East Woodland path to the Office

History of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Winter 1912/1913

Castine Normal School
The Normal School at Castine Maine where Eloise graduated in May 1873. Photo from 1989 courtesy Martha Hellander.

Eloise spent the winter months on the east coast at Malden Mass. visiting her relatives and sourcing plants for shipment to Minneapolis during the growing season. This was her custom following her retirement from teaching in 1911.

When she returned in the spring she was prepared for a busy season of planting during which she added 993 plants of which 73 species were newcomers to the Garden (1). A number of these plants she sourced from East Coast suppliers while she was there and were shipped to Minnesota during the planting season.

On return from the East Coast she resumed lodging with friend Jessie Polley in south Minneapolis.

1913 was a more normal year for weather compared with 1910 and 1911. Precipitation was a little below the normal average - but it did not set records for precipitation or temperature. There was one snowfall in February of almost 9 inches but after April 1st only a few inches of snow came.

Spring 1913

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. 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.

Carolina Spring Beauty
Carolina Spring Beauty (Claytonia carolinana) Photo ©Aaron Carlson, Wisconsin Flora

1913 was another extensive year for plantings in the Garden as Eloise attempted to bring on-site species she believed should have representation in a “Wild Botanic Garden” as the premises were known.

She imported plants during the spring from Franklin MA, Malden MA, Gillett’s Nursery in Southwick MA, from Kelsey’s Nursery in North Carolina and from sources in Loganport Indiana, Boulder Colorado and Hastings Nebraska. These supplemented the plants she could obtain from local sources. Eloise was not particular whether the plant was native - only that it could grow here. Some of those imports from MA she brought back on the train with her in a box. (2)

The spring weather allowed Eloise to begin the 1913 Garden plantings on April 4th although she noted in her log that the frost was still in the ground and also wrote that in a newspaper article on April 13. (2) Ice or no ice, she still wrote about all the interesting plants you could see.

That article ended with the note "Miss Butler will conduct parties through the Garden during the seasons" and gave the phone number to call. Visitors without pre-arrangement were frowned upon. Eloise preferred that no one come without her being there to give a tour. The paths were narrow, special plants could be stepped on, there were pitfalls and water holes to be avoided and most of the place had no protection to keep people from picking. These problems eventually led her to put up a fence around the place with her own funds in 1924.

Among her entries for spring planting were many plants already present in the Garden and new ones that are still represented in the Garden today such as
Prairie Dogbane,
Thimbleberry and
Whorled Loosestrife

Yellow Lady's-slipper
Yellow Lady's-slipper, (Cypripedium parviflorum) Photo ©G D Bebeau.

And then, other new plants that are not extant such as
Carolina Anemone,
Thyme-leaf Speedwell,
Apple Moss,
Bryum Moss,
Skunk Current,
Wild Comfrey,
Three toothed Cinquefoil,
Bootts wood fern,
Missouri Violet,
Wreath Goldenrod,
Russet Buffaloberry,
Fairy Slipper Orchid,
Common Bladderwort.

This link - List of 1913 spring plantings has a complete list, with photos, of plants added in 1913 for the first time to the Garden, both extant and now extirpated; her source for the plants is also listed.

She happily noted that a plant put in for the first time the prior year was blooming: Carolina Spring Beauty (Claytonia carolinana). The Yellow Lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens) bloomed on May 29th. The Showy Lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium reginae) waited until June 21st. A red shouldered hawk was nesting on an ash tree on the west side of the marsh.

On May 3 a local magazine - The Bellman - published a long article that described the Native Plant Reserve in detail, noting all the features of the landscape. This is the only known comprehensive description of the Garden as it was at that time. PDF Copy

Below: A view of the Garden pool formed by Eloise Butler's dam as it looked in 1913 and published in The Bellman article.

open water in the Garden

Weather during the spring of 1913 was fine, enough rain and average temperatures.

Summer 1913

Wild Poinsettia
Wild Poinsettia, (Euphorbia cyathophora). Photo ©G D Bebeau

Another newspaper column by Eloise appeared on June 18 with photos by Mary Meeker. Eloise highlighted the orchids in bloom and the flowering shrubs that could be seen in the Garden. This article also mentioned that arrangements could be made with Miss Butler to visit the Garden. (3).

Planting work during the summer occupied much of Eloise Butler's time. During these months Eloise obtained her plant material from local sources unlike her 1913 spring plantings, most of which came from out of state sources. As a result most of the summer plantings were species native to the state.

Among her entries for summer planting were many plants already present in the Garden and still represented in the Garden today such as
Fireweed, Spotted Beebalm, and Wild Poinsettia.
Compass Plant was a new addition.
Plants that are no longer extant were
Wild Parsnip and Yellow Fringed Orchid.

This link has the List of 1913 plantings, with photos for plants added in 1913 for the first time to the Garden, both extant and no longer extant; her source for the plants is also listed.

