In some calendars, the new year begins in the fall, with harvesting the fruits of the year’s labors. I like the idea of easing into a new year at a time of plenty, followed by a time of rest and wintry introspection. Every season gets its due.
This autumn newsletter finds us with some transitions within the Friends organization, with a little musical chairs going on. One of my goals for the Friends has been to increase engagement of board members by encouraging their involvement in special projects. The Friends are fortunate to have a creative and passionate board willing to take on several exciting new opportunities.
Steve Benson has long served as the Friends investments chair, providing many years of sound and thoughtful management. Steve is now focusing on the Friends efforts to revive the Lady’s Slipper Celebration in June, in cooperation with the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board.
Gary Bebeau (who already serves as treasurer, memorials chair and website coordinator) has kindly consented to take on the investments chair role. Many thanks to Steve for his past service, and my gratitude to Gary for assuming the investments chair duties.
Jennifer Dunne has played an extraordinary role in recruiting, training, scheduling and nurturing our corps of volunteers, making the volunteer experience lively and fun. Jennifer is leaving her post as volunteer coordinator, but we are cheered that Melissa Hansen is stepping back into this position, which she previously held. Melissa will continue for now as Vice President as well, and Jennifer assures us that she will be a worker bee wherever else the Friends may need her.
If you are a member, you have received the first informational group email from the Friends. Our message carried news of the boardwalk construction taking place this fall and – bonus! – a photo of “dog’s nose fungus” found in the Garden. The email was the joint project of Lauren Hustings (board member, trombone virtuoso and founding member of Brass Lassies) and Gary Bebeau. We are planning future outreach via this approach, and meanwhile, you can learn about “dog vomit slime mold” in these pages.
Finally, Betsy McNerney – the editor of this lovely newsletter – is resigning the position to join her husband on his sabbatical travels this year. We are grateful that she has taken the Gentian to a level of professionalism and beauty, and hope she will find time to contribute to it in the future. At this time, I am very pleased to announce that Friends board member Colin Bartol will take over as editor. He brings to the role an award-winning background as an editor and superb organizational skills and vision.
My sincere appreciation goes to Steve, Jennifer, and Betsy for all they have done in important roles over the years. You have made a tremendous difference in the efforts of the Friends. Many thanks to Gary, Melissa, Lauren and Colin for the new roles you are assuming.
To the members of the Friends, and to all friends of the Garden, thanks for a great season, and for all your love and support for this beautiful place.
On May 19 I enjoyed two weddings. The first was a global phenomenon and took place in the wee hours (on this side of the pond) amidst pageantry and pomp. It was a see-and-be-seen event with as much attention paid to the guests as to the bride and groom. The second wedding (to which I was actually invited) took place here later the same day, in a “basement church” filled with long folding tables, royal purple balloons and lilacs in bouquets and vases. I enjoyed the small local wedding, full of charm and sincere good wishes, where all attention was on the happy couple.
The Friends Annual Meeting was held the day after the marriage fest. That morning I had been contemplating the two weddings, and the contrast of Butchart Gardens with our Garden surfaced spontaneously in my mind. Butchart Gardens, on Vancouver Island, B.C., is easily the largest and most formal garden I’ve ever visited. It is structured, colorful and designed to impress. Our fine little Garden is relatively unstructured, modest and so subtle in its lushness that one doesn’t immediately notice all of its richness. The Garden doesn’t make you stand back and consider the scene like Butchart does — it rather invites you in to be part of it.
A royal wedding and Butchart Gardens have their allure and are fine to see once in a while. A homey wedding and a wildflower garden are appealing in a more relatable way. Visitors sometimes come to the Garden and are disappointed because their expectation is more Butchart than Butler. I wish I could greet these people and bring them to the quiet corners of the Garden where the wild plums stand, and to the bright oak knoll where the indigo buntings perch. I would take them to the overlook where wild rose and false blue indigo paint the meadow, and to the innermost part of the Garden where the marsh marigolds shine. There is beauty here, and it will transform you if you come into the quiet and open your heart to what lies before you.
FOURTH GRADERS WATCH FOR BIRDS at the Shelter’s feeding station, part of a summer program of the Minneapolis Public Schools that brought 552 students to the Garden in June and July. The Friends subsidized their bus cost via our Student Transportation Grant Program. Photo: Wendy Tremblay
I was overwhelmed by the devotion of those members and board who were able to attend our 2018 Annual Meeting. We did important work and had fun and shared good conversations. We held elections and learned our board members and officers will remain in place for another year. Thanks to them all! We voted to fund the second and third phases of boardwalk construction. Over 95% of our income goes to fund programs and projects such as this, with administrative and fundraising costs taking only 4.5% of our total revenues. We are especially proud of these figures, considering we ask only $15 for individual memberships.
Thanks to all our members and volunteers whose many contributions help make the experience of this Garden meaningful, immersive and intimate, like a small Minnesota wedding.
The 2018 Garden season is shaping up to be an exciting one as the wetland boardwalk moves toward completion this year. The boardwalk is a collaborative effort between the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden and the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, with the Friends providing partial funding and other support. Anticipating the Garden opening in April, the Friends Board met in early February to adopt our 2018 budget, review projects proposed by the Minneapolis Park Board for 2019 and consider several other measures.
We resolved to take steps to make The Fringed Gentian™ more widely available by including a clickable link to the newsletter on our website homepage. Navigate to www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org and check out the newsletter online, alongside a trove of botanical information, Garden history and details about the Friends. Mindful of our mission as an educational and environmental organization, we are encouraging members to opt for electronic delivery of the Gentian over paper copies. A notice below tells how to make this change.
The Board also discussed the historic stock market correction that occurred on the day of our meeting in early February, and the potential impact of the new tax act on charitable contributions to the Friends organization. We are consulting with our financial advisor regarding our investments and although we are not concerned, we are looking at rebalancing and impact investing as appropriate responses.
We are confident that our members and donors will continue their generous support of the Friends into the future. This year your financial gifts to the Friends will go dollar for dollar to funding the boardwalk completion and for plantings in areas of the Garden recently reclaimed from invasive species. Our administrative expenses will be covered by memberships and investment proceeds.
You may also designate a special purpose for your gift such as our Student Transportation Grant Program. The Garden was established through the dedicated efforts of Eloise Butler, a Minneapolis school teacher. The Friends honor those origins by funding the transportation program, bringing Minneapolis school students to the Garden for quality science-based education programs offered by the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board.
THIRD GRADERS FROM BEST ACADEMY, a public charter school in North Minneapolis, follow Interpretive Naturalist Kara Snow down the Geranium Path in early May. Photo - Kari Ramstrom.
We will continue the transportation program in 2018 and are exploring ways to encourage these students to return to the Garden with their families and friends as regular visitors.
We hope you will come often as well. I’ll be there, beginning in early April, hoping for a glimpse of the tiny snow trillium along Violet Way – one of my favorite ephemerals. As our new “Ask Eloise” column in this issue reminds us, “every tiny bloom and unfurling leaf is so remarkable after months of winter.”