Appleton Maine

History of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Winter 1915/1916

Eloise Butler
Eloise Butler shown outside the Garden "office." Photo courtesy Minneapolis Public Library, Minneapolis Collection M2632H

This winter Eloise Butler again traveled to the East Coast to visit her relatives, as had been her custom since she retired from teaching in 1911. Her residence was at 20 Murray Hill Rd, Malden, Mass. While there she sourced some plants from Gillett’s Nursery in Southwick MA that were then sent to her in April. Upon her return to Minneapolis in early spring she changed her residence. After 4 years of rooming with friend Jessie Polley in south Minneapolis she moved to the residence of John and Susan Babcock at 227 Xerxes Ave. No., near the Garden where she could walk to her domain. Mr. Babcock owned a photo engraving business at 416 4th Ave. So., Minneapolis. She would room here until her death in 1933.

The Babcock property was located on the west side of the current Xerxes Avenue. The east side was undeveloped until after WWII. Then the properties on the west side were removed at some point and the space is now parkland today.

Precipitation was adequate with snows beginning in mid-November leading to a total snow depth of almost 16 inches for most of February. Temperatures fluxed enough into the cold side to keep the snow from melting until late March. Total snowfall for the winter was just above the average of 43.6 inches.

The J. W. Babcock House where Eloise lodged from 1916 to 1933.

Babcock House

Spring 1916

Wood Anemone
Wood Anemone, Anomone quinquefolia. Photo ©G D Bebeau.

Eloise’s first garden log notes for the season occur on April 28th when she noted the Purple Trillium (Trillium erectum) in bloom. This is her first mention of this plant in the log, but it is known from other sources that she had planted it in earlier years. She also introduced to the Garden on that day the Wood Anemone, Anemone quinquefolia, that she sourced from the vicinity of Fridley.

Skunk cabbage bloomed for 1st time after planting it in 1907. She would write:

Skunk Cabbage blossomed for the first time in the Garden swamp. It is not indigenous to the garden, is late in coming to time, and has been a number of years about it.

On May 5th she logged the planting of 35 different species that had arrived from Gillett’s Nursery in Southwick, MA. She had sourced these during her winter visit to Malden MA. Of the 35 species, 10 were completely new to the Garden - all Ferns, club mosses and marsh plants.

On May 12 she wrote:

Planted 151 violets. Garden very lovely in its new spring dress. Gorgeous display of marsh marigolds; west bank thickly carpeted with rue anemones, fern buds unrolling; Woodsia obtusa and Cystoperis fragilis fully expanded; splendid showing of Large-flowered Trillium and white variety of T. erectum.

Several days later: “A striped snake coiled and attempted to strike me when clearing up golden rod cane in south meadow.”

Large Flowered Trillium
Large-flowered Trillium, Trillium grandiflorum. Photo ©G D Bebeau.

During May a group of High School botany teachers lunched in the Garden office. She had only retired 5 years previously and many of her former colleagues were still teaching.

Several of her particular observations of Garden events were noted in a May 1916 submission to the circular of the Gray Memorial Botanical Chapter, Division D, Agassiz Association.(1) This installment is quite humorous:

As I went into the garden early this morning, I had another surprise: A half-grown pig lay asleep on the hillside below my office! A neighboring farmer caught him by turning a big box over him, and he is now housed in the dog kennel on the place where I live. I thought of naming him Roley-Poley because he is so fat, or Endymion because we found him sleeping; but the boy in the house said, “Miss Butler, you must call him Rip, because his ear had been ripped on a barbed wire fence, and he sleeps like Rip Van Winkle.

Discovered a shapeless mass of damp earth and moss on the top of a wren birdhouse set under the eaves of my office. It looked as if some sportive youth had flung it there. A few hours after it had taken a more definite shape, and I saw that is was the work of Mistress Phoebe. Will war be declared if the wrens take possession below?

Eloise made regular contributions to this Chapter's circular. She was a member from 1908 until her death.(2)

This link is to a detailed list of 1916 spring plantings of plants put in for the first time by Eloise.

Weather-wise - temperatures and rainfall were average during the spring

Summer 1916

Purple Loosestrife
Purple Loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria. Photo ©G D Bebeau.

Summer began would a sour note as Eloise reported stolen on June 26, most of the Showy Lady’s-slippers from the northwest gentian meadow section of the Garden, as well as several Castilleja coccinea (Scarlet Indian Paintbush). Several days earlier she noted finding Reed Canary Grass in the Garden (Phalaris arundinacea) an invasive that even in 2015 is still present and has to be periodically controlled.

Eloise noted on July 15 that Purple Loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria was beginning to bloom. This is another invasive pest that was thought to be a wonderful plant to import to our area and it was not until the 1970s that its true invasiveness was finally realized here. Planting was still advocated in the 1960s.

