Upland Garden in Oct.

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

Winter 1954/55

Martha Crone began her 23rd year as Garden Curator in the 49th year of the Garden.

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.

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 Friends’ newsletter (Vol. 3 No. 1, January 1955) Editor Martha Crone wrote about Leatherwood, Rhododendrons, evergreens in Winter, Holly and Devil’s Club. About the winter season she wrote:

What a fairyland the woods present after a snowstorm, when every tree is outlined in softest white, and every branch sparkles wherever the sunbeams rest. The new snow muffles the echoes and there is new beauty where only bare bleakness existed before.
During the winter leafless trees make it possible to become familiar with the shapes of the many species, also to distinguish a tree by its bark and twigs. Leaf buds are fascinating to study at this time.

Devil's Club
Devil's Club (Oplopanax horridus), Photo ©R.A. Howard, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database

Some background on the Devil’s Club:
Here’s what Martha wrote in the Newsletter:
Devil’s Club or Devil’s Walking Stick (Panax horridum - now Oplopanax horridus) is a member of the Ginseng Family. The densely prickly stems grow as tall as 13 feet. Both sides of the large leaves have scattered pickles. This plant often forms extensive dense thickets and because of the sharp prickles these are almost impenetrable. It grows abundantly in the forest of the pacific slope from Oregon to Alaska, and is also found about Lake Superior as well as in Japan. A number of plants are thriving in the Wild Flower Garden.

Eloise Butler originally introduced the plant to the Garden in 1921 with plants from Isle Royal. In 1935 Martha planted more. These also came from Isle Royal via Gertrude Cram. When sending the plant to Martha, Mrs. Cram wrote “I hope you receive the Devil’s Club in sufficiently good condition to enable you to recognize it. The package was a flimsy one - there is never a box to be had here without reserving it weeks in advance - and I was not sure it would get through the mail. I put in two young plants in case you want to start a colony in your own yard or in the wild garden! It really is a handsome plant even if it is vicious.” It is uncertain how long the plants lasted but they are no longer extant.

The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden held their annual meeting on Tuesday January 4, 1955 at the offices of the Burma Vita Company at 2318 Chestnut Ave. West, in Minneapolis.

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

Friends officers elected at the board meeting following the annual meeting were Clinton Odell, President; Donald C. Dayton, Vice President; Mrs. Carroll (Dorothy) Binder, Vice President; Martha Crone Secretary/Treasurer. Martha Crone was also in charge of membership and was editor of The Fringed Gentian™.

Membership at the time was 200. It was voted to give $500 to the Board of Park Commissioners to assist in maintenance of the Wild Flower Garden.

On February 26, Abe Altrowitz in his Minneapolis Star  column announced that Martha Crone had been named one of 10 winners in the national awards of the Horticultural Travel foundation - nominated by the Minnetonka Men's Garden Flower Club. The award was worth $100 off a fee for joining the foundation's European Garden Tour in the spring. That of course, was not practical so she did not participate.

During March the Garden office was broken into with damages being the broken window on the north side of the office, the cut wire that protected the window, and the loss of Martha Crone’s rock collection, some of which she found outside the office and in the wetland. (1, 3)

Spring 1955

Minnesota Dwarf Trout lily
Minnesota Dwarf Trout Lily (Erythronium propullans) photographed in the Garden on April 25, 1955 by Martha Crone. Click on image for larger version.

In the spring newsletter Vol. 3 No. 2, April 1955, Martha Crone wrote about spring bird migration, how the date of Easter is determined, Kumquat, Regal Lily, the various pests of the Garden and of the 11 Trillium species present at that time, several of which are no longer extant.

On the topic of conservation she wrote:

With the advance of civilization the complete destruction of vast areas of native vegetation is inevitable. That Minnesota may retain more of that primitive beauty, let us use our influence for conservation of native plant life wherever it is still found. It is our heritage. Let us preserve it as we have received it, and pass it on, unspoiled, for the enjoyment and inspiration of future generations.

