Bog in Winter

History of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Winter 1910/1911

Cora Pease House
The north side of the Cora Pease House, Malden Mass. where Eloise would spend every Winter from 1911/12 onwards. Photo from 1988 by Martha Hellander.

The early months of 1911 continued from 1910 the trend of warmer than normal temperatures. There was a little snow in January and February but by mid-February, all was melted. March had minimal precipitation.

A pivotable moment: This winter was the last for Eloise Butler to teach in the Minneapolis School System. Her retirement was announced in the spring of 1911. This is the year when Eloise Butler became the permanent caretaker of a unique wild flower garden that she helped create, and the space would achieve some permanence that up to now it lacked. Since 1907 the garden had been in the care of the high school teachers, Eloise being the lead person. On retirement Eloise was going to return to the East Coast unless some permanent arrangement could be made for her to care for the Garden.(1) Were it not for what followed next, this history would not have happened.

On April 5, 1911 the Garden Club of Minneapolis, meeting in the mayor's reception room at city hall, passed a resolution recommending to the Park Board that Eloise Butler be appointed curator of the Garden and that the space be set aside as a permanent wild flower garden.(2) They were joined on June 5th by the Woman's Club in presenting a petition to the Park Board signed by several hundred persons. They stated that Miss Butler was prepared to begin introducing a number of plants to the space to make it representative of the plants native to the state. The Board did not have any opposition to the proposal but required it to go through the committee process.(1)

On June 9 both groups appeared before the Finance and Improvement Committee. (3) The committee approved as did the full Park Board when it met, but her salary was to be paid by the Woman's Club until 1912 with the understanding that the position was to be permanent. In February of 1912, the Park Board took over the payment of $60 per month for seven months each year as previously agreed and thus Eloise Butler remained in Minneapolis to make history.(4) 1911 would prove to be a busy year for Eloise.

Eloise and Mary meeker
Left - Eloise Butler, Dr. W. H. Crone (behind Eloise); Miss Elizabeth Foss,; Miss Mary K. Meeker on Aug. 3, 1931 at Eloise's 80th Birthday Party.

What Eloise was thinking of if the space could be made permanent was explained in a long article in the newspaper about the Wild Flower Garden.(5) This may have been a bit of preemptive lobbying for what she wanted. The article highlighted the natural features of the place, and stated that there were already 452 species of herbaceous plants and 51 shrubs in the Garden. The way the area was maintained was explained in the same manner as Eloise wrote about later in September (see Autumn section). She was developing the following ideas:

1. There was no reason to limit the plant selection to Minnesota plants. Everything that could grow here should be tried. This was not the intent of the original petition creating the space. She considered instead that it should be like an arboretum rivaling if not exceeding those famous ones in the east.
2. There should be a building nearby where visitors could rest, find reference books and photographs. In 1915 she would have her own building built right within the Garden.
3. A herbarium should be established. Years later Martha Crone started one.
4. The space needs to be enlarged. It was already seven acres at this time due to requests from the teachers to add more to their care. Eloise was ready to ask for more acreage to be appropriated and that was done when the space for the Garden was made permanent - eventually reaching 25 acres in the 1920s.

Public Essays: As the new official curator of the Wild Botanic Garden (the name at that time), Eloise began a series of weekly essays that were published in the Sunday Minneapolis Tribune. These ran from April through September. A former student of hers and now a teacher at South High School, Mary Meeker, provided photographs for illustration.

Her first essay was published on April 16 and here is the opening text. This beginning shows the style of her writing:

However early Easter Sunday is in the calendar, the bells of the Pasque flower proclaim the yearly miracle. Or, to change the metaphor, nearly four weeks ago, on sandy, southern slopes of the virgin prairie, the “goslings,” as children call them, thrust their downy heads above the brown, bare earth, undismayed by succeeding snows and frosts, all the way from Wisconsin to the Rockies. In exposed situations they lie huddled on the ground; but, under the stimulus of increasing warmth, they will peep out from the stretch above the brooding mother earth, from day to day, throughout the month of April.

