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Friends of the Wildflower Garden
P. O. Box 3793
Minneapolis, MN 55403

News Update from the Friends

Alan Branhagen

Friends Annual Meeting Notes

The Annual Meeting of the Friends was held at 7 PM on Tuesday October 10, 2023.

The site was the Fireside Room of the Chalet in Theodore Wirth Park - 1301 Theodore Wirth Parkway. Friends members and other guests attended.

The guest speaker was Alan Branhagen, Executive Director of Natural Land Institute in Rockford, IL.

He spoke on “Looking Forward to a Livelier Landscape. Indigenous plant-based landscapes, the best is yet to come!” Until recently, Mr. Branhagen was Director of Operations at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Prior to that he was director of horticulture at Powell Gardens, Kansas City’s botanical garden.

Mr. Branhagen has published three books for midwest gardeners: Native Plants of the Midwest, The Midwest Native Plant Primer, and A Gardener's Butterfly Book. The first two were available for purchase and autograph at the meeting.

There were two votes taken by the Friends members during the business part of the meeting. The election of directors was the first vote. The existing board stood for re-election and was re-elected. The directors who serve until the next annual meeting are: Jennifer Olson, Candyce Bartol, Colin Bartol, Gary Bebeau, Steve Benson, Bruce Jarvis, George Lawton, Jim Procter, Pam Weiner.

The second vote was to approve a modification of the Friends corporate name to combine the two words "Wild" and "Flower" into "Wildflower." The motion was approved and our name is now officially "Friends of the Wildflower Garden, Inc."

Wirth Park Chalet

Wirth Chalet - photo Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board

Student Visits Resumed this Past Summer:

Kids in Garden

After an absence of 3 years, Minneapolis School Students have resumed visits for a summer naturalist-led experience in the Garden. The first group from Whittier Elementary arrived May 17, other groups in July from the Minneapolis Schools Summer Program. These visits are possible because of the Friends Student Transportation Grant Program whereby we pay for bus transport to the Garden, which now costs between $260 and $300 per bus. This program has been in place since 2009 and over 5,400 children have been able to experience the Garden because of it. Some of the Friends’ supporters have specifically requested that their donation be applied to this program. You may do that also, either via an your annual support payment of via a separate donation. Visit our website “Donate & Support” page for details. We have spent over $3,200 this summer and we welcome more support for the program.

elain evans in the field
Dr. Elaine Evans doing bee survey field work. Photo U od M Bee Lab.

In the works:

A bee survey is underway again the Wildflower Garden. It started during the 2023 season and will conclude in the 2024 season. The Garden is doing this survey every 10 years to keep track of species and habitat changes. The Friends are sharing the cost of this work with the Garden. Last time 104 species was tabulated, keyed to what plants they visited. Once again, Dr. Elaine Evans of the U of M Bee Lab is conducting the survey.

Garden Improvements:

Several improvements to the Garden took place during the winter months. The gardener’s shed which currently serves as the maintenance center is also office space for staff during the Garden’s open season, has a new shingle roof.

The east boundary fence has been moved to incorporate an area of mature upland trees within the Garden’s protected area. This additional was feasible after the Friends Invasive Plant Action Group (FIPAG) cleared the area of invasives over the last four years. New eight foot high fencing was installed along the new boundary. When you enter the upland you will not see the old fence with the barbed wire on top that followed the path into the upland. Both jobs were completed by the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (MPRB). The photo shows part of the new fence and some of wire caged new shrubs planted near it.

Below: Fence along the upland entrance path removed. New fence added to enclose a stand of mature trees. New shrubs have been planted and enclosed in the wire cages by FIPAG.

new fence and shrubs

New Perimeter Fence proposal

garden fence outline
Garden plan map showing new fencing proposal from the Friends. The newly fenced area in late 2022 is shown along with what was the 1993 addition.

In September the Friends Board approved allocating up to $100,000 for the addition of new perimeter fence around the upland garden from the back gate up to where the new fencing of 2022 ended. The would include adding additional space to the area of Garden that has invasive plants under control by the activities of FIPAG and the Legacy volunteers. The MPRB must bid the project and schedule.

