Garden Curator's Notes

As published in The Fringed Gentian™.

by Susan Wilkins

Susan Wilkins' comments appear courtesy of the MPRB.


Spring 2020

Volume 68, No. 1

The Spring Garden

It is with a tender heart that I share a few words this spring about the Wildflower Garden.

First off, the Garden has such a good feeling about it this spring. The mother fox has been raising her kits, three as far as I can tell, in the Garden again this spring. She found the return of staff in mid-March quite the nuisance and quickly moved her little bundles of fur out beyond the fence line. As I watched her harrowing journey, climbing over fallen logs with a kit clenched in her jaw not long after being chased by off-leash dogs (and more than one in a single afternoon), I was so impressed by her instincts and her acumen. She made it out successfully and the Garden felt diminished without her. I was deeply relieved to find her back in the Garden with her young a couple of days later. She seems a bit more settled, slightly more accepting of this new arrangement. She still barks at staff when we come upon her unexpectedly. I hope that she will stay put here until her kits are old enough to venture off into the semi-wilds of this urban habitat they call home.

Yellow Trout Lily
Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)

On a similar note, the Garden looks divine. Early spring has begun to slowly and steadily unfold here. The tips of the wild leeks are poking up through the damp dark soil close to where the skunk cabbage grows and is also off to a running start. The smallest patch of snow trillium just down the path is in bud. The hepatica leaves overwintered well and already, many of them, bear a green gloss that brightens the dullness of the fallen leaves around them. And the earliest maroon-purple hued trout lily leaves are still not visible, unless you move a tuft of duff, and then they are everywhere.

All of these species, introduced to the Garden by Eloise Butler over 100 years ago, have been doing well in recent years. Some, like the wild leeks and skunk cabbage, have been spreading vigorously over the past 10 years. With buckthorn, garlic mustard, and dame’s rocket nearly continuously removed in Garden areas where they grow to make room for their spread.

Hepatica flower and leaf
Sharp-lobe Hepatica (Anemone americana)

Bird song. I’ll be honest, it’s a bit quiet and it is still a bit early. Of course, a lone cardinal is singing his heart out in preparation for the weeks ahead. There are the sweet calls of the chickadees and a screech here and there from a raptor above, though nothing to match the shriek of the mother fox when she is disturbed.

And now, on to the obvious heartbreak of the times we are in. With the unchartered days and weeks ahead, Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board leadership and staff are working with great care and effort to devise a plan that will allow the Garden to open this season during the COVID-19 pandemic while protecting this precious resource and all of the people who visit, volunteer and work here. This is not an easy task given the circumstances, but I am hopeful that with the cooperation and understanding of the public, we will find a way, soon enough, for the Garden gates to swing open and the peace and delight of this place to embrace you again, and again.

Wishing each and all a bounty of best wishes for an easeful spring, full of joyful and meaningful moments. May nature brighten your days.


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