Eloise Butler images

A Collection of Garden Experiences - c1916
Letter to the Gray Memorial Botanical Chapter

by Eloise Butler, from Annals of the Wild Life Reserve, c1916

Note: Since Eloise Butler's time, the scientific names of plants and the classification of plant families has undergone extensive revision. In brackets within the text, have been added when necessary, the revised scientific name for the references she used in her article. Nomenclature is based on the latest published information from Flora of North America (Ref.#W7) and the Checklist of the Vascular Flora of Minnesota (Ref.#28C). Other information in brackets may add clarification to what she is saying.

Most of the plants referenced below that do not have an photo information sheet are illustrated in the article; for the others click on the name.

Mistress Mary, so contrary
How does your garden grow?

American Dog Violet
American Dog Violet (Viola labradorica). Photo ©Mark Feider, Wisconsin Flora.

Like Mistress, like garden is the reply. In quirks, in whimsies, and in sheer contrariness a wild garden surpasses Mistress Mary. This is true especially of the introduced species. Last summer a robust specimen of Aster multiflorus [Symphyotrichum ericoides] appeared in the marsh, although it had been placed where it ought to be contented when transplanted from the dry prairie. Gentiana andrewsii has been naturalized by the brook, and now it comes spontaneously on the dry hillsides. Viola conspersa [Viola labradorica - American Dog Violet] was found in large masses putting to shame carefully nurtured specimens planted at the opposite end of the swamp. The showy Liatris pycnostachya has chosen to appear of itself in the meadow, and the little twayblade, Liparis Loeselii, has established itself at a distance from the planted colony.

Showy Orchis
Showy Orchis (Galearis spectabilis ). Photo ©Jeff Hapeman, Wisconsin Flora.

The royal fern, Osmunda regalis, not indigenous to the garden, as was supposed, but laboriously dug and transported from miles sway to the borders of the swamp, has mysteriously sprung up in the center. The most superb growth of Orchis spectabilis [Galearis spectabilis - Showy Orchis] is also unaccounted for, in somewhat dry and infertile soil, where no gardener would ever think of placing it. Castilliea coccina [Scarlet Indian Paintbush], suspected of root parasitism, and accordingly lifted in large blocks of sod, rewarded repeated efforts last season with a single stalk; but at the same time another specimen was found in a seemingly unsuitable place. I have failed in cultivating Epilobium angustifolium [Fireweed], although I have planted it both in the spring and in the fall - in season and out of season, from various places in different situations. Two years ago it broke out in two widely separated spots where it had not been consciously introduced.

Indian Pipe
Indian Pipe (Monotropa uniflora) Photo ©G D Bebeau

I have had a similar experience with Indian Pipe, Monotropa uniflora, but difficulty with a saprophyte was to be expected. Last summer there was no sign of Indian Pipe, although to my surprise and joy it was abundant for the two previous seasons.

I have thought that I knew every foot of my garden and the position of every sizable plant in it, but I have had so many surprises that I am no longer confident. Lythrum alatum [Winged Loosestrife] is a case in point. I wanted to obtain some for the wild garden and looked for it in vain through four seasons. Then I came across a large patch of it in full bloom in the garden! It is not uncommon and I have since found it in existence elsewhere.

Winged Loosestrife
Winged Loosestrife (Lythrum alatum) Photo ©Merle R. Black, Wisconsin Flora.

The hazelnut, Corylus americana, is a superfluity in my garden, but I have been watching with interest the development of some introduced specimens of C. rostrata [C. cornuta - Beaked Hazelnut]. I felt rather foolish last summer when I discovered a lot of the latter in my bog loaded with the long beaked fruit. It is listed for the northern part of the state and I never dreamed of finding it in Minneapolis. With the exception of the fruit, it differs but little from americana. At about the same time I discovered also the Thimbleberry, Rubus occidentalis. [She lists the scientific name for Black Raspberry, which her text indicates is what she is talking about, but Thimbleberry is a name used today for R. parviflorus] This, too, was in fruit and thereby easily distinguished from the more common red raspberry. But how blind I was not to notice before the thick white bloom on the stems.

White camas
Mountain or White Camas (Zigadenus elegans) Photo ©Aaron Carlson, Wisconsin Flora

Teucrium canadense [Germander] is another new comer. This has followed in the wake of the extermination of Canada Thistle. Shaking my digger at Zygadene chloranthus [now Zigadenus elegans - Mountain Camas] and Veratrum viride and threatening to replace them with something more tractable, brought them to luxuriant blooming, although they had not shown even a switch of a flower bud during five years of zealous care. The Zygadene bears an elongated raceme of attractive greenish white shallow bells. The Veratrum (false hellebore) is a stout tall plant with large plaited leaves and a many-branched panicle of innumerable small flowers. its hugeness makes it noticeable.

A specimen of Rubus odoratus, the beautiful flowering raspberry -- its large rose-colored flowers and maple-like leaves familiar to many under cultivation - was procured from cold Ontario but it died down to the ground every winter and was as effortless as the first Mrs. Dombey [ref to a Dickens character]. Last season it was piqued by jealousy to sprouting into a big bush which blossomed and blossomed, outdoing every plant of that kind I have ever seen. I merely planted around it a quantity of Rubus parviflorus, the salmonberry, saying “I am sure I shall like these as well. They have beautiful white flowers, leaves as fine as yours, Odoratus, and better tasting fruit of an unusual color.”

Fringed Gentian
Fringed Gentian (Gentiana crinita). Photo ©Merle R. Black, University of Wisconsin.

I would say to Mrs. Jackson that it is much easier to ask questions than to answer them.

I have planted a good deal of Erythronium albidum, but have had but two blossoms, although I have been careful to select two-leaved specimens after the fruit has matured. The leaves come up all right. It seems to require a long time to recover from transplanting. I have seen the flowers in abundance in open meadows and again on limestone bluffs. E. americana, on the other hand, blossoms freely in my bog where I have set the albidum.

A florist in New York raised Gentiana crinita [Fringed Gentian]. He says that the first season’s growth from the seed is very tiny. His methods may be learned from consulting Garden Magazine some five years back.