Marsh in Summer 1952

History of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden
and The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden

Martha Crone began her 20th year as Garden Curator.

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.

In the Minneapolis Star on March 1 columnist Abe Altrowitz referenced the new plant list Martha had compiled in 1951. He wrote that you shouldn't let scientific names stump you because Mrs. Crone had completed an index identifying 787 plants at the Garden and that see would be offering the list for 10 cents when the Garden opens. (PDF)

An entry in the March 30th Tribune announced an evening program at Waite Park school were Martha would join Carl Holst from the Minneapolis Rose Garden in presenting a talk on general spring gardening.

Spring 1952

Snow Trillium
Snow Trillium (Trillium nivale), photographed in the Garden on April 19, 1952 by Martha Crone.

The Garden opened about two weeks late due to snows and cold weather. There was a snow storm on March 22 that dropped 15 inches of snow. Snow was still several feet deep in garden on the 1st. April 6 to the 11th was still cold with deep snow. Martha chipped out the ice around the Garden gate on the 9th and opened.(1)(2)

The first Snow Trillium came out on April 14. The week of the 13 to 19 was very warm, and by April 20 the temperature was 80 degrees. Unusually warm for April as these temperatures indicate: 4/26 - 81°, 4/27 - 85°, 4/29 - 91°, 4/30 - 92°. The early plant bloom, delayed by the snow, was then accelerated by the warm weather, as the date on some of her photos indicates.

On April 20, she planted 4 unusual non-native plants that were obtained from Robbins Blue Ridge Nursery in Ashford NC:

large flowered trillium
A bed of Large Flowered Trillium Trillium grandiflorum, photographed in the Garden on April 29, 1952 by Martha Crone. Click on image for larger version.

As to that last plant - in 1954 she wrote about the Citronella: [The Fringed Gentian™ (Vol. 2 No. 2)]

Did you know that Citronella (Collinsonia canadensis) of the mint family is another plant that has many common names. Its one scientific name definitely identifies it. Some of the common names are Rich-leaf, Stone-root, Knob-root, Knob-grass, Horse-weed, Knob-week, Ox-balm, Horse-balm, and Collinson's-flower. It grows native from Quebec to Ontario south to Florida and westward. This erect branched perennial is well established in the Wild Flower Garden. The yellow, lemon-scented flowers appear in October and bloom until frost. Oil of Citronella is not derived from this plant.

On May 19th the Hummingbirds returned to the Garden.

Summer 1952

Woodland Garden in summer 1952
The Woodland Garden with Garden Office atop the hill, photographed on May 15, 1952 by Martha Crone. Click on image for a larger version.

On June 18th Articles of Incorporation were filled with the State of Minnesota for The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc., a non-profit group formed for the purposes of advancing, promoting and furthering the interests of the Municipal Wild Flower Garden in Theodore Wirth Park conducted by the Board of Park Commissioners of the City of Minneapolis. The formation of the group was announced in the Minneapolis Star on June 27.

The legal work of creating the articles of incorporation and the bylaws was done by Joseph Colman of the Dorsey Firm. He also handled the filing of non-profit status with the Internal Revenue Service and that status was approved in late 1953.

The founding directors were Clinton M. Odell, Russell H. Bennett, Dorothy Binder, Martha E. Crone, Donald C. Dayton, Leonard F. Ramberg.

Foam flower in the marsh
Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) in bloom along the path in the marsh. Photographed in the Garden on May 31, 1952 by Martha Crone. Click on image for larger version.

Clinton Odell was a student of Eloise Butler and a frequent visitor to the Wild Flower Garden. When Martha Crone became curator he provided assistance to her. He felt it imperative there always be a group of citizens who would work for the best interests of the Garden. He was concerned the Garden could become expendable if the Park Board had to cut costs. His full story is found in this article: Clinton Odell.

The background of the other directors is: Russell H. Bennett was Chairman of the Board of Dunwoody Institute; Dorothy Binder was a Twin Cities journalist; Donald C. Dayton was President of the Dayton Company; Leonard F Ramberg was affiliated with the American Swedish Institute and Augsburg College where he was later Chairman of the Board of Regents. Details on those four directors HERE.

