Foam Flower Path.

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

Winter 1953/54

Martha Crone began her 22nd 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.

Flame Azalea
Flame Azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum). Photo ©G D Bebeau.

In the Friends’ newsletter (Vol. 2 No. 1, January 1954), Editor Martha Crone wrote about Partridge Berry, Asparagus, winter Bird Study, the need for a non-technical wild flower book, and then she listed some of the introduced plants in the Garden:

In addition to representing as many of our native flowers as possible, others have been introduced from various places to make the garden interesting and more attractive to visitors. The Azalea and Rhododendron plantings regularly arouse widespread interest. The area is splendidly adapted for the purpose of growing them successfully. The following varieties have weathered thru six winters without loss and bloomed beautifully:

Galax (Galax aphylla) photographed in the Garden on June 28, 1956 by Martha Crone. Click on image for larger version.

Another interesting introduction is Rhodora (Rhodora canadense), a small shrub with attractive pink flowers growing in moist places. A few others are Yellow Trillium (Trillium luteum) native in the Smokies, Rose Trillium (Trillium stylosum) Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum) from the south, Western Trillium (Trillium ovatum) from the west and (Galax aphylla) from the south.

The Friends held their second annual meeting on Tuesday January 5, 1954 at the offices of the Burma Vita Company at 2318 Chestnut Ave. West, in Minneapolis.

Elected to the Board of Directors were: Russell H. Bennett, Earle Brown, Dorothy Binder, Elizabeth Carpenter (new), Martha Crone, Donald C. Dayton, Clinton Odell, Leonard F. Ramberg, Carl Rawson (new), Mrs. Clarence (Ebba) Tolg.

Friends officers elected at the board meeting were Clinton Odell, President; Donald C. Dayton, Vice President; Mrs. Carroll (Dorothy) Binder, Vice President; Martha Crone Secretary/Treasurer. Bio's of officers.

After just 1-1/2 years of organization, Martha Crone takes over the treasurer duties from Leonard Ramberg; she was also in charge of membership and was editor of The Fringed Gentian™. Membership at the time was 176.

February 1954 was the warmest February since 1878.

Spring 1954

Ramshead Lady's-slipper
Ramshead lady's-slipper (Cypripedium arietinum) photographed in the Garden on June 9, 1954 by Martha Crone. Martha planted these in 1936, '37, '50, '51, and 1953. Click on image for larger version.

In the spring newsletter (Vol. 2 No. 2, April 1954) Martha Crone wrote about Red-wing Blackbirds, Citronella, wild flowers to plant from seed, and of spring she wrote:

It seems strange that so many of the first flowers to bloom when there is still danger of frost and snow-are the dainty, fragile varieties. The Dwarf or Snow Trillium which is only a few inches tall and a miniature of the later Large-flowered Trillium blooms first in the sweet seclusion of sheltered glens. Yet a wise precaution is taken by many of the firstlings against the chilly nights by folding up their blossoms when evening shadows fall.

The Garden opened on time on April 1. Martha recorded in her log:

After a warm Feb. and March and very little snow all winter, the opening day was very cold with a light snowfall, 20° high. On the second, still cold, 18° high and the morning of the 3rd 9 above. The 4th up to 40 and on the 5th 63°. The 6th was very warm, paths are muddy, no flowers out yet. (1)

By April 12 the first flowers appeared: Snow Trillium, Bloodroot, Hepatica, Skunk Cabbage, but then a snowstorm occurred on May 1st with a 28 degree temperature, resulting in many frozen plants. (2)

Planting for spring finally began the first week of May. Martha introduced seven new species to the Garden, none of which were native plants: (1)

Summer 1954

Foam flower on marsh path
The path in the wetland showing many Foam Flower (Tiarella cordifolia) in bloom; photographed on June 3, 1954 by Martha Crone. Click on image for a larger version.

In the summer newsletter (Vol. 2 No. 3, July 1954), Martha Crone wrote about Jack-in-the-Pulpit, the seeds and transplanting of Lady’s-slippers, Shooting star, mushrooms, and the joys of Summertime. About the newsletter she wrote:

This little publication attempts to save you valuable hours and fleeting opportunities by reminding you from time to time thru out the circle of the year of what is doing in the plant world, lest their brief period pass before you remember that this is their appointed season. Observation without records falls short of its possibilities for both value and enjoyment. Field notes made day by day will prove most valuable and be treasured for the pleasant associations they recall and become precious heirlooms.

On the Wild Flower Garden she writes:

Perhaps the title of “Wild Flower Garden" is a misnomer and greatly misleading. It would be more appropriate to call it “Wild Flower Sanctuary.” Many visitors expect to find a formal garden laid out in neatly trimmed beds and borders, with Rock Gardens rising up out of a mowed lawn, rather than a place where wild flowers are planted in beautiful natural surroundings to imitate their native habitats, where there is no fixed or formal order. They must have an environment suited to their being if they are to survive. The charm of a wild flower is found mostly in its natural setting. Here in this 13 acre tract of wilderness we endeavor to grow most wild flowers native to Minnesota as well as many from other States, where they are safe and can be enjoyed by interested patrons and where with care they can thrive for generations to come.

