Malden Mass house

History of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Winter 1923/1924

This winter Eloise Butler 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.

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. This was a good year for Garden publicity. At least four newspaper articles were published this year concerning Eloise and the Garden. Details below.

Spring 1924

Eloise Butler’s first Garden Log note of the season was on April 1st when she wrote:

Ground covered with 16 inches of snow on the level. The heaviest snow storm of the season, March 29-30.

But by April 5 she wrote: “Two Trillium nivale in bloom. Robins, phoebes, juncos, and one hermit thrush in evidence.”

On the 13th: “Noted screech owl perched in a young hemlock tree north of the tarvia road. Sat motionless for a long time, and permitted near approach.” [The 'tarvia road' was the wide path that bisected the Garden in Butler's time. It is the same path that is just outside the current back fence of the Garden.]

The week of April 20th was National Garden Week and the Minnesota Chapter of the Wild Flower Preservation Society of America and Eloise set up a display of wildflowers from the Garden in the corner window of Donaldson's Department Store in downtown Minneapolis, all reported in the Tribune on April 23. She was a member of the Chapter and chairman of the membership and publicity committee.

Early May does not seen to have been all that pleasant. She wrote on the 7th: “Noted Whip-poor-will near west path. Has been heard for two weeks. Weather, cold, snowy, rainy, disagreeable.”

Two new species were established in the spring - European Whitlow-grass and Lewis Flax.

Summer 1924

On June 12 Eloise wrote: “Mountain ash planted May 28, 1909 bloomed for the first time” [Sorbus americana, American Mountain Ash].

Fencing work was done in the Garden for the first time since the original 3 acres were fenced in 1907. It began on June 26 and on July 16 Eloise wrote: “Lady Slipper meadow enclosed today, fence not completely braced.” [That meadow was in the northern part of the Garden]

Eloise Butler
Eloise Butler in 1924 from a Minneapolis Tribune article.

In order to really secure the Garden from large animals, vandals and people that just wandered in from all directions, it had to be securely fence and equipped with gates that could be locked. Eloise Butler even resorted to the newspaper on several occasions to state her case for a fence.

Ms. Butler's worst menace was "spooners". A headline in the Minneapolis Tribune on September 18, 1921 read: "Glenwood Park Wants Wire Fence to Keep Out Spooners." The article explained Ms. Butler's thoughts that cats and dogs may leave a trail in the vegetation but spooners were the real problem. The full text read as follows:

It’s not the wild, voracious mosquito-
It’s not the snooping vagabond dog -
Nor is it the pussy-footing feline -
But it’s the demon surreptitious spooner thats brought the need for an encircling barbed wire fence around the wild flower garden in Glenwood Park to save plants of incalculable scientific value from destruction. A stray cat will pitter patter into the garden and leave a narrow trail. A dog seeking food perhaps in the shape of a ribbit (sic) will snoop through and leave a wider wallow -
But the spooning couple -
“For destructive properties the army of tussock worms is a piker when compared with the Spooner.” (Eloise Butler quote - pdf of article)

On June 22 the Minneapolis Star Tribune published a short article titled "Flower Garden Director Urges Fence be Built." Eloise stated that the collection will be ruined unless a fence is built around the property at once. Theodore Wirth was quoted as saying the the approximate expense would be $600 but there were no funds available. Eloise said "I will pay for the building of a fence myself, if necessary to save the collection."

Later in the year, while the fence work was in process, in a Minneapolis Journal article (pdf copy) she was quoted saying “The fence is needed to keep our the few vandals who destroy in a few minutes the work of years and spoil the garden for the rest of the visitors.” The article concluded - “Tired of waiting years for it to be built, she finally is having it put up herself.” (pdf copy)

Since the Park Board could not allocate funds to complete fencing, Eloise contracted, at her own expense, to have the fencing completed for a sum of $696.10. She paid $400 down, gave a note for $200 to be paid within a month or when the fence was completed, and the final amount by a note to be paid in the spring of 1925. (1)

One set of fences or two?

She could not afford to fence the entire area of the Garden which was about 25 acres at that time. In Martha Hellander's book The Wild Gardener, she, at one point says the Garden was unfenced (pg. 79) but on another page (pg. 85) says there was an original enclosure of 3 acres, which happens to agree with the original Board of Park Commissioners action setting aside the 3 acres. Although Hellander gives no reference for her “unfenced” statement, the original 1907 fence around 3 acres, would have been south of the tarvia road in part of what is now the Gardens current location. Based on Butler's log notes after 1924, she had two enclosures fenced which she referred to as the North Enclosure and the South Enclosure, the north protecting the wetland orchids, both referenced with a “brook” running through them. After she announced the enclosure on July 16th, "Lady Slipper meadow enclosed today" ... she began as early as August 1st to note planting in the “north enclosure.” She does not mention actually planting anything in this “south enclosure” by name until October 8, 1925, although there are numerous entries in the log prior to that of planting “near fence” without stating which fence.