FIPAG Activities

The Friends Invasive Plant Action Group (FIPAG) conducted three garlic mustard events in May in a new area of the Garden buffer zone. The area of the Maple Bowl and adjacent up to the Garden fence is now largely under control for buckthorn and garlic mustard. That area has very little understory woody growth as Buckthorn had wiped it out. A large selection of native plant seed mixes were purchased for FIPAG for use in the Maple Bowl.

firefighter backpak

The Friends purchased a twenty native understory trees and shrubs to fill-in the area and MPRB provided twenty more; these will provide shelter and food for all the bird life in Wirth Park. To help the new shrubs survive the Friends have purchased watering backpaks for volunteers to use and have enclosed the shrubs in protective wire cages (see photo above). Your support donations make all this possible.

This past fall more buckthorn work was done in the area outside the upland fence in the northeast corner of the Garden. More details on FIPAG activities will be in our monthly email newsletter Twigs and Branches. If you don’t receive this, sign up at the link on our website home page. Your support donations make all this possible.

On April 3rd FIPAG volunteer and Friends member Liz Anderson passed away. Jim Proctor, FIPAG Co-chair, wrote this to the FIPAG mail list:
Liz did so much more than try: She co-led the group for a decade, adopted her own Legacy Steward plot, and started another program to weed in Basset Creek Park. She encouraged us to adopt more land when I was quite hesitant. While struggling with cancer, Liz STILL watered a planting of mayapple, wild ginger and big-leaved aster in the maple bowl on her regular walks.

Jim Proctor writes about FIPAG's new work:
In our recent efforts just outside the Garden fence we’ve uncovered something really exciting—a small un-forested slope which sits above a small pond. This spot was obscured by a wall of non-native trees and shrubs including buckthorn, honeysuckle and Amur maple. Now that the invasive shrubs and trees are partly removed, we can see that it has great potential as a lovely meadow with a view of the pond below.

Below: A view of the new area with pool where the FIPAG began work.

part of wirth park worked by FIPAG

This is a nice counterpoint to the more densely wooded maple bowl: an ephemeral pond, but quite open to the sky, surrounded by grassy meadow and open oak woods and savanna. On Saturday 11-11-23 we finished weeding buckthorn sprouts in a swath along the top of this hillside and seeded it. We also weeded and seeded into the adjacent wooded area just to the north.

MPRB Natural Resources staff provided us a generous supply of buckthorn replacement seed mix from Minnesota Native Landscapes. It contains a mix of grasses, sedges and forbs to compete with any future invasives. Recent research shows this is very important. We’ve done modest seeding in the past, but we plan to make this a more significant part of our efforts going forward. Thanks MPRB!

Below: Overlaid on the 1967 winter aerial photo of the Wildflower Garden area are the FIPAG work areas. The Maple Bowl outlined in yellow and the new area in red. Both areas show the small pool in the center of each. The white outline of the Garden has the upland fence in the approximate position of the 2022 expansion.

Aerial photo of FIPAG work areas
entry kiosk

Volunteer Greeters:

The Friends volunteers are staffing both the entry Kiosk and the Martha Crone Shelter this season. The shelter has not had a volunteer present since the onset of the Covid-19 shutdown. Kiosk volunteers interacted with 24,559 persons and in the shelter 16,701 spoke with volunteers and Garden staff, while out on the trails Garden staff met with another 8,428 visitors. This adds to almost 50,000 visitors who had a contact in the Garden, not counting those who visited without contact. If you are not a volunteer there and want to be, email us to get on the training list for 2024.

Your donations

You should know that your support contributions to the Friends are entirely used for these Garden projects and our other mission programs. Our administrative expenses are small, on average, 5% of revenue or less, and these expenses are funded from non-contribution revenue.

If you want to read more about the historical aspects of the Garden and the things the Friends have accomplished over the last 70 years visit the "garden history tab" and the "Friends history tab." Links at the bottom of this page.

What your gifts in support of our program have accomplished!

Garden projects are the largest use of our contribution revenue. Over the last 10 years we have funded $212,000. The two largest components of that amount were $148,000 for our portion of the boardwalk and $40,700 for plants and habitat. The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board also provided funding for these two components.

New plants must be continuously added to the Garden collection to replace those lost from various causes and fill in suitable areas, especially now that another acre has been added to the Garden's space. All the way back to Eloise Butler’s time, the majority of planting effort in the Garden consisted of the addition and replacement of existing plant species. Unlike long-lived trees, most herbaceous plants die out more quickly (except, it seems, for Trout-lilies which seem to last forever) and need to be replaced to keep the collection in tact. The Garden has its own plant budget that is frequently supplemented by funds from the Friends.

Garden boardwalk
The Garden boardwalk section installed in 2015. Photo courtesy of the Cuningham Group, Design architects.
new plants for the Garden
Garden staff member with two plants - photo courtesy MPRB.