Eloise Butler's Garden Log also contained these comments:

July 6: “Found 4 specimens of Epilobium angustifolium [Fireweed] by Tamarack tree in east meadow."

East wood land path
Above: A 1913 view of the east woodland path with the elm in the foreground dubbed "The Inner Guard" and beyond in the distance the large elm known as "The Lone Sentinel." Photo as published in The Bellman.

Eloise believed the plant did not exist in the Garden and she imported plants of this species from Malden, Mass. on September 4th, 1909, and from Gillett's Nursery, Southwick MA on April 29, 1912. In 1908 she brought back in her suitcase bunches of it which she foraged in the wilds of Mackey Ontario while waiting for the disabled train she was riding on to be repaired. Her friend Gertrude Cram, in a later letter to Martha Crone noted that “Miss Butler said nothing would ever induce it to grow for her.”

July 7: “Red shouldered hawkling standing on limb outside it’s nest.” She had noted back on May 29th that “A red shouldered hawk nesting on ash tree west border of swamp.”

That August the city of Minneapolis hosted a convention for the American Florists and Ornamental Horticulturists. Eloise supplied a display of native wild flowers - whichever ones nature deemed to provide at meeting time. The Minneapolis Journal reported on the event and Eloise wrote an article which the Minneapolis Tribune published. (pdf of article). (HTML version with photos).

The weather in the summer of 1913 provided temperatures in the average range for the time period and frequent summer rains, but not to the extent of the extremely wet year of 1911. Eloise noted that there were no summer droughts but much insect damage and that spraying for insects may be needed the following year. (1)

In that same annual report she mentioned that many more birds felt attracted to the protection of the Garden, such as a Great Bittern, the pair of nesting Red Shouldered hawks mentioned above, and the crested wood ducks that were in the Garden Pool. Martha Crone would write similar thoughts in her annual report 25 years later in 1938.

Autumn 1913

Eloise butler 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.

In September Eloise maintained an exhibit about the Wild Garden at the Minnesota State Fair in the Horticulture building, as she had since 1910. (photo in 1910 history.) The exhibit for the Wild Botanic Garden won a blue ribbon in 1910. Photographer Mary Meeker [on right in photo] provided photos of the native plants for the exhibit. She was also the provider of photos for Eloise's series of newspaper columns in the Minneapolis Tribune in 1911. (Read them all here)

Eloise Butler's Garden Log usually has a few notes not completely related to planting and a curious one on Sept 10th contained this statement:

Sowed seeds of Compass plant, Cassia chamaecrista [Partridge Pea], Lepachys [Lepachys pinnata -the old botanical name for Gray-headed coneflower, now classified as Ratibida pinnata] on Old Andrew’s hillside, also seeds of Compass plant and of Lepachys by plantations of same. Fell in well, east meadow!

There was a hermit known as “Old Andrew” and there was a “cave-like shelter” on a hillside where he had supposedly lived. Eloise would sometimes hear ghostly wood chopping sounds from that area. The area of this cave, north and west of the original Garden area, was added to the Garden in 1912 - and would today be in the northwest section of the Garden.

Her last entry for 1913 is on October 17 when she sowed the acorns of Black Oak that she had obtained from the Arnold Arboretum in Boston and sowed seeds of Pearly Everlasting that she sourced in Wisconsin.

Western Blue Virgin's Bower
Western Blue Virgin's Bower (Clematis verticillaris -now- Clematis occidentalis). Photo ©Emmett J. Judziewicz, Wisconsin Flora.

Fall Plantings: Her Garden Log notes 14 species planted in the autumn that were not noted prior to 1913. This link has a List of 1913 autumn plantings, with photos. An unusually large number were not from local sources and they were not native to Minnesota. None of the species are present in the Garden today.

Eloise noted in her annual report to the Park Board that “993 plants added, 73 were species newcomers," and those included several that were rare such as the Wild Purple Clematis [Western Blue Virgin's Bower] and Calypso bulbosa [the Fairy Slipper Orchid]. She also suggested that a children’s museum be established in Glenwood Park. As always she promotes the Garden and in discussing the beauties of the Garden as the season passes she states:

Within a space of 20 acres, may be seen in an hour, what would be impossible to find in traversing the state for several days. (1)

Fall temperatures were fairly normal in September and October but November and December were unusually warm. 1913 was a year of good precipitation except at the end of the year. There were rains in September and October but just traces of precipitation in November and December resulting in no snow cover through the end of the year.

1. Report of the Board of Park Commissioners, January 1, 1914.
2. Minneapolis Tribune 14 April 1913. (PDF copy)
3. Minneapolis Tribune 8 June 1913 (PDF copy)

Photo top of page: The east woodland path (Violet Way) approaching the old Garden "office"; from a Kodachrome taken by Martha Crone June 1, 1950.

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Year chart - all years

Garden History Archive

Printable PDF file of this page.

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 the property of The Friends or 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. "www.friendsofthe wildflowergarden.org" - 031122