Spring 1911

Preliminary notes about the plants. Native Status: Some of the plants obtained by Eloise Butler in the early years of the Garden were not native to Minnesota or if native, may have been difficult to establish in the Garden. Most of these are no longer present. Martha Crone was somewhat more selective of native plant material, but also brought in many non-native species, and many of her imports have not survived either. The plants illustrated here, so one can see what they looked like, are mostly of the class no longer extant in the Garden. Species still extant at the time of Martha Crone's 1951 census are marked "(M.C.)". As for plants mentioned here that are still present in the Garden today, there may have been numerous re-plantings, and most have a web link to a detailed information/photo page, or, if not, are noted as being present in the Garden today - these are not illustrated in this article. Botanical classification: Over the years Botanists have reclassified many plants from the classifications in use at the time Eloise Butler wrote her Garden Log or when Martha Crone prepared her census. I have retained the nomenclature that Eloise Butler or Martha Crone used and then provided the more current classification as used by the major listings in use today, particularly Flora of North America and the Checklist of the Vascular Flora of Minnesota from the University of Minnesota Herbarium.

Cuckoo Flower
Cuckoo Flower (Cardamine pratensis); Photo ©Merle R. Black, Wisconsin Flora.

Eloise began notations of her 1911 Garden activities on March 13th when she noted seeing Red polls and crows and found the Rose Rhodobryum Moss (Bryum roseum - now classified as Rhodobryum roseum) growing in the Garden. She began planting early with Skunk Cabbages, Hepaticas, Wild Blue Phlox and Eastern False Rue Anemone, all from the source at Minnehaha Park and put in the ground on March 25th due to the mild weather. Early April was a period of much snow so not much was done until the end of April when a number of trees were planted. She specifically mentions Shagbark hickories, Butternuts, Buckeyes, Black spruce and Red Pines - all obtained from Strand’s nursery in Taylor's Falls, MN. [Shagbark Hickories were planted again 100 years later in 2011 by Curator Susan Wilkins.]

On April 15 Eloise noted Ranunculus fascicularis in bloom. (Photo below) This is the Early Buttercup. Curiously and while native to the state, it is not noted as present in Hennepin County in any later plant surveys. It has been found to exist only in scattered counties of the south half of the state but not Hennepin. It is no longer extant in the Garden.

With the warmer weather of May, Eloise was busy with a large shipment of plants from Gillett’s Nurseries in Southwick MA, that she had arranged for over the winter.

Early Plantings not present today (Exceptions noted):

Many of these plants were native to Minnesota and a few were not. Here is a listing of most of those plants introduced this spring to the Garden for the first time. 1911 is the first year the following list of plants occur in her log. Most are shown in the photos.

Native to the State:

Maryland Senna (Senna marilandica); Photo ©Emmett J. Judziewicz, Wisconsin Flora.

Spreading wood fern
Spreading Woodfern (Dryopteris expansa) Photo ©Emmett J. Judziewicz, Wisconsin Flora.

The shipment from Gillett's included the following ferns that were planted for the first time in the Garden - all of which are native to the state.

Not Native:

Public Essays
The column lead-ins and publication dates for the Spring essays were:

You can also read the complete essays in Martha Hellander’s Book on Eloise Butler - The Wild Gardener, and in our history archive.

Early Buttercup
Early Buttercup (Ranunculus fascicularis) Photo ©Merle R. Black, Wisconsin Flora.
Large Cranberry
Large Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon). Photo ©Merle R. Black, Wisconsin Flora.
Spinulose Woodfern (Dryopteris carthusiana). Photo ©G D Bebeau.
Two flower dwarf dandelion
Two-flower Dwarf Dandelion (Krigia biflora). Photo ©Aaron Carlson, Wisconsin Flora.
Green Arrow Arum
Green Arrow Arum (Peltandra virginica). Photo ©Robert W. Freckman, Wisconsin Flora.
White Wood Aster
White Wood Aster (Eurybia divaricata), first planted Spring 1911. Photo ©G D Bebeau.

Summer 1911

Four point Evening Primrose
Four-point Evening Primrose, (Oenothera rhombipetala); Photo ©Hugh Iltis, Wisconsin Flora.

There is a gap in the Garden Log between May 17 and June 10th. The reason was that Eloise was in an accident and hospitalized at Asbury Hospital. The Minneapolis Tribune reported on May 25 "Miss Butler Leaves Hospital" that she was sufficiently recovered to be released. She and Mary Meeker had been on a plant collecting excursion to Bloomington when she was thrown from her buggy and sustained a fracture of the right arm and serious injury to her hip. The Tribune states the accident was on May 9, but her log indicates she was planting on May 17 and could not have been injured. Either her log date is wrong or the Tribune is wrong and maybe May 19 makes more sense for the accident date.

