Malden Mass house

1924
History of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Winter 1923/1924

This winter Eloise Butler again traveled to the East Coast to visit her relatives, as had been her custom since she retired from teaching in 1911. Her residence was at 20 Murray Hill Rd, Malden, Mass.

In late March she returned to her rented quarters at the residence of John and Susan Babcock at 227 Xerxes Ave. from where she could walk to the Garden.

Spring 1924

Eloise Butler’s first Garden Log note of the season was on April 1st when she wrote:

“Ground covered with 16 inches of snow on the level. The heaviest snow storm of the season, March 29-30”

But by April 5 she wrote: “Two Trillium nivale in bloom. Robins, phoebes, juncos, and one hermit thrush in evidence.”

On the 13th: “Noted screech owl perched in a young hemlock tree north of the tarvia road. Sat motionless for a long time, and permitted near approach.”

Early May does not seen to have been all that pleasant. She wrote on the 7th: “Noted Whip-poor-will near west path. Has been heard for two weeks. Weather, cold, snowy, rainy, disagreeable.”

Two new species were established in the Spring - European Whitlow-grass and Lewis Flax.

Summer 1924

On June 12 Eloise wrote: “Mountain ash planted May 28, 1909 bloomed for the first time” [Sorbus americana, American Mountain Ash].

Fencing work was done in the Garden for probably the first time. It began on June 26 and on July 16 Eloise wrote: “Lady Slipper meadow enclosed today, fence not completely braced.”

Eloise Butler
Eloise Butler in 1924 from a Minneapolis Tribune article.

In order to really secure the Garden from large animals, vandals and people that just wandered in from all directions, it had to be securely fence and equipped with gates that could be locked. Eloise Butler even resorted to the newspaper on several occasions to state her case for a fence.

Ms. Butler's worst menace was "spooners". A headline in the Minneapolis Tribune in 1923 read: "Glenwood Park Wants Wire Fence to Keep Out Spooners." The article explained Ms. Butler's thoughts that cats and dogs may leave a trail in the vegetation but spooners were the real problem. The full text read as follows:

It’s not the wild, voracious mosquito-
It’s not the snooping vagabond dog -
Nor is it the pussy-footing feline -
But it’s the demon surreptitious spooner thats brought the need for an encircling barbed wire fence around the wild flower garden in Glenwood Park to save plants of incalculable scientific value from destruction. A stray cat will pitter patter into the garden and leave a narrow trail. A dog seeking food perhaps in the shape of a ribbit (sic) will snoop through and leave a wider wallow -
But the spooning couple -
“For destructive properties the army of tussock worms is a piker when compared with the Spooner” (Eloise Butler quote)

In a 1924 newspaper article (pdf copy) during an interview she was quoted saying “The fence is needed to keep our the few vandals who destroy in a few minutes the work of years and spoil the garden for the rest of the visitors.” The article concluded - “Tired of waiting years for it to be built, she finally is having it put up herself.”

While fencing may have been partially accomplished prior to 1924, the Park Board could not allocate funds to complete fencing. Eloise contracted, at her own expense, to have the fencing completed for a sum of $696.10. She paid $400 down, gave a note for $200 to be paid within a month or when the fence was completed, and the final amount by a note to be paid in the spring of 1925. (1)

One set of fences or two?

She could not afford to fence the entire area of the Garden, so we believe two enclosures were built which she referred to as the North Enclosure and the South Enclosure, the north protecting the wetland orchids, both referenced with a “brook” running through them. After she announces the enclosure on July 16th she begins as early as Aug. 1st to note planting in the “north enclosure.” This would imply that there was another enclosure but she does not mention actually planting anything in this “south enclosure” by name until October 8, 1925, although there are numerous entries in the log prior to that of planting “near fence” without stating which fence. This story continues in the Autumn section. It was not until 1938 that a permanent fence built by a WPA crew enclosed more of the Garden.

In the summer months she obtained 4 new species for the Garden: Common Butterwort, Green Fringed Orchid, Marsh Grass of Parnassus, and Round-leaved Orchis. Details are given below.

Autumn 1924

On October 27 Eloise wrote: “Completed Cactus rockery and transferred cacti thereto.” In later years Martha Crone would note building such a feature in 1930 but this predates that one.

In the Fall months she obtained 9 new species for the Garden, all detailed below, one of which we would stand up and shout NO today. Her last log entry was on November 3rd when she “sowed seeds of red Lepachys columnaris from Grand Forks, N. Dak. above the cactus rockery on the east hillside.” Today this plant is classified as Ratibida columnifera, Long-headed Coneflower. By “red” we assume she means the type that has red on the rays and is commonly called “Mexican Hat.”

During the year she also recorded planting a number of other species previously in the Garden, most from local sources.

Before the Fencing could be completed she had to leave for her annual return to Malden Massachusetts to visit her sister Cora Pease as she has done every winter since 1911. Eloise wrote to the Crones (Martha and William) that she had informed Park Superintendent Wirth about what she did with the fence and never asked for reimbursement. She was pleasantly surprised to receive a note from him promising a check for the full amount by early December. Thus she says “You may believe that I am very happy.” (1)

Winter in Malden involved care for an ill sister, an ill brother, an ill brother-in-law and niece. Eloise writes that “I find the duties of house keeping somewhat heavy with a family of eight, including a dog and three cats.” But they had a jolly Christmas. (2).

Weather in 1924 was not too unusual. Although Spring started late due to the heavy late March snowfall, snowfall for the year was well under normal. Total precipitation was just below average due to a lot of Summer rain.


New 1924 Plants

Eloise brought into the Garden a number of plants that are not listed today on the Garden census. Many of these were native to Minnesota and a few were not. Here is a listing of most of those plants introduced this year to the Garden for the first time - the common and botanical names listed first are names she used followed by other common names for the same plant and the newer botanical classifications, if any; then follows her source for the material. 1924 is the first year the following list of plants occur in her log. "Native" indicates the plant is considered native to Minnesota (here at European Settlement time) or if introduced, long established. "Non-native" indicates it is not known to exist in Minnesota in the wild. "Introduced" means not native to North America. "Extant" indicates the plant is present in the Garden today. 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, the University of Minnesota's Annotated Checklist of the Vascular Flora of Minnesota, and as a fall-back source - the USDA Plants Database.

Spring 1924

Summer 1924

Marsh Grass of Parnassus
Marsh Grass of Parnassus, Parnassia palustris, New Summer planting. Photo Mary Clay Stensvold @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Autumn 1924


Butterwort
Common Butterwort, Pinguicula vulgaris New Summer planting. Photo © Kitty Kohout, Wisconsin Flora.
Hoary Alyssum
Hoary Alyssum, Berteroa incana New Autumn planting. Photo ©G D Bebeau.
Prairie Coneflower
Long-headed Coneflower, standard variety without red on rays, Ratibida columnifera. New Autumn planting. Photo ©G D Bebeau
Pale Spike Lobelia
Palespike Lobelia, Lobelia spicata. New Autumn planting. Photo ©G D Bebeau

Photo top of page: The House at 20 Murray Hill Road, Malden MA where Eloise spent Winters.

To History of: Previous Year ----------- Subsequent Year

Notes:
(1) Letter to the Crones, November 29, 1924 from Malden, Massachusetts (pdf)
(2) Letter to the Crones, Jan. 24, 1925 (pdf)

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

References:

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" - 102017