Friends of the Wildflower Garden

One Hundred Years of Vision and Counting

by Susan Wilkins, Garden Curator, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (2007)

Eloise Butler

This time of year, 101 years ago, Eloise Butler, a school teacher, lover of the natural world and woman who was not afraid to dream or to speak her mind, had a vision. In the depths of winter, in her quiet quarters, an idea was forming and a conviction was growing inside the heart and mind of a very special lady. Inspired, she took on something that many would not have had the gumption to do, and we are the lucky beneficiaries of this woman’s intellectual and spirited endeavors. Ms. Butler was not only a student of the natural world, she was an ally and an advocate for it. The Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary is here a century later because of her passion, dedication and well-founded intentions.

I have often wondered what it was, precisely, that led Ms. Butler to that contemplative corner of the soul. That place where inner-knowings are articulated and given form, sculpted into being, and molded into the concrete weight of dreams that beg to be realized. What informed Eloise to make this instrumental movement toward the manifestation of her vision, at last, in the cold and dark winter hours over a century ago? Do you know?

As we bring closure to our season celebrating 100 years of gardening in, learning from and loving the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary this is the question that wants to be asked - what led Eloise to action? In a time when pressures on the natural world that sustains us are so profound and growing at an unprecedented rate, isn’t it time for us all to sit down and dig a little deeper within, to find what Eloise found over a century ago? If each could hold such a dream and bring that dream to life, nurture it with his or her whole being, and pass it down with presence and purpose couldn’t we perhaps rescue this precious planet and ourselves in the process? Hasn’t the hour arrived? What will this world look like in the next 100 years if all of us do not do everything that we possibly can to foster the health and integrity of planet Earth?

Eloise gave us all something very special, a place to restore our well-being, to connect with the beauty and complexity of the natural world and to experience the awe and inspiration of being in relation with the myriad beings growing and greeting the day at the Garden.

It is hard to imagine a Minneapolis, Minnesota without an Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden, thanks to Ms. Butler. This has been a season to celebrate the heart, mind and actions of an amazing woman. This has been a season to acknowledge the beauty and integrity of a small piece of earth tended so thoughtfully for a century. This has been a season to delve into the possibilities of new ways to honor and care for our prized parcel of this paradise planet.

A new chapter is beginning for the Wildflower Garden and for those who find sustenance in it. What better time for us to strengthen our resolve and follow Eloise’s lead— to reach out and support the budding visionary and steward of today; to reach in and become one.

This article was originally published in the Friends' newsletter, The Fringed Gentian™, Vol. 56 #1 in 2008.

The photo of Eloise Butler, ca. 1921. Photo courtesy Minneapolis Public Library, Minneapolis Collection, M2632A

Return to:
Garden History

Friends History

Friends Home Page