Plantings during the summer included species still represented in the garden today and those that are gone. The summer plantings were all plants growing in the vicinity of the Twin Cities and thus can be considered better candidates for inclusion in the Wild Garden than some of those received from Gillett’s in the Spring. Planted and still present were
Toothwort (Crinkleroot) (Cardamine diphylla - old classification of Dentaria diphylla),
Sharplobe Hepatica (Hepatica acutiloba - now - Anemone acutiloba),
Northern Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla Lonicera),
Nodding Wild Onion (Allium cernum), and
Yellow Lady’s Slipper (Cypripedium calceolus - now - Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens).

Those no longer extant (exceptions noted) that were introduced into the Garden during the summer months for which 1911 is the first year they occur in her log are listed below and all are shown in the photos.

Grasspink, (Calopogon tuberosus); Photo ©Merle R. Black, Wisconsin Flora.

The following plant, while existing in the state, is an introduction and not a true native:

Eloise noted in early July of seeing these two plants: Scaldweed (Cuscuta gronovii), (also commonly known as Dodder, a family of parasitic plants,) growing on an aster and Cutleaf Water parsnip (Berula erecta) - no longer extant. (Photo) The Allegheny Monkeyflower (Mimulus ringens) that she planted in 1910 was in bloom on June 28.

The early summer was above normal in temperature, but from July onward through October temperatures were mostly within the average norms. Rainfall however, was another matter. The rains that began in May were heavy all summer with four in excess of two inches each. 1911 would end up the wettest year in recorded history (until 2016) with a total 40.15 inches of precipitation.

The Showy lady‘s-slipper (Cypripedium reginae) bloomed on June 10 almost two weeks earlier that 1910.

Public Essays
The series of weekly essays that were published in the Sunday Minneapolis Tribune from April through September continued during the summer months. The column lead-ins and publication dates were:

Cutleaf Waterparsnip
Cutleaf Water parsnip (Berula erecta); Photo ©Merle R. Black, Wisconsin Flora.

You can also read the complete essays in Martha Hellander’s Book on Eloise Butler - The Wild Gardener, and in our history archive.

Tours to the Garden. Beginning with her weekly article dated July 2nd, in the Minneapolis Sunday Tribune, the following was also printed.
Miss Butler will conduct parties through the Wild Botanic Garden in Glenwood Park, Tuesday and Thursday mornings, meeting them at the terminus of the Fourth and Sixth Avenue Street Railway, Sixth and Russell Avenue North, at 10 o'clock. Also Saturday & Sunday afternoon, meeting then at 2:30 o'clock at the same place. One hour later on the same days, persons coming by automobile or carriage will be met at the entrance to the Garden, on the boulevard, at a point northeast of Birch Pond in Glenwood Park. To reach Birch Pond, turn in at the left on Western Avenue where the Park Boulevard intersects the avenue.

This was repeated until State Fair time when the August 27th article noted:
An exhibit of the wild garden in Glenwood Park will be given in the horticulture building at the coming state fair. During the remainder of the season Miss Butler will have no regular days for conducting parties through the garden. However, those wishing to see the Garden may set a time by telephone to suit convenience. Phone N.W. Colfax 1689.

Lilac Penstemon
Lilac Penstemon, (Penstemon gracilis); Photo ©Merle R. Black, Wisconsin Flora.
Aniseroot (Wild Anise), (Osmorhiza longistylis); Photo ©G D Bebeau.
Cypress Spurge
Cypress Spurge, (Euphorbia cyparissias); Photo ©Kitty Kohout, Wisconsin Flora.

Autumn 1911

Narrowleaf Evening Primrose
Narrowleaf Evening Primrose (Oenothera fruticosa). Photo © Robert H. Mohlenbrock - USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database.

In September Eloise maintained an exhibit about the Wild Garden at the Minnesota State Fair, in the Horticulture building. The Minneapolis Tribune reported on what the exhibit looked like on September 5 and 6th. The space was hosted by Eloise and Mary Meeker who contributed 200 of her photographs. Over 100 species of wild plants came directly from the Garden and new ones were brought in every day.

The exhibit was considered valuable to the farmer as the exhibit explained which plants were dangerous or advantageous to agriculture. Eloise was quoted as saying "There are many farmers who destroy plants that really do good. We try to impress upon them to let these plants grow and advise them to destroy those that do harm." Certain plants attracted a lot of attention - the pitcher plant and the blue closed gentians.

