Garden Office in winter

History of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

Office after a snow
The old Garden office after the April 14th snow storm; photographed by Martha Crone.

NOTE on photos: From 1948 to 1957 Martha Crone assembled a collection of Kodachrome slides that she took of plants and landscape of the Wildflower Garden. The assemblage eventually totaled over 4,000 slides. She used these slides to give illustrated lectures about the Garden to various clubs, groups and organizations. Martha Crone was a founding member of the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, a director from 1952 to 1972 and an honorary life member thereafter.

After her death in 1989 her daughter Janet, passed the collection to the Friends via Friends member Martha Hellander who was in the process of researching a book about Eloise Butler. The Friends sorted the collection and then for a short time, used them at lectures about the Garden. Some of those images are shown on this page.

Many new plants set out in 1949 are, again like 1946 to ’48, non native, apparently an attempt to see what would grow in the new prairie area. Many did not last even until the 1951 census. The source is given for some of new plants. Most of this year’s history is concerned with the new plants Martha introduced.

With the development of the Upland Garden, it is incredible the amount of planting Martha Crone did in 1946-1948. In 1949 things slow down; now it seems, it was more experimental and less of stocking the Garden. And still it seems, that she lost the energy to record bird activity in her log, which was a staple of Garden Logs before the War. Her only entries were about the Hummingbirds in September and the Pileated Woodpecker in Summer.

Spring 1949

Birch Pond after snow.
View of Birch Pond and the Parkway on April 14, 1949 photographed by Martha Crone. Click on image for a larger version.

The first Garden Log entry for the season is on April 1st, opening day:

Opened garden after 10 inch snowfall of 2 days ago. Appearance of midwinter, Nothing out.

This would be a fickle spring. The first Snow Trilliums and the Skunk Cabbage came into bloom on April 10 but then on April 14:

Heavy snow storm of 9 1/2 inches of snow, again we are in midwinter. Snow Trilliums buried under.

The official snow total was 9.3 inches and as of 2021 it is still the 3rd largest single event snowfall in April in local weather history.

On the 21st:

Snow gone and Trilliums look fresh, not at all harmed. Also in bloom Hepatica, Bloodroot, Pasque-flowers, many trees. Planted 60 Walking Ferns.

On the 26th:

Pasque-flowers and Hepaticas making a wonderful show. Over 50 clumps of Pasque-flowers in bloom. Hepaticas everywhere, 1 plant has 85 blooms.

A large number of plants new to the Garden were introduced in the spring. "Native" refers to a plant found in the wild in Minnesota, at settlement time. "Introduced" means the plant is found here but originally imported from somewhere else. "Not native" means the plant is native to North America but not to Minnesota. If the species survived until the 1951 census it is noted in the list. Updated scientific names are given in [ ].

Marsh with pool
One of the pools in the marsh that was enlarged in 1948, the mound of fresh excavation surrounding it. Marsh Marigolds blooming; photographed on May 6, 1949 by Martha Crone. Click on image for a larger version.
Clinton Odell in the Garden
Clinton Odell in the Wild Flower Garden. Photo Minneapolis Tribune

On May 12, the Minneapolis Tribune re-published an article from the Christian Science Monitor about Clinton Odell. The writer was not given credit but there are hints that journalist Dorothy Binder had some connection with putting this into print. The article reviews Odell's connection to the Wild Flower Garden, beginning with his high school natural science teacher, Eloise Butler. One quote from the article states:

The well-dressed man whom visitors to the Eloise Butler Wild Flower Garden in Minneapolis see pulling weeds every week-end except in the dead of winter is not the superintendent of parks. Five days a week he is the chairman of the board of the saving cream company (Burma Shave) which adorns the roadside with jingles designed to discourage traffic accidents and encourage shavers to remove their whiskers with his products.” “While fellow businessmen are out digging holes in the turf on their favorite links, Odell is digging holes to plant some choice specimen just received from a distant part of the country.

Another quote from the article helps explain the increasing number of non-native species that Martha Crone was planting. "Every northern wild flower can grow here except mountain flowers, and we are trying out some of them. We've established contacts all over the nation for exchange of seeds and plants."

