of these are no longer present. Martha Crone was somewhat more selective of native plant material, but also brought in many non-native species, and many of her imports have not survived either. The plants illustrated here, so one can see what they looked like, are mostly of the class no longer extant in the Garden. As for plants mentioned here that are still present in the Garden today, there may have been numerous re-plantings, and most have a web link to a detailed information/photo page, or, if not, are noted as being present in the Garden today - these are not illustrated in this article. Botanical classification: Over the years Botanists have reclassified many plants from the classifications in use at the time Eloise Butler wrote her Garden Log or when Martha Crone prepared her census. I have retained the nomenclature that Eloise Butler or Martha Crone used and then provided the more current classification as used by the major listings in use today, particularly Flora of North America, and the Annotated Checklist of the Vascular Flora of Minnesota.

Carolina Spring Beauty
Carolina Spring Beauty (Claytonia carolinana L.) Photo ©William S. Justice USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

1913 would be another extensive year for plantings in the Garden as Eloise attempted to bring on-site species she believed should have representation in a “Wild Botanic Garden” as the premises were known.

She imported plants during the spring from Franklin MA, Malden MA, Gillett’s Nursery in Southwick MA, from Kelsey’s Nursery in North Carolina and from sources in Loganport Indiana, Boulder Colorado and Hastings Nebraska. These supplemented the plants she could obtain from local sources. Eloise was not particular whether the plant was native - only that it could grow here.

The spring weather allowed Eloise to begin the 1913 Garden plantings on April 4th although she noted in her log that the frost was still in the ground.

Among her entries for spring planting were many plants already present in the Garden and these new ones that are still represented in the Garden today such as
Prairie Dogbane,
Thimbleberry and
Whorled Loosestrife

Yellow Lady's-slipper
Yellow Lady's-slipper, (Cypripedium parviflorum) Photo ©G D Bebeau.

And then, some plants that are not extant such as
Carolina Anemone,
Thyme-leaf Speedwell,
Apple Moss,
Bryum Moss,
Skunk Current,
Wild Comfrey,
Three toothed Cinquefoil,
Bootts wood fern,
Missouri Violet,
Wreath Goldenrod,
Russet Buffaloberry,
Fairy Slipper Orchid,
Common Bladderwort.

Click this link - List of 1913 spring plantings for a complete list, with photos, of plants added in 1913 for the first time to the Garden, both extant and now extirpated; her source for the plants is also listed.

She happily noted that a plant put in for the first time the prior year was blooming: Carolina Spring Beauty (Claytonia carolinana). The Yellow Lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens) bloomed on May 29th. The Showy Lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium reginae) waited until June 21st. A red shouldered hawk was nesting on an ash tree on the west side of the marsh.

Weather during the spring of 1913 was fine, enough rain and average temperatures.

Summer 1913

Yellow Fringed Orchid
Yellow Fringed Orchid, (Platanthera ciliaris); Photo ©Jeff McMillian, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database.

Planting work during the summer occupied much of Eloise Butler's time. During these months Eloise would obtain her plant material from local sources unlike her 1913 spring plantings, most of which came from out of state sources. As a result most of the summer plantings were species native to the state.

Among her entries for summer planting were many plants already present in the Garden and still represented in the Garden today such as
Fireweed, and
Wild Poinsettia.
Compass Plant was a new addition.
Plants no longer extant were
Wild Parsnip,
Spotted Beebalm
and Yellow Fringed Orchid.

Click the link List of 1913 plantings, with photos for a complete list of plants added in 1913 for the first time to the Garden, both extant and no longer extant; her source for the plants is also listed.

Eloise Butler's Garden Log also contained these comments:

July 6: “Found 4 specimens of Epilobium angustifolium [Fireweed] by Tamarack tree in east meadow."

Wild Ponsettia
Wild Poinsettia, (Euphorbia cyathophora); Photo ©Patrick J. Alexander, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Eloise believed the plant did not exist in the Garden and she imported plants of this species from Malden, Mass. on Sept. 4th, 1909, and from Gillett's Nursery, Southwick MA on April 29, 1912. In 1908 she brought back in her suitcase bunches of it which she foraged in the wilds of Mackay Ontario while waiting for the disabled train she was riding on to be repaired. Her friend Gertrude Cram, in a later letter to Martha Crone noted that “Miss Butler said nothing would ever induce it to grow for her”.

July 7: “Red shouldered hawkling standing on limb outside it’s nest.” She had noted back on May 29th that “A red shouldered hawk nesting on ash tree west border of swamp.”