Clinton Odell wrote letters to many of his business acquaintances inviting them to become a member of The Friends. Here is an example letter and an early membership form in this photo.

The summer was fairly dry and Martha Crone had to use supplemental water.(1) She also added two additional non-native species to the Garden:

On of the plant oddities repeated itself this year. Martha located Rue Anemone doubles. Two on May 19 near Fletcher MN and 10 on July 31 at Red Wing MN. In 1951 she was given one “in coffee can from Mrs. H. S. Olson, 302 So. D. St., Lake Worth, Florida, found at Wacouta near Red Wing in 1923.” (1951 Garden Log)

Autumn 1952

Upland Garden in October
The entrance path into the Upland Garden, photographed by Martha Crone on October 17, 1952. Click on image for a larger version.

The Minnesota Horticultural Society held its 86th annual meeting the last week in September. Martha Crone was one of the guest speakers.

In October of 1952 Martha planted several more exotic species - the first of which is a real pest and has been stubbornly eliminated.

On October 21 Martha wrote: "Witch Hazel on west hill came into bloom. Garden is tinder dry, no rain since last of August. Sprinklers going everywhere. Several killing frosts last week. Water pipes froze in some parks and burst, we kept faucets partly open."

Twin Flower Linnea borealis. Photo ©Kitty Kohout, Wisconsin Flora.

Martha Crone had produced a brochure titled “Self Conducted Tour" thru the Garden and nearly 10,000 were handed out this past year.(1) [example below] She estimated attendance at more than 50,000 persons. She also totaled her new plant count at 1,067 of which 231 were purchased and the remainder sourced by Martha herself from various scrounging around. Some of those plants were the new additions noted above. The remainder were species already in the Garden. Martha was fond of starting plants from seed in the fall and a number of the plants she reports setting out in the Garden in large quantities undoubtedly came from seedlings.

Even though the Garden closed on October 31, Martha was still busy planting in November. Her last entry in her log was on November 17. when she logged planting 25 Twinflower, Linnea borealis, along the marsh path.

She was still in the process of completing a slide library for group talks and during the year she gave 27 illustrated slide lectures to clubs, garden groups, school groups and others totaling over 1,600 persons this year. The two largest groups were the Woman’s Club and the Minnesota Horticultural Society. (1) Another group was the Minnesota Botanical society meeting held on December 10.

In her report to the Park Board, Martha also acknowledged the founding of the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden and that it is composed of “public spirited citizens for the furtherance of making the garden an outstanding institution. It is a non-profit corporation, no officers of which can draw any salaries. The official publication of this group is called “The Fringed Gentian” and is issued quarterly. Timely articles and items of interest to the members will be published there-in.”

During the year Clinton Odell provided the funds for another 100 aluminum plant labels, adding to those he had provided in previous years.

Below: The front page of the new Self Conducted Tour brochure. It was eight pages, containing trail descriptions and a map. The map is shown below. An application for membership in the Friends was included. The brochure was printed by the Dayton Company. Donald Dayton, President of Daytons was on the Friends Board of Directors. PDF image of entire brochure.

1952 Self conducted Tour brochure

Below: Martha Crone's 1952 hand-drawn map that was part of the Tour brochure. The scale vertically is much compressed to fit the paper size. Compare to the aerial photo below.

1952 map

Below: An aerial photo of the Garden area from spring 1947. All the features of Crone's 1952 map appear to be already in place. Click on image for an expanded version.

1947 aerial photo

(1) Annual Reports of the Garden Curator to the Board of Park Commissioners - dated February 4, 1953 to Charles E. Doell.
(2). Garden Log

Photo top of page: The Marsh photographed on May 15, 1952 by Martha Crone. Note the open pool of water which was one of the three new pools Martha had excavated in 1947. Click on image for the full image.

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

Year chart - all years
Garden History Archive

Friends 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.

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 non-garden photos are 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" - 030521