Shadblow Serviceberry

History of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Winter 1913/1914

Eloise Butler
Eloise Butler ca. 1890 as a young woman.
Photo: Branche’s Studio, Minnesota Historical Society.

This winter Eloise Butler again traveled to the East Coast to visit her relatives in Malden Mass, as had been her custom since she retired from teaching in 1911. But instead of spending all of her time there, she and her sister Cora Pease and Cora’s husband, spent several months in Greece and Italy touring botanic gardens and museums.

When she returned to Minneapolis in the spring she would begin one of her busiest years of planting in the new wildflower garden. The prior year (1913) she had added 993 plants from73 species, so that be the start of 1914 the Garden had 607 species of herbaceous plants, 66 species of trees and 101 species of shrubs. (1)

She would write in her report to Parks Superintendent Theodore Wirth:

“I am often asked when one can derive the most benefit or pleasure form a visit to the wild garden. Every week, from April through October, presents new attractions.... Within a space of twenty acres may be seen in an hour what would be impossible to find in traversing the state for several days.”

This report covered the joys of all the seasons at the Garden. Read it all here.

Cora Pease
Eloise Butler's older sister, Cora Pease. Photo courtesy Martha Pease

The winter of 1913-14 had a well below average amount of snowfall, warmer than average temperatures in December, January and March, but February was abnormally cold. Eloise was able to begin Garden work in early April.

During the year she would write other essays that became part of a collection known as the “Annals of the Wild Life Reserve”. These were never published as a group. Some of the other 1914 works are:

Finding the White Cypripedium

Liverworts, Lichens, Mosses, and Evergreen Ferns in the Wild Garden

Animal, Bird, and Insect Life in the Wild Garden

Old Andrew

Spring 1914

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 Annotated Checklist of the Vascular Flora of Minnesota.

American Dog Violet
American Dog Violet (Viola labradorica) Photo ©Thomas G. Barnes USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Eloise Butler’s Garden Log indicates that spring began with reasonable weather. Her first planting notes occur on April 4 with plants selected from East Coast sources. 1914 would be 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. The first plants came from sources in Massachusetts where she had been during part of the winter visiting her sister Cora. These she ordered while there and had them shipped for spring planting.

Of all the Spring plantings, 17 were species she planted for the first time. On these 17, only three were not native to Minnesota and only one of the 17 is still extant - Wild Lupine. A complete list of the new Spring plantings, with photos and sources, is at this link. Here sources in the east included Franklin MA, Malden MA, Gillett’s in Southwick MA, Magnolia MA, Logansport IN, Charlotte VT and Boulder CO. Frequently used local sources where she dug up plants were the Minnehaha and Fort Snelling areas, the bog next door in Glenwood Park, nearby Glenwood Springs and Western Ave. Further afield were the Big Bog near Lake Minnetonka, Columbia Heights, and several areas in St. Paul. The Park Board Nursery provided some trees and shrubs, including Hemlocks, White Pines and Jack Pines.

White Lady's-slipper
American Dog Violet (Viola labradorica) Photo ©Thomas G. Barnes USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

By April 21st, the Hepaticas, Red Maples, Box Elder and Willows were in full bloom. She noted a bluebird chasing a long-eared owl in the Garden. Lark sparrows and palm warblers were noted on May 5th and many other warblers on May 13th. In her log she frequently noted the bloom of plants she had recently planted - a sign of success - and of finding plants in the Garden she had not seen before. On May 6 she discovered a large clump of Viola conspersa, the American Dog Violet, (now classified as V. labradorica) in the swamp. She had planted this species in 5 previous years starting in 1907 without noticing this clump. She was happy to see the Prairie Trillium (Trillium recurvatum) blooming on May 24th. She had planted it in 1913.

One of the short essays Eloise wrote in 1914 concerned a day trip she and friend took to find a stand of the White Cypripedium, the White Lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium candidum). Someone had vandalized the clump she had in the Garden at the time. This trip involved a journey by train and then a long walk out in the country. Read about it here.(2)

Weather in 1914 provided an average spring without adverse temperatures and adequate precipitation.

Summer 1914

fairy slipper orchid
Fairy Slipper Orchid, (Calypso bulbosa); Photo from a Kodachrome taken in the Garden by Martha Crone June 1, 1954.

Planting work during the summer occupied much of Eloise Butler's time. During these months Eloise would obtain most of her plant material from local sources. As a result most of the summer plantings were species native to the state. Twenty four species were planted for the first time and only 3 were not native, but one of those is now considered quite invasive: Watercress, Nasturtium officinale, which she obtained from a nursery in Osceola WI. The only plant in this group of 24 new species still extant in the Garden is Silvery Scurfpea (Pediomelum argophyllum).

A complete list of the new Summer plantings, with photos and sources, is at this link.

Osceola WI was the only major out of state source for plants during the Summer. As happened occasionally, plants were given to her. On June 1st, Dr. Roberts (Thomas S.) gave her two of the very beautiful Fairy Slipper Orchid, Calypso bulbosa, from the shores of Lake Itasca. Eloise had introduced the orchid to the Garden for the first time in 1913. On July 26 a Miss Mildred Martin provided from northern Minnesota ten Single Delight, Moneses uniflora which she planted in the “swamp.”