That August the city of Minneapolis hosted a convention for the American Florists and Ornamental Horticulturists. Eloise supplied a display of native wild flowers - whichever ones nature deemed to provide at meeting time. The Minneapolis Journal and the Minneapolis Tribune reported on the event (pdf of article). (HTML version with photos)

The weather in the summer of 1913 provided temperatures in the average range for the time period and frequent summer rains, but not to the extent of the extremely wet year of 1911. Eloise noted that there were no summer droughts but much insect damage and that spraying for insects may be needed the following year. (Note 1.)

In that same annual report she mentioned that many more birds felt attracted to the protection of the Garden, such as a Great Bittern, the pair of nesting Red Shouldered hawks mentioned above, and the crested wood ducks that were in the Garden Pool. Martha Crone would write similar thoughts in her annual report 25 years later in 1938.

Autumn 1913

Eloise butler and Mary Meeker
Left - Eloise Butler, Dr. W. H. Crone (behind Eloise); Miss Elizabeth Foss,; Miss Mary K. Meeker on Aug. 3, 1931 at Eloise's 80th Birthday Party.

In September Eloise maintained an exhibit about the Wild Garden at the Minnesota State Fair in the Horticulture building, as she had since 1909. A photo of the exhibit is in Martha Hellander’s book The Wild Gardener. The exhibit for the Wild Botanic Garden won a blue ribbon in 1910. Photographer Mary Meeker [in photo at right] provided photos of the native plants for the exhibit. She was also the provider of photos for Eloise's series of newspaper columns in the Minneapolis Tribune in 1911. (Read them all here)

Eloise Butler's Garden Log usually has a few notes not completely related to planting and a curious one on Sept 10th contained this statement:

“Sowed seeds of Compass plant, Cassia chamaecrista [Partridge Pea], Lepachys [Lepachys pinnata -the old botanical name for Gray-headed coneflower, now classified as Ratibida pinnata (Vent.) Barnhart] on Old Andrew’s hillside, also seeds of Compass plant and of Lepachys by plantations of same. Fell in well, east meadow!

There was a hermit known as “Old Andrew” and there was a “cave-like shelter” on a hillside where he supposedly lived. Eloise would sometimes hear ghostly wood chopping sounds from that area. The area of this cave, north and west of the original Garden area, was added to the Garden in 1912 - and would today be generally in the direction toward Wirth Parkway.

Her last entry for 1913 is on Oct. 17 when she sowed the acorns of Black Oak that she had obtained from the Arnold Arboretum in Boston and sowed seeds of Pearly Everlasting that she sourced in Wisconsin.

Fall Plantings: Her Garden Log notes 14 species planted in the autumn that were not noted prior to 1913. Click this Link to a Llist of 1913 autumn plantings, with photos. An unusually large number were not from local sources and they were not native to Minnesota. None of the species are present in the Garden today.

Western Blue Virgin's Bower
Western Blue Virgin's Bower (Clematis verticillaris -now- Clematis occidentalis). Photo ©Emmett J. Judziewicz, Wisconsin Flora.

Eloise would note in her annual report to the Park Board that “993 plants added, 73 were species newcomers," and those included several that were rare such as the Wild Purple Clematis [Western Blue Virgin's Bower] and Calypso bulbosa [the Fairy Slipper Orchid]. She also suggests that a children’s museum be established in Glenwood Park. As always she promotes the Garden and in discussing the beauties of the Garden as the season passes she states:

“Within a space of 20 acres, may be seen in an hour, what would be impossible to find in traversing the state for several days.” (Note 1)

Fall temperatures were fairly normal in September and October but November and December were unusually warm. 1913 was a year of good precipitation except at the end of the year. There were rains in September and October but just traces of precipitation in November and December resulting in no snow cover through the end of the year.

Note 1. Report of the Board of Park Commissioners, Jan. 1, 1914.

Photo top of page: The east woodland path (Violet Way) approaching the old Garden "office"; from a Kodachrome taken by Martha Crone June 1, 1950. Photo courtesy Martha Crone Collection, MHS.

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Year chart - all years
Garden History Archive

Links to related pages:
- Abbreviated Life of Eloise Butler
- Martha Crone - 2nd Garden Curator
- Ken Avery - 3rd Curator and Gardener
- Cary George - 4th Gardener
- Our Native Plant Reserve - Short document on the origins of the Garden.
- Eloise Butler's writings, a selection of essays written by Eloise Butler on the early Garden years.
- Geography of the Garden- an illustrated tour


Garden Log - Native Plant Reserve, Glenwood Park, Minneapolis, MN by Eloise Butler

Martha Crone's Garden Log and her 1951 Census of plants in the Garden.

Various papers and correspondence of Eloise Butler in the collection of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Historical Climatology of Minneapolis-St. Paul Area by Charles Fisk.

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©2017 Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. All photos are the property of The Friends unless otherwise credited. Photos credited to others are used with permission for educational purposes, for which The Friends thank them and the organization providing the photos. Text and research by Gary Bebeau. "http://www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org" - 020317