This commentary on the misleading name reminds us that Eloise Butler had reason to change the Garden’s name early in her tenure. She wrote in her early history “It was soon found that the term ‘Wild Botanic Garden’ was misleading to the popular fancy, so the name was changed to ‘Native Plant Reserve’.” Even more interesting here is that Martha Crone frequently referred to the Garden in her notes and reports as the “Reserve” not the “wild flower garden.”

On June 27 Minneapolis Tribune columnist George Luxton wrote about the lady's-slippers in bloom at the Garden. He quoted Martha: "The wonder of it never wanes. To miss the flowering season seems almost to lose a part of the spring. A visit to the gardens at this time of year should be an adventure long to be remembered." (PDF)

About the Garden space itself Luxton writes: "When you wander through cool glens on soft, mossy paths, shadowed by stately trees, some hundreds of years old, you will find it hard to realize that this unspoiled spot is only three miles from the skyscrapers of Minneapolis, which can be seen from the upland gardens."

She planted one new species during the summer - another non-native and probably someone's garden plant: (1)
Aconitum uncinatum, Southern Blue Monkshood, not native, "from Hinds, 1214 W. Broadway who got it from the North Shore."

Autumn 1954

In the fall newsletter (Vol. 2 No. 4, October 1954), Martha Crone wrote about plant conservation, Hummingbirds, fall moods, Tulip-tree, Duckweed, Dutchman’s Pipe-vine, Jacob’s Ladder and the plants that require acid soil. About autumn she wrote:

September and October days are really more ideal than the rare days in June. They are the two months of transition from one kind of beauty to another. Frost in the morning and cool air in the evening to give it zest, while the days are clear, sunny and warm.

Fairy Slipper Orchid (Calypso bulbosa), photographed in the Garden on June 1, 1954 by Martha Crone. She planted this species in 1954 and in many previous years back to 1935. Eloise Butler had also planted it in a number of years beginning in 1913. Click on image for larger version.

In September she planted one new species, which is native to Minnesota (1):
Aster pringlei [Symphyotrichum pilosum, var. pringlei] Pringle’s Aster, Awl Aster, native, no source given.

Later in November she planted another species new to the Garden:
Polemonium caeruleum, Charity, not native, no source given.

She gave 16 illustrated slide lectures to clubs, garden groups, school groups and others, totaling over 1,000 persons, the largest group being 300 at the Farm School Horticultural Short Course at the University of Minnesota. Her slide library now numbered 4,000. During the year she set out 902 new plants and many seeds were sown. Some of those plants were the new additions noted above. The remainder were species already in the Garden. Another 100 aluminum plant markers went up. (These were provided by Clinton Odell). (2)

Martha also noted that the dam across the water channel in the back of the wetland was in serious need of repair causing damage to the tarvia path outside the Garden. This dam was made of concrete and had been completed in May 1917 by Eloise Butler, replacing an earthen dam Eloise had erected earlier to create a small open pool at that end of the Garden. Martha noted having much trouble with muskrats, rabbits and pocket gophers. (2)

In her annual Friends Secretary’s report Martha Crone stated there were 192 members of the Friends and that her method of reaching new members was to award a book to all new members. The books were “Wildlife in Color” and "Wild Flowers for your Garden.” (3)

Martha was awarded an Award of Merit for Meritorious service in the promotion of horticulture by the Minnesota State Horticultural Society. (3)

It was not mentioned in her log, in the Friends newsletter, or in her annual report, but full time help arrived in the Garden this spring, when the Park Board hired Ken Avery to be her assistant.

The Minneapolis Star got an advance look at the January 1955 Friends newsletter when a December 18 column reported Martha's comments on the necessity of providing food for the wintering birds. It also announced the date for the upcoming Friends Annual Meeting.

(1). Garden Log
(2). Annual Report of the Garden Curator to the Board of Park Commissioners dated February 21, 1955 to Superintendent Charles E. Doell.
(3). Friends of the Wild Flower Garden Secretary’s Report - 1954

Photo top of page: A path into the wetland, photographed by Martha Crone on June 3, 1954.

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.

Archive of the Friends Newsletter The Fringed Gentian™
Vol. 2, # 1, January 1954, Martha Crone, Editor.

Vol. 2, # 2, April 1954, Martha Crone, Editor.

Vol. 2, # 3, July 1954, Martha Crone, Editor.

Vol. 2, # 4, October 1954, Martha Crone, Editor.

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. Text and research by Gary Bebeau. "https://www.friendsofthe" - 030522