Garden Curator's Notes

As published in The Fringed Gentian™.

by Susan Wilkins

Susan Wilkins' comments appear courtesy of:


Fall 2021

Volume 69, No. 3

As I am writing this note, autumn is in full swing at the Wildflower Garden. The temperatures just dropped after a long spell of mild weather and the leaves of vines, shrubs, trees, wildflowers, ferns, really anything that was once green, is changing before our eyes. The asters are nearly done flowering and a few sweet coneflower blossoms remain. Sugar maple leaves are turning fiery hues of red and festive shades of orange and the tamaracks are starting to deepen into a golden brown this year. The witch hazel has begun to flower with its spiderly yellow blooms, and the eastern wahoo fruits, a sure sign of deep autumn, are still ripening and getting ready to burst open in November most likely. I love these days of mid-October as the progression of the changing season picks up its pace and still has plenty of botanical bonuses to delight us with in the days ahead.

It’s been another year of sharing the beauty and joy of the Garden in many familiar and also adaptive ways during the on-going pandemic. Operating the Garden over these past two seasons has required incredible flexibility on the part of staff as we’ve been nearly constantly adapting and developing strategies that allow us to operate safely while engaging visitors with nature-filled experiences and programming.

Garden Staff did an amazing job of creating activities for the Wirth Beach Nature Station that allowed for creative learning and enjoyment while meeting social distancing requirements at Wirth Beach. This is no small feat and over 2,370 kids and adults were able to enjoy nature-based activities at Wirth Beach as a result of these program development and engagement efforts.

Below: Wirth Beach Station manned by Garden Staff. Photo MPRB.

Wirth Beach Station

We also started reintroducing several Garden programs in July, with an overwhelming response from the community! Week after week, Garden Story Time, Early Birders, and a suite of engaging evening programs like the Illuminated Trails tour and the Glow-in the Night Hike, drew an average of about 20 people per program. The Illuminated Trails evening tour was attended by 65 people, wow! The great response to these program offerings is a testament to how much people love learning about and exploring nature together in fun and engaging ways.

Garden Staff also developed “pop-up” programs on a variety of Garden-themed topics and staffed these sessions out on popular trails several times a week later in the season. Visitors seemed to enjoy these staff-curated programs and we look forward to offering more of these in future seasons.

We are already busy planning for the 2022 season and look forward to seeing you out on the trails at the Garden in April. May the forthcoming winter season be one of replenishment and beauty and full of many nourishing nature-filled moments for you and yours.

Enjoy winter; and, as needed, think spring!❖

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Summer 2021

Volume 69, No. 2

Late summer is upon us and many sun-loving plants of the Wildflower Garden are in full bloom. The upland garden is a verdant meadow of bee balm, joe pye weed, culver’s root, and coneflower to name just a few of the dozens of species in bloom. The wetland garden is graced by tufts of pink meadowsweet and magenta colored swamp milkweed. Along the boardwalk, swaths of purple-stemmed and flat-topped asters are in bud and soon will be flowering. Even with the heat and long days, summer progresses so quickly and here we are, already looking at the late summer blossoms about to start.

Another great way to keep in touch with the Garden and what’s happening there is to keep in touch with the Garden’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

This past spring was delightful as well, with mild weather and just enough rain to allow for many of the woodland wildflower species to bloom for weeks on end. In many years, due to spikes of higher spring temperatures, strong winds, or extended dry spells, many species only bloom for days. The prolonged bloom times for many species allowed for more overlap of blooming plants and the layered display of woodland wildflowers for several weeks was truly synchronistic and a feast for the eyes and spirit.

Starting the week of July 12, two popular Garden programs were reintroduced with great joy, Garden Story Time and Early Birders. With two weeks of programming underway and a full group of participants for each offering, it’s been wonderful for staff to be able to offer a limited number of programs in a thoughtful and safe manner to a very receptive audience. Plans are underway to bring a few more program offerings into the fold this autumn. Updates will be posted on the Garden’s webpage and social media accounts.

Early birding announcement
Graphic courtesy Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board
new welcome sign at parking lot
The new Garden parking lot welcome sign in 15 languages. Photo by Colin Bartol.

You can stay connected to Garden highlights and happenings by visiting the Garden’s Facebook and Instagram pages @EBWGMpls And, if you can, be sure to stop out for a visit soon to be awed by the abundance and beauty of the Garden this summer.


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Storytime graphic for Summer programs
Graphic courtesy Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board

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Spring 2021

Volume 69, No. 1

Greetings and happy spring!

We are looking forward to welcoming visitors to the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary this spring. The Garden will operate under similar parameters as last season, with one-way trails, staggered entry times and social distancing requirements. We received a significant amount of positive feedback from Garden visitors in 2020, noting that the systems in place provided for a comfortable and safe visitor experience. We will continue to be guided by State of Minnesota and Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board practices and procedures related to the pandemic at the Garden throughout the season. To stay up to date with Garden hours, updates and information please visit frequently throughout the season.

Another great way to keep in touch with the Garden and what’s happening there is to keep in touch with the Garden’s Facebook and Instagram pages.

American Plum
A fragrant harbinger of warmer days, the wild plum graces the Upland Garden with its delicate blooms. Photo by Bob Ambler.
Mallards making the rounds of the Garden territory on a spring thaw day. Photo by Bob Ambler.
Large-flowered bellwort
Large-flowered Bellwort, a spring perennial, peeks from beneath its leaves. Photo by Bob Ambler.

Garden Facebook and Instagram pages.

Opportunistic Hepatica make the most of warmer days, even with snow still on the ground. Photo by Bob Ambler.

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