Hellander further states (pg. 85) that Eloise enclosed 5 acres in the north meadow area of the Lady's-slippers in 1924 but she does not give a source for that statement, so we are left with this conclusion: The original 3 acre fence would have been in the southern enclosure, south of the tarvia road that bisected Butler’s Garden of 1924. We know it was after 1907 that the area of the north meadow was added to the Garden. So, Eloise had two enclosures built in 1924 - the one in the north meadow, north of the tarvia road and one south of the tarvia road - perhaps adding to the original 1907 fence or completely replacing it, but still concentrated in the wetland part of the Garden based on Butler’s statement about a brook running through both areas.

Further confirmation that there were two Garden areas separated by the tarvia path is contained in Butler's 1926 submission to the bulletin circular of the Gray Memorial Botanical Chapter. This article discussed the trees of the Garden and she states in one section about a Balsam Poplar that "It is planted near the gate on the south side of the tarvia road that divides the precincts."

This story continues in the autumn section. It was not until 1938 that a permanent fence built by a WPA crew enclosed all of the southern part of the Garden. More detail on the fences is in this article.

Below: A portion of the 1924 fences are seen here lining the path near the hemlock grove. The bird feeding station established in 1931 or 32 is seen on the north side of the path. At that time the hemlocks were split between the south and north sides of the tarvia path. It was not until the path and fence were moved northward in 1991/92 that they all ended up in the southern portion of the Garden. Photo by Lulu May Aler.

1936 photo

In the summer months she obtained 4 new species for the Garden: Common Butterwort, Green Fringed Orchid, Marsh Grass of Parnassus, and Round-leaved Orchis. Details are given below.

Another newspaper article in the summer explained how Eloise had developed the Garden and the special plants that were there. The Minneapolis Star article on July 24 is the source of the only photo we have of Eloise standing next to the trunk of Monarch, the large White Oak. (pdf of article. The photo is in the article on Monarch.)

Autumn 1924

On October 27 Eloise wrote: “Completed Cactus rockery and transferred cacti thereto.” Back on April 30th, Eloise noted in the log that she was planting near the “cactus plantation.” In later years Martha Crone would note building such a feature in 1930 (3) but this is actually the first reference to a cactus area and the first reference to the “Crone Plantations.” That last term refers to certain planting areas in the Garden that were stocked with plants provided by Martha and Bill Crone, or actually planted by them. References to the “Crone Plantations” will show up in the log and in correspondence in all future years of Eloise’s tenure. When she was back at Malden, Eloise wrote to the Crones (Martha and William) on Nov. 29 (1)—
I can’t resist telling you at once the latest history of the fencing around the “Crone Plantations” et. al.

In the fall months she obtained 9 new species for the Garden, all detailed below, one of which we would stand up and shout NO today. Her last log entry was on November 3rd when she “sowed seeds of red Lepachys columnaris from Grand Forks, N. Dak. above the cactus rockery on the east hillside.” Today this plant is classified as Ratibida columnifera, Long-headed Coneflower. By “red” we assume she means the type that has red on the rays and is commonly called “Mexican Hat.”

During the year she also recorded planting a number of other species previously in the Garden, most from local sources.

The fencing was not yet completed before she had to leave for her annual return to Malden Massachusetts to visit her sister Cora Pease as she has done every winter since 1911.(1) In that letter to the Crones Eloise explains that she had informed Park Superintendent Wirth about what she did with the fence and never asked for reimbursement. She was pleasantly surprised to receive a note from him promising a check for the full amount by early December. Thus she says “You may believe that I am very happy.” (1)

See all details on fencing in this article.

Winter in Malden involved care for an ill sister, an ill brother, an ill brother-in-law and niece. Eloise writes that “I find the duties of house keeping somewhat heavy with a family of eight, including a dog and three cats.” But they had a jolly Christmas. (2).

Weather in 1924 was not too unusual. Although spring started late due to the heavy late March snowfall, snowfall for the year was well under normal. Total precipitation was just below average due to a lot of summer rain.

New 1924 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. 1924 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. "Introduced" means not native to North America. "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.

Spring 1924

Summer 1924

Round leaved Orchid
Round-leaved orchis, Platanthera orbiculata. New summer planting. Photo ©Jeff Hapeman. Wisconsin Flora.

Autumn 1924

Common Butterwort, Pinguicula vulgaris New summer planting. Photo © Kitty Kohout, Wisconsin Flora.
Hoary Alyssum
Hoary Alyssum, Berteroa incana New autumn planting. Photo ©G D Bebeau.
Mexican Hat
Long-headed Coneflower, Mexican Hat type with red on rays, Ratibida columnifera. New autumn planting. Photo ©G D Bebeau
Pale Spike Lobelia
Palespike Lobelia, Lobelia spicata. New autumn planting. Photo ©G D Bebeau

Photo top of page: The House at 20 Murray Hill Road, Malden MA where Eloise spent Winters. Photo courtesy Martha Hellander.

To History of: Previous Year ----------- Subsequent Year

Year chart - all years

Garden History Archive

Printable PDF file of this page.

(1) Letter to the Crones, November 29, 1924 from Malden, Massachusetts (pdf)
(2) Letter to the Crones, January 24, 1925 (pdf)
(3) Interview with Martha Crone on May 27, 1988 by Martha Hellander as recorded in her book The Wild Gardener.

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" - 0312221