Clinton Odell noted that Martha would have two helpers in the Garden in 1955, many new seeds and plants were on order and that over 100 additional aluminum plant labels were being added.

On April 7, the first plants were in bloom: Snow Trillium, Hepatica, Red Maple and Skunk Cabbage. That same day she began her seasonal planting with 20 ferns - 10 Common Polypody and 10 Purple-stemmed Cliff Brake.

In May Friends members received an invitation from Clinton Odell and Dorothy Binder for the first annual picnic and get-together to be held on Saturday May 14. Lunch was provided by The Friends and served at 12:15 at the Park Board shelter across the avenue from Wirth Beach. Following lunch, Martha Crone gave a tour of the Garden.

On May 30th Martha Crone was interviewed on WCCO radio by Darragh Aldrick. Martha spoke about the Garden and her slide lectures about which she received many responses. (3) She estimated that 10,000 people came to the Garden each Sunday in May and offered thanks to Friends member Miss Gene Dorman who helped out on busy days (3). Those May visitation estimates seem wrong since her visitor count estimate for the year was 80,000, but her number of 10,000 could seem more reasonable if she meant all the Sundays of May in total.

Hepatica Hill
Hepatica Hill on April 17, 1955; photo by Martha Crone. Click on image for larger copy.

During the spring Martha planted six species that were noted in her log for the first time and these are first time in the Garden also. Most are not native.

Summer 1955

Showy Lady's-slippers
Clumps of Showy Lady's-slippers (Cypripedium reginae) in bloom; photographed on June 10, 1955 by Martha Crone. Click on image for a larger version.

In the summer newsletter (Vol. 3 No. 3, July 1955), Martha Crone wrote about the summer birds, Moneywort, the Tall Bellflower, what you would find blooming along the woodland paths from spring into summer, and potato seeds. About the value of the Wild Flower Garden she wrote:

The propagation of wild flowers or in other words the flowers that were here originally when white man came, is a worthwhile service to the community. Only a few varieties of wild flowers are normally found growing in any one locality. Rarely are there more than a few different sorts at anyone time in wild areas. Here is the Wild Flower Garden - in an area of only 13 acres, there is a greater variety of vegetation than can only be found in greatly scattered territories. This is the result of the introduction of hundreds of native varieties as well as many from other states which offer real advantage to the garden.

In spite of the close proximity of plants which is necessitated by the endless varieties, the garden is being kept a place of beauty and wonder after natures own pattern. The irregularities of surface afford differences in light, exposure and moisture, thereby making it ideal for plants of many requirements.

She wrote of summer:

The golden summer when the days are long are here again. The dainty spring flowers have long since passed, and the deeper colors of summer flowers are now noted. Mingled with these are a number of white flowers all too little appreciated. They give us a source of light and restfulness, and serve to intensify the brilliant colors. In nature no colors clash.

Garden Office
The Garden Office in the Fall; photographed on October 21, 1955 by Martha Crone. Click on image for a larger version.

On the development of the upland Garden she wrote:

When the upland or prairie garden was established ten years ago the area was a ticket of sumac and various other shrubs. These have been removed and thousands of typical prairie plants of various kinds introduced. Here the sun beats down all day and only the deep-rooted plants of the prairie will thrive. The success in growing these plants is to provide good drainage. However the annuals will not germinate readily during a dry spring and will be greatly lacking. Most perennial deep-rooted plants are best started from seed, since they are difficult to transplant.

The prairie garden becomes colorful in midsummer when the spring flowers have gone and the shade in the woodland is so dense that very few plants will bloom there.

Aside from the graveled trails leading to all parts of the area and a number of settees conveniently placed, it is kept as natural as any native prairie.