While at the the Big Bog at Minnetonka, she discovered a group of Canadian Gooseberry, Ribes oxyacanthoides, and promptly brought one back to the Garden for planting next day. She found a Polygala paucifolia (Gaywings) near a stump on June 7, after having planted it in 1908, ‘09, ’10, ’13 and this past Spring.

Single Delight
Single Delight, (Moneses uniflora ); Photo ©Mary Clay Stensvold, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

In her log she notes her discoveries of plants in the Garden that she had not noticed before, some of which she may have planted elsewhere in the Garden. She writes:

“Discovered Corylus rostrata in swamp and near spring!” [this is Beaked Hazelnut and now classified as C. cornuta]; “Found Rubus occidentalis on plateau!” [this is Black Raspberry which she had found previously in another spot.]

In late August she picked 11 giant puffballs and a number of other mushroom. There was an area east of the bog that she referred to a ‘puffball flats’; on Aug. 24th discovered several night hawks in the Garden. The Fringed Gentian was in bloom on August 29th.

Gaywings, (Polygala paucifolia); Photo ©Elaine Haug @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Eloise wrote an essay about life in the Garden titled Animal, Bird, and Insect Life in the Wild Garden. (2). The opening paragraph from that article is as follows.

"A Large number of birds nest in the garden, and during the season most of the migrants reported from the state have been noted in the Garden. The tangled vine coverts, abundance of food and water, and protection from sportsmen have made the place a favorite of the birds. Song, vesper and swamp sparrows, catbird, bluebird, rose-breasted grosbeak, Baltimore oriole, brown thrasher, bobolink, marsh wren, scarlet tanager, indigo bunting hold matins and vespers in the leafy aisles along the brook, while those of brilliant plumage, together with goldfinch, Maryland yellow-throated hummingbird gleam like jewels in the foliage or as they dart through the air."

The weather in the summer of 1914 provided average temperatures but above average rainfall. There were two storms in August that each produced 3.3 inches of rain.

Autumn 1914

Wild Blue Phlox
Wild Blue Phlox (Phlox divaricata). Photo © G D Bebeau

In September Eloise maintained an exhibit about the Wild Garden at the Minnesota State Fair in the Horticulture building, as she had since 1909. A photo of the exhibit is in Martha Hellander’s book The Wild Gardener. The exhibit for the Wild Botanic Garden won a blue ribbon in 1910. Photographer Mary Meeker 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)

By September 15 Eloise had discovered her 22nd giant puffball in the Garden.

Fall plantings included 19 new species of which 8 where not native to Minnesota but 4 of those 8 had become naturalized. Four species are still extant in the Garden -
Drummond’s Aster,
Climbing Nightshade,
Garden Phlox and
Riddell’s Goldenrod.

A complete list of the new fall plantings, with photos and sources, is at this link.

The most significant planting in the fall in terms of shear numbers was the Wild Blue Phlox, Phlox divaricata, of which she planted 500 that she obtained from the grounds of the Catholic Seminary in St. Paul. In late October she obtained some trees and shrubs from the Park Board Nursery, which at that time was located nearby at Glenwood Lake.

By this date the Park Board was growing some species that were not native to Minnesota but grew well here. One of those the Eloise obtained was the Shadblow Serviceberry, Amelanchier canadensis.

Shadblow Serviceberry
Shadblow Serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis). Photo ©G D Bebeau

Of her discoveries of unsuspected plants growing in the Garden, she found Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis) in the swamp,
the White Heath Aster (Aster multiflorus - now Symphyotrichum ericoides) near the Night Hawks nest that she had discovered in August; and
Elm-leaved Goldenrod (Solidago ulmifolia)
- all three of which are still extant in the Garden.

Fall weather was very good, Eloise noted no frost yet on Oct. 5th and she was still planting on October 28th. Her final log entry of the season was of sowing seeds of American Bellflower (Campanulastrum americanum) on Oct. 29th. While there was an abundance of rain in the summer, the fall was fairly dry and once winter approached there was nothing but a trace of precipitation in November and no snow accumulation until mid December. Total precipitation for the year was above average due to the heavy summer rains.

In her annual letter for 1914 to Parks Superintendent Theodore Wirth she said that the Garden now contained 670 species of herbaceous forbs, 66 tree species and 101 shrub species. She wrote in another letter that “The Garden has become an efficient aid to young botanists in determining difficult species, since it is easier to learn type characters from living, growing plants than from dried herbarium specimens.” (3)

Another essay she wrote in 1914 that was not published was titled Liverworts, Lichens, Mosses, and Evergreen Ferns in the Wild Garden. Here she writes of the beauty these plants can add to the landscape. (2)

Note 1. Report of the Board of Park Commissioners, Jan. 1, 1914.

Note 2: Eloise wrote a number of short essays, most between 1914 and 1920, that after her death were collected in a series titled Annals of the Wild Life Reserve.

Note 3: Letter to Theodore Wirth published in the Thirty-second Annual Report of the Board of Park Commissioners dated 1 Jan. 1915.

Photo top of page: Shadblow Serviceberry, Amelanchier canadensis. Photo ©G D Bebeau

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Year chart - all years
Garden History Archive

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. All photos are the property of The Friends unless otherwise credited. Photos credited to others 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. "" - 020317