Showy Lady Slipper

History of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Winter 1944/1945

Martha Crone
Martha Crone in the Garden in a 1951 photo.

After several years of little planting during the war years, the upland addition to the Garden led to lots of planting in 1945. In her Annual Report Martha noted setting out more than 4,000 plants in the new Upland Garden area, many collected in the wild by interested persons and most were already present in the older parts of the Garden. Sometimes native soil was brought in to accommodate certain plants. Over 2,000 feet of newly made trails had been graveled and many plantings were along the trails for visitor viewing. She also laid out some new trails in the older part of the Garden and graveled old and new. Jewelweed, so dominant last year, had been removed so there would be little new seed production. (1)

1945 was Martha Crone’s 13th year in charge of the Garden, which now began its 39th year. Charles E. Doell. became Parks Superintendent following the retirement of C. A. Bossen.

Spring 1945

Pasque flower - planted almost every year by Martha Crone. Photo G D Bebeau

On March 22, the Snow Trillium was in bloom which is the earliest known date, besting the records kept by her later successors Ken Avery and Cary George. Spring was just the opposite of 1944 when everything was late. Martha was already setting out plants before the Garden opened. Ten Hepatica and 65 Snow Trillium on March 28th.

On opening day, April 1st, the Hepaticas were also in bloom. In the new Upland Garden Martha sowed a quarter of the wildflower seed and other seeds she had saved from the prior year. She brought in 24 Pasque Flowers from Anoka. Considering the early spring, the first Hummingbird knew better and did not show up until May 25. (2) After the early start the temperatures dropped well below normal in April, May and June, with a killing frost on June 5.

By the end of May she had planted 921 plants. (2).

Summer 1945

Western Wallflower, planted in large numbers in 1945. Photo G D Bebeau.

June opened with a killing frost on the 5th, freezing all the tomato plants in home gardens, but Martha could note: “Area mostly free of canker worms which for the last 5 years they have been increasing, practically defoliating the trees.”

Weather in 1945 would be known for the early spring, then a cool summer. In counter-balance to the early spring blooms, the Showy Lady’s-slipper bloomed on the latest date known - June 28. The Yellow Lady's-slipper had not bloomed until June 11 - probably an all-time late date for that plant that normally blooms before the end of May. (2)

By the end of summer, Martha had planted 2,673 plants. Three were new to the Garden. No source was listed for the plants.

Martha Crone 1945 photo
Martha Crone in the upland, Minneapolis Tribune Sept. 16, 1945.

The reason for the large planting of Western Wallflower was explained in a September 16th story in the Minneapolis Tribune titled "Wild Flowers Beckon Visitors to Wirth Park."  (PDF) The lead-in was to tell people to visit now as the new prairie area was in peak bloom. The article then explained how Clinton Odell had been the force to create the area and what work Martha Crone had already accomplished. The article concluded with "One of the showplaces planned as part of a three-year development program is a hillside covered with yellow phlox which will face quests entering the Garden." This would be one of the "massed plantings" she references in her annual report.

The Tribune article contains a two factual errors: It states the original garden was 20 acres, whereas it was 3 acres; and it states the 1944 addition was 10 acres, whereas it was 4 acres.

Autumn 1945

Fringed Gentian
Fringed Gentian (Gentianopsis crinita), planted numerous times by Martha Crone. Photo by Martha Crone on Sept. 24, 1950.

Most of the fall months were spent with more planting and working on paths in the new Upland Garden. Martha would end the year having planted 4,106 new plants and sowing a quantity of seeds. Two new plants were added to the Garden in the fall:

Of species already in the Garden, some significant plantings were:
Butter & Eggs, (Linaria vulgaris) 125 plants
Large-flowered Penstemon, (Penstemon grandiflorus) 141 plants.

The Garden closed for the season on October 15th. Martha would state in her annual report (2):

More than 2,000 feet of newly made trails have been graveled. The trails winding gracefully to all parts of the Garden. Numerous mass plantings have been established along the trails, permitting easy access and giving the best effect.
An extensive program is being undertaken to re-establish some of the more elusive plants, among them the Fringed Gentian, Trailing Arbutus and various orchids.

The mention of "massed plantings" is a trait Martha favored, for the reasons she stated. In later years this idea was done away with so the that the Garden more resembled the wild place it originally was, with wildflowers growing among each other.

For a white Christmas, 11.3 inches of snow was provided on December 24/25, the snowiest Christmas on record to the present day.

(1) Annual Report to the Board of Park Commissioners dated January 30, 1946. First report to new Superintendent Charles E. Doell.

(2) Garden Log - 1945

Photo top of page: Group of Showy Lady’s-slippers. June 10, 1955. Photo from a Kodachrome by Martha Crone in May 1948.

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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


Martha Crone's Garden Log and her 1951 Census of plants in the Garden.

Various papers and correspondence of Eloise Butler and Martha Crone in the collection of the Minnesota Historical Society.

Kodachromes of Martha Crone are from her collection that was given to the Friends by her daughter Janet following Martha's death in 1989.

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. "" - 030422