Martha gave a list of birds she noted nesting in the Garden:
Indigo Bunting, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Catbird, Robin, Brown Thrasher, House Wren, Blue Jay, Wood Pewee, Phoebe, Crested Flycatcher, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Flicker, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Barred Owl, Broad-winged Hawk, Ring-necked Pheasant, Red-eyed Vireo, Yellow Warbler, Northern Yellow-throat, Baltimore Oriole, Cardinal, Field Sparrow, Eastern Green Heron, Wood Duck and Goldfinch.

The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher was again seen adjacent to the garden where it nested some years ago. It had not been noted in this locality for many years. Lulu May Aler wrote that the bird first appeared in the area in 1936; then in 1939 it was seen in the Garden area and it appeared again in Martha’s 1942 and 1943 diary notes.

Martha added one new species in the summer: Asclepias viridiflora, Green Milkweed, native, from the Kasota prairie.

The summer was very hot and dry and Crone had to make use of the Garden water system extensively. (2)

Autumn 1955

In the fall newsletter (Vol. 3 No. 4, October 1955), Martha Crone wrote about the October flowers, the Ginseng Family, the Spider Flower, the Milkweed Family, and that the Hummingbird left the Garden on September 8th, a week earlier than average.

The most unusual plant she obtained in the fall was:
Cladonia rangiferina, Reindeer moss, no source given, but Eloise had also planted it in 1924 and 1927.

In the Minneapolis Tribune on September 11, George Luxton wrote about the fall wildflowers mentioning Martha Crone and the Upland Garden where many could be seen.

Below: The Upland Garden in Autumn, photographed on October 24, 1955 by Martha Crone. Click on image for taller version.

Upland Garden in fall

Martha reported setting out 1,120 new plants and numerous seedlings and another 100 aluminum plant markers. Some of those 1,120 plants were the new additions noted above. The remainder were species already in the Garden. She gave 24 illustrated slide lectures to clubs, garden groups, school groups and others, totaling over 1,300 persons with the largest group being 350 for an In Service Training Course at the Park Board. The dam she complained about last year at the end of the Pool was still not fixed and finally this plea - “The Comfort Station facilities of the garden have been most deplorable for many years, becoming more so with the ever increasing attendance. The situation has been looked over and it is earnestly hoped that it will be improved this season.” (2)

In her annual Friends of the Wild Flower Garden Secretary’s report (3) Martha stated there were 183 members of the Friends. Also noted was the work being done on the new Fern Garden being developed in an undeveloped part of the new upland Garden, with funds ($775) from a gift to the Friends from the Minnetonka Garden Club and the Little Minnetonka Garden Flower Club.(4)

She estimated 80,000 visited the Garden, with mosquitoes being absent due to her new sprayer provided by the Friends and the fact that the weather was hot with extended dry spells. (3) The year was not extraordinarily dry, but there was just over 21 inches of precipitation whereas almost 28 inches in average.

Her helpers in the Garden this year were Ken Avery and Robert Clark. (5)

(1). Garden Log
(2). Martha Crone's Annual Report to the Board of Park Commissioners dated February 14, 1956 to Superintendent Charles E. Doell.
(3). Friends of the Wild Flower Garden Secretary’s Report - 1955
(4). That the money was a gift to the Friends was noted in Martha Crone's 1956 Secretary's Report and was also reported on January 8, 1956 in George Luxton's column in the Minneapolis Tribune. (pdf)
(5). Martha Crone records at Minnesota Historical Society.

Photo top of page: The Upland Garden photographed by Martha Crone on October 24, 1955. Note the chain link fence that marked the Garden boundary prior to the 1944 upland addition is still in place. A section of the fence was still there in 1993 and was removed and used to fence in the 1993 one acre addition to the Upland Garden. Click on image for taller photo.

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 Friends of the Wild Flower Garden.

Archive of the Friends Newsletter The Fringed Gentian™
Vol. 3, # 1, January 1955, Martha Crone, Editor.

Vol. 3, # 2, April 1955, Martha Crone, Editor.

Vol. 3, # 3, July 1955, Martha Crone, Editor.

Vol. 3, # 4, October 1955, 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 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 wildflowergarden.org" - 030522