Eloise Butler and Friends in Glenwood Park

History of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Winter 1919/1920

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 The plants were then sent to her and arrived in April and others arrived for fall planting in October from Gillett’s, from Horsford’s Nursery in Charlotte Vermont, and from Andrews Nursery in Boulder Colorado.

In late March she returned to her rented quarters at the residence of John and Susan Babcock at 227 Xerxes Ave. from where she could walk to the Garden.

Spring 1920

Eloise Butler
Eloise Butler ca. 1910-20, photo courtesy Mpls. Public Library.

Eloise Butler’s first Garden Log note of the season was on 25 March when she wrote:

Trillium nivale in bud, white maple, hazel, alder in bloom.

Although the past winter had produced about 65 inches of snow, 20 inches above average, with good constant snow depth, by late March it was all melted.

In 1918 Eloise began a rotating display of native plants at the Minneapolis Public Library. She updated the exhibit every few days and brought back plants to replant in the Garden, frequently mentioning the replanting in her Garden Log. ON April 1st this year she noted “Opened seasonal wildflower exhibit at central library.”

Plantings: This spring she brought in 3 new species: Matrimony Vine, Oregon Cliff Fern, and Robin’s Plantain. Details listed below the autumn section.

She also recorded planting a number of other species previously in the Garden, including 17 species which are still in the Garden.

Summer 1920

In the summer months she obtained 6 new species for the Garden: Bristly Sarsaparilla, Buffalobur Nightshade, Gallant Soldier, Green Adder’s Mouth, Hooded Coralroot, Northern Slender Lady’s Tresses. Details on all 1920 new plantings are listed below the autumn section.

She also recorded planting a number of other species previously in the Garden, including 4 species which are still in the Garden, most from local sources.

Autumn 1920

Purple Loosestrife
Purple Loosestrife, Lythrum salicaria mentioned by Eloise Butler, and first noted in the Garden in 1916. Photo G D Bebeau.

On September 2 she noted in the log: Lythrum salicaria [Purple Loosestrife] has well established itself farther down the brook below dam.” The ‘dam’ was a small structure she had installed when the Garden was first formed, first of earth and then with concrete in 1917. It crossed the water channel that drained the southern wetland and formed a small pool for aquatics. The water then trickled down into the meadow on the north end of the Garden - an area that is now outside of the Garden's north fence but at this time the entire meadow was part of the Garden. Purple Loosestrife is another example of terribly invasive plants that in Eloise Butler’s day were considered ornamental and frequently planted. It would take the Park Board many years in the 1990s to rid Wirth Park, and particularly Birch Pond, of most of it.

In the fall months she obtained 10 new species for the Garden. Details below. She also recorded planting a number of other species previously in the Garden, including 26 species which are still in the Garden, most from local sources.

Sometime in 1920 Eloise wrote a short essay on upkeep of the Garden. It may have been sent to The Gray Memorial Botanical Chapter, (Division D ) of the Agassiz Association for inclusion in the members circular. Here is the text:

My wild garden is run on the political principle of laissez-faire. Fallen leaves are not raked up unless they lie in too deep windrows and are likely to smother some precious specimen; but are retained to form humus. But the tall dead canes of herbs like Joe-Pye Weed and wild golden glow, which are allowed to stand during the winter to protect the dormant vegetation beneath, are removed from the meadows in the spring for a clear view of the clumps of marsh marigolds, trilliums, etc.

I also gather and burn all fallen branches, and in the fall while the late flowers are still blooming, all unsightly evidence of decay. Of course, I do not allow at any time any outside litter to be brought in - - not the tiniest scrap of paper, or string, or peanut shell. The great mass of herbaceous plants, as asters, goldenrods, and most composites, I admire in their fluffy state, after they have gone to seed.

Some species, however, are to me the reverse of ornamental in old age. These are snipped to the ground or torn up by the roots and reduced to ash. Red Clover is one of the offenders. It becomes unkempt and scraggly; and the stalks of the common milkweed that are without fruit, after shedding their leaves, turn black and look like long rat tails. Touch-me-not, Impatiens biflora [now I. capensis] and I. pallida, collapse with the first frost and cumber the ground with a brown slime; and wood nettle, Laportea canadensis, is smitten as with a pestilence.

A few specimens of stingers and stick-tights are permitted on the grounds. Laportea is a persistent spreader and sometimes gets the upper hand, busy as I am with many other things. In the fall I grub it out and plant something else in its place. Then I learn its encroaching ways. The roots are not very deep, but they are woven and knotted together into a dense mat that seems as hard as rock.

Her last entry in the log was on October 26th when she noted planting 51 Sky Blue Asters. When 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.

1920 was right on average for precipitation but fall temperatures were warm and the winter of 1920/21 would be very scant with snow, only 20 inches, 23 inches below average.

New 1920 Plants

Eloise brought into the Garden a number of plants that are not listed today on the Garden census. Many of these were native to Minnesota and a few were not. Here is a listing of most of those plants introduced this year to the Garden for the first time - the common and botanical names listed first are names she used followed by other common names for the same plant and the newer botanical classifications, if any; then follows her source for the material. 1920 is the first year the following list of plants occur in her log. "Native" indicates the plant is considered native to Minnesota (here at European Settlement time) or if introduced, long established. "Non-native" indicates it is not known to exist in Minnesota in the wild. "Extant" indicates the plant is present in the Garden today. 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 University of Minnesota's Checklist of the Vascular Flora of Minnesota.

Robin's Plantain
Robin's Plantain, Erigeron pulchellus. New spring planting. Photo ©Merle R. Black, Wisconsin Flora.

Spring 1920

Summer 1920

Autumn 1920

Bristly Sarsaparilla
Bristly Sarsaparilla, Aralia hispida. New summer planting. Photo ©Andrew Hipp, Wisconsin Flora.
Buffalobur Nightshade
Buffalobur Nightshade, Solanum rostratum. New summer planting. Photo ©Kitty Kohout, Wisconsin Flora.
Northern Slender Lady's Tresses
Northern Slender Lady's Tresses, Spiranthes lacera. New summer planting. Photo ©Merle R. Black, Wisconsin Flora.
Green Adder's Mouth
Green Adder's Mouth, Malaxis unifolia. New summer planting. Photo ©Scott Milburn, Wisconsin Flora.

Photo top of page: Eloise Butler (center) with Friends at Glenwood Springs ca. 1900

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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 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 wildflowergarden.org" - 031222