Another quote refers to Martha Crone's creating mass plantings of certain species: "New specimens are planted in beds so they won't be crowded out by the grass and so we can cover them in winter." [Get PDF copy of the article here.]

Summer 1949

Office with Sundrops
The Garden Office with sundrops in bloom; photographed on June 23, 1949 by Martha Crone. Click on image for a larger version.

In June access to the Garden from Wayzata Blvd. was cut off for construction of a new bridge over the boulevard. Martha reported in a news article that attendance was greatly reduced at the Wild Flower Garden because some people could not find it. The Tribune on June 5 printed a map with directions for access from Glenwood Avenue. (PDF)

Again, a number of plants new to the Garden were introduced in the summer. Only one species survived until the 1951 - noted in the list. Updated scientific names are given in [ ]. One is questionable as to what she actually planted.

By the end of summer Martha had set out 1,741 plants, including all of the above Her only bird note during the summer was the Pileated Woodpecker nesting in a Basswood tree near the east path in the lower Garden.

Autumn 1949

Lupines in bloom
A grouping of Lupine in bloom in the new Upland Garden; photographed in the Garden in June 1949 by Martha Crone. Click on image for a larger version.

By the time the Garden closed the total count of plants set out in 1949 2,615, compared to 8,003 in 1948.
The following plants set out in the autumn are new to the Garden and we note which ones survived until the 1951 census, most did not. Updated scientific names are given in [ ].

Upland Garden Path
Path in the Upland Garden. Note the tall pole which has a martin house on it; photographed by Martha Crone on June 28, 1949. Click on image for a larger version.

In addition Martha planted seeds of numerous species - listed on 4 pages of hand written notes. Most seeds were planted in flats near the office where they would over-winter as necessary for germination. Martha had numerous boxes marked alphabetically for seeds in addition to seeding in pots. Her planting continued throughout October and into December to the 6th. The Garden season had been extended to the end of October in 1947.

Cold weather came late in 1949. There was no snow to speak of until December, so the buildings at the Garden were painted on November 2nd and the water to the Upper Garden was not shut off until November 14th.

Her last entry was December 16: “Scattered on light blanket of snow in swamp, seeds of White Gentian, Gentiana rubricaulis, weather warm 33°.” This seed was from one of the new plants obtained in the Spring.

As in the previous year, and even with the reduced plant count, there were some existing species that were planted in very large numbers at various times during the year. Rather than list them by season, here is the list for the year of such plants. Many of these could be seedlings that Martha had seeded in flats the prior year.

Trillium nivale, Snow Trillium, 145 plants.
Hepatica acutiloba, Sharp-lobed Hepatica, 212.
Viola pedata, Bird’s-foot Violet, 500.

Evening Primrose in bloom
Upland Garden with Evening Primrose and Partridge Pea in bloom; photographed by Martha Crone on July 30, 1949. Click on image for a larger version.

The only mention of birds in the autumn log was that the Hummingbirds were still feeding on various days in September. The last note was on the 18th that she still saw a few.

She summarized the years activities in her annual report. Here are two additional items.

Many of rarer species which formerly were unable to adapt themselves to varying environmental condition have been encouraged, with great success, such as the beautiful Yellow Trillium (Trillium luteum) which has its home only in the Smokies, has been firmly established, as well as many others.(1)
This plant was first brought in by Martha in 1946, planted again in 1949, and she would add more in the 1950s.

She writes that numerous requests were made by Garden visitors and by mail for some brochure type information about the Garden. She and the Park Board would introduce such a brochure in 1950.

The attendance was somewhat curtailed during the later part of the Summer due to the mosquito scourge. Much time was spent spraying but with little effect. Approximately 42,000 patrons visited the garden during the season.(1)

(1) Annual Reports of the Garden Curator to the Board of Park Commissioners - dated January 20, 1950 to Charles E. Doell.

Photo top of page: The Garden Office in the middle of a wide view of the front fence in Winter; photographed on December 12, 1948 by Martha Crone.

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

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.

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

Meeting Minutes and correspondence of The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden.

Historical Climatology of Minneapolis-St. Paul Area by Charles Fisk.

Friends Home Page

©2017 Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. All photos are the property of The Friends unless otherwise credited. Photos as credited. Text and research by Gary Bebeau. "" - 030522