upland prairie in spring

An Upland Garden Restoration Project, 2004 - 2009

Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

In the north end of the Upland Garden, the "back 40" so to speak, a restoration project has been going on for the past five years. In 2009 we see some of the colorful results of this work. The work area is centered near Guidebook station 36, with part of the restored area on both sides of the the path leading from the Upland Garden down to the Woodland Garden.

Below: The beginning of habitat change on the hillside: Red Oak trees that were killed by Oak Wilt were cut down and the brush burned in the late Winter and Early Spring of 1999, leaving just a few Oaks on the hillside slope.

Burnt residue of red oaks UPland hillside after oaks cleared
Restoration Area
Fig. 1 above: Work area in October 2007, next to the path leading to the Woodland Garden.

The process of restoration began some years ago when a number of Red Oak trees in this area succumbed to Oak Wilt disease and were removed (photos above) from the slope between the upper Garden area and the lower Woodland Garden. Their removal allowed the understory plants, particularly the aggressive Buckthorn, to proliferate. Beginning in 2004, a process of clearing the invasives from this area began and unfortunately a number of other trees in the area also succumbed to disease, leaving the hillside devoid of large trees. The removal of all this plant material left a relatively open area that could be replanted to sun loving flowering plants and grasses. In figures 1, 2 and 3 we see the area in October 2007 near the end of the "clearing up" process. Several other diseased trees are in the process of being removed.

Restoration Area
Fig. Work area in October 2007 between the path and the back fence.
Restoration Area
Figure 3: Tree removal. The work area centered around Guidebook station 36 at the intersection of 4 paths in the Garden.
Restoration area 2008
fig. 4: The area as it appeared in late July 2008.
Restoration area 2008
fig. 5: A different view of the same area in July 2008.
Restoration area
fig. 6: In late July 2008, looking toward the back fence. The path on the right leads to the top of the back hill and to the fern glen. The large oak tree still standing.
Spring view of restoration 2009
fig. 7: An overall view of the cleared area in April 2009. The large diseased oak that was near the station 36 post was removed during the winter.

The last change to the landscape occurred prior to spring 2009 when the old oak tree near the station 36 guidepost had to be removed due to disease (fig. 6 and 7 above). This completely opened up the area to full summer sun. Garden Curator Susan Wilkins began inserting native plants into the area. In late July 2009 this area is a riot of color and species, most of which were planted, and some of which are from seed germination as always happens in area that is opened and disturbed.

In figures 8 and 9 we can see the dramatic difference within one year. The photos are 53 weeks apart. The station 36 guidepost is visible in fig. 8 and obscured in fig. 9 by the large clump of rosinweed. The oak tree still present in 2008 is now gone in 2009.

Restoration area before planting
fig. 8: The area at the path intersection at guidepost 36 on July 28, 2008.
Restoration area after planting
fig. 9: The same area at the path intersection at guidepost 36 on Aug. 4, 2009.
Rosinweed Clump 2008
fig. 10: In July 2008 this clump of Rosinweed was growing at the path intersection near guidepost 36. Compare to fig. 11 a year later.
Rosinweed Clump 2009
fig. 11: Dramatic differences can occur in individual plants within one year. Note how this clump of Rosinweed has greatly expanded from its appearance in 2008 (fig. 10) when the large oak still provided a canopy.

Visitors to the Garden in the summer of 2009 were able to see a colorful panorama of flowers while maybe not ever realizing that the scene had been entirely different in prior years. Thanks to Garden Curator Susan Wilkins and other members of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board staff and the volunteers who contributed to this project. It will be enjoyable for years to come.

Restoration area 2009
fig. 12: The restored area on the south side of the path that leads to the Woodland Garden.
Restored area in 2014
fig. 13 is a similar view of the restored area in 2014.