Following the closure of the exhibit at the State Fair, she resumed tours by telephone arrangement only as noted above. In September she also received from the Park Board Nursery a number of trees to plant. These included Hemlocks planted near the brook, yews, jack pines, balsam firs, white pines, junipers and white spruce.

She also obtained some plants from Kelsey’s nurseries in North Carolina and from Malden MA, some of which are not native. Those no longer extant in the Garden, for which 1911 is the first recording in her log, are:

and she planted seeds of:

Other plants, still extant, were set in, such as:

Spiked Blazing Star (Dense Blazing Star) (Liatris spicata) and
Turk’s Cap Lilies (Lilium superbum and possibly Lilium michiganense as the listing simply says "Turk's-cap").

She also scouted the neighborhood of Glenwood Park and came back with:

Cow Parsnip (Heracleum lanatum - now- Heracleum maximum), a new introduction.
Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum),
Culver’s root (Veronicastrum virginicum),
White Rattlesnake Root (Prenanthes alba),
Northern Bedstraw (Galium boreale) and
Butter and Eggs (Linaria vulgaris), a new introduction.

All of these are still found in various parts of the Garden.

Horse Gentian
Late Horse Gentian (Triosteum perfoliatum). Photo ©G D Bebeau.

Public Essays:
The series of weekly essays that were published in the Sunday Minneapolis Tribune from April through September continued into early autumn. The column lead-ins were:

You can also read the complete essays in Martha Hellander’s Book on Eloise Butler - The Wild Gardener, and in our history archive.

In September, an essay about the Garden, written by Eloise, was published in the Bulletin of the Minnesota Academy of Science. The text was probably the lecture she gave in the fall of 1910. [Partial text here]

The fall weather was nice with plenty of rain and Eloise continued working in the Garden until early November when freezing weather set in. November in fact, was below average in temperature; some days by as much as 25 degrees.

Her last log entry was for November 8th when she noted planting some violets, Hepaticas and some Horse Gentian (Late Horse Gentian) (Triosteum perfoliatum) that she obtained in Frontenac MN.

On November 14 she gave the report of the wild flower committee to the Woman's Club and then gave a talk on the Garden, illustrated with lantern slides. (6)

Mid-November brought a 7-1/2 inch snow fall but it all melted until the snow of late December and colder temps allowed snow to accumulate. 1911 would go down in weather lore as the wettest in recorded history until 2016. Quite a change from the previous year which is the driest year in recorded history.

Photo top of page: A winter view toward the bog in the original part of the Woodland Garden on Nov. 8, 1951, showing an extensive stand of Birch that is absent today; photo from a Kodachrome by Martha Crone.

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Year chart - all years
Garden History Archive

Printable PDF file of this page.

(1) "Botanical Garden Sought," Minneapolis Tribune, June 6, 1911 (2) "Wild Flower Garden Urged," Minneapolis Tribune, April 6, 1911.
(3) "Wild Flower Garden Proposed," Minneapolis Tribune, June 10, 1911.
(4) "Miss Butler's Services Kept," Minneapolis Tribune February 6, 1912.
PDF of articles 1 to 4
(5) "Wild Flower Garden City Park's Feature" Minneapolis Tribune March 26, 1911. (PDF copy)
(6) Minneapolis Tribune 12 November 1911.

Links to related pages:
- Abbreviated Life of Eloise Butler

- Martha Crone - 2nd Garden Curator

- Ken Avery - 3rd Curator and Gardener

- Cary George - 4th Gardener

- Our Native Plant Reserve - Short document on the origins of the Garden.

- Eloise Butler's writings, a selection of essays written by Eloise Butler on the early Garden years.

- Geography of the Garden- an illustrated tour


Garden Log - Native Plant Reserve, Glenwood Park, Minneapolis, MN by Eloise Butler.

Martha Crone's Garden Log and her 1951 Census of plants in the Garden.

Various papers and correspondence of Eloise Butler in the collection of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Historical Climatology of Minneapolis-St. Paul Area by Charles Fisk.

Friends Home Page

©2017 Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Photos are as credited and are used with permission for educational purposes, for which the Friends thank them and the organization providing the photos. Text and research by Gary Bebeau. "https://www.friendsofthe" - 031122