On July 20 a second brood of phoebes left their nest under the eaves of the office. [see spring notes above for the construction of the nest.] Eloise also observed a sora rail feeding by the side of garden pond.

Sometime during 1916 Eloise penned another installment for the circular of the Gray Memorial Botanical Chapter. This essay mostly concerned her efforts to establish certain plants and their contrariness in doing their own thing. An excerpt:

Purple Flowering Raspberry
Purple Flowering Raspberry, Rubus odoratus. Photo ©G D Bebeau.

A specimen of Rubus odoratus, the beautiful flowering raspberry [Purple Flowering Raspberry]-- its large rose-colored flowers and maple-like leaves familiar to many under cultivation - was procured from cold Ontario [Full Ontario story in this article] but it died down to the ground every winter and was as effortless as the first Mrs. Dombey [ref to a Dickens character]. Last season it was piqued by jealousy to sprouting into a big bush which blossomed and blossomed, outdoing every plant of that kind I have ever seen. I merely planted around it a quantity of Rubus spectabilis the salmon berry, saying “I am sure I shall like these as well. They have beautiful white flowers, leaves as fine as yours, Odoratus, and better tasting fruit of an unusual color. [Read full essay here.]

For a few days before August 25 Eloise and photographer Mary Meeker were the quests of the Superintendent of the Minnesota Division of the Interstate Park of Minnesota and Wisconsin at Taylor’s Falls. Eloise was determined to find the rare Fragrant Fern, Aspidium fragrans. Her experience in finding it are told in this essay. Eighteen other species would find their way to the Garden from that trip.

This link is to a detailed list of 1916 summer plantings of plants put in for the first time by Eloise.

May and June were very rainy, temperatures average.

Autumn 1916

Christmas Fern
Christmas Fern, Polystichum acrostichoides. Photo ©G D Bebeau.

As had been her practice since 1910, Eloise maintained a large display on native plants from the Wild Garden at the Minnesota State Fair. Mary Meeker provided a large number of photographs of plants. They would spend a week at the fair and then bring back the plants from her display to re-plant in the Garden, noting on September 12 that they were on exhibition - “hence in poor condition.”

She found many puffballs in the east meadow that autumn. Her sources for new plants this autumn were from far and wide. Some she herself brought in - such as from Fort Snelling, Groveland Park, Glenwood Park, Bush Lake, Western Ave., Echo Lake, and Mahtomedi. Sent to her were a large group of plants from Solon Springs, WI and more from Eau Claire, WI. Two species of ferns (including 19 Christmas Ferns) came from Sugar Hill, NH; and other plants from Horsford’s Nursery in Charlotte Vermont.

ON September 24 the Minneapolis Tribune (3) announced that the Park Board would open this week a hiking trail traversing the length of Glenwood Park from Superior Blvd. (now I-394) to Western Avenue (now Glenwood). Along the rolling hills were to be dozens of camp sites for "the hiker to stop and kindle a small fire." The Park Board was planning to erect a series of stone fireplaces along the trail.

The natural amphitheater at the northeast edge of the Garden was mentioned along with the mammoth elm the stood there, referred to as the "patriarch of Glenwood" (4) and at the base of the hill was a natural spring that had now, to prevent contamination, been forced to run through a bubbling fountain. Here is the origin of the name "bubbling spring" used often in the future. The spring, now dry, is just outside the current back gate of the Wildflower Garden. This link is to an illustrated article about that spring and the others in the vicinity of the Garden.

Autumn weather was of average temperatures and below average rainfall. On October 20 she noted in the log: “6 inches of snow fell yesterday afternoon and last night. Temperature 34 deg. this noon, with lowering sky.” The year ended with slightly below average total precipitation.

Her last log note for the year was:

Planted from Groveland Pk., St. Paul. 51 Phlox divaricata and 11 violets in burnt over, south meadow. Noted in garden a small hawk and great horned owl.

This link is to a detailed list of 1916 autumn plantings of plants put in for the first time by Eloise.

With the Garden closed and the office locked up she departed for the East Coast to visit her sister Cora Pease as she has done every winter since 1911.

1: The Agassiz Association was founded in the late 1800‘s to be an association of local chapters that would combine the like interests of individuals and organizations in the study of Nature. However, by this time it was largely defunct and only the Gray Memorial Chapter, with several divisions, was still active. Various contributions from members were grouped and circulated by post from one member to another.
2: Martha Hellander's research indicated Eloise joined the Chapter in 1908. The Wild Gardener, page 82
3. Pdf copy of the Tribune article from September 24.
4. In 1976 the Friends treated this elm with Lignasan in order to stave off Dutch Elm Disease.

Photo top of page: Appleton Ridge and the countryside surrounding Appleton Maine, birthplace of Eloise Butler. Photo courtesy of Martha Hellander.

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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

©2016 Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Photos ©G D Bebeau 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. "https://www.friendsofthe" - 031222