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 two months in Algiers, Greece, Germany and Italy touring botanic gardens and museums. According to a report on March 3 in the Minneapolis Tribune they planned to be back in late March.

When she returned to Minneapolis she began one of her busiest years of planting in the new Wild Botanic Garden. The prior year (1913) she had added 993 plants from 73 species, so that by the start of 1914 the Garden had 607 species of herbaceous plants, 66 species of trees and 101 species of shrubs. (1)

She wrote in her report to Parks Superintendent Theodore Wirth:

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

I am often asked when one can derive the most benefit or pleasure from 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.

The winter of 1913-14 had a much below average amount of snowfall, with 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 wrote three other essays that became part of a collection known as the “Annals of the Wild Life Reserve.” These were never published as a group. 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.

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 Checklist of the Vascular Flora of Minnesota from the University of Minnesota Herbarium.

American Dog Violet
American Dog Violet (Viola labradorica). Photo ©Mark Feider, Wisconsin Flora.

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 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. The first plants came from sources in Massachusetts where she had been during the early 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. Her 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
White Lady's-slipper (Cypripedium candidum) Photo ©Derek Anderson, Wisconsin Flora

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 obtained 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 Orchids, 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 ©Robert W. Freckman, Wisconsin Flora

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 wrote:

“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 mushrooms. There was an area east of the wetland that she referred to a ‘puffball flats;’ on August 24th discovered several night hawks in the Garden. The Fringed Gentian was in bloom on August 29th.

Gaywings, (Polygala paucifolia); Photo ©Aaron Carlson, Wisconsin Flora

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.

During June there was an exhibit of photographs and watercolors of Minnesota wild flowers at the Central Library. Eloise and Mary Meeker provided the photos from the Wild Botanic Garden and Emma Roberts provided the watercolors. (3)

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 1910. A photo of the exhibit is in the 1910 history. 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 15th 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. Three species are still extant in the Garden -
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 next door 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 October 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 October 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.(4)

Another essay she wrote in 1914 that was not published was titled Notes on being acquainted with trees, in which she discusses tree shapes and how they add to the landscape. (2)

On December 13 the Minneapolis Star Tribune printed an illustrated article on scenic walks you could take in the winter in the park system. The bridle paths in Glenwood park get a nod as does this statement: "Do you know the pool in the wild flower garden in Glenwood Park? There is a peaceful spot to seek out when dull, drab care gets on your trail and you feel that such remnant of gray matter as you have is getting warped in the stress of city life." The pool is illustrated in a winter vista of that end of the Garden. This is the only known photo of the pool in the winter. Compare it to the 1913 springtime photo appearing in The Bellman.

Below: The photo of the Garden pool appearing in the December 13 newspaper. This pool was created by Eloise Butler in the first years of the Garden's existence. See this article.

Newspaper photo of garden pool

1. Report of the Board of Park Commissioners, January 1, 1914.

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. Some of these were sent to the Gray Memorial Botanical Chapter of the Agassiz Association for inclusion in the members circular.

3. Minneapolis Tribune, June 22, 1914.

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

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

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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.

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©2017 Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Photos © 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" - 031222