Marsh in winter

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

Winter 1956/57

Martha Crone began her 25th year as Garden Curator and the Garden entered its 51st year.

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.

Snow trillium
A rare 4-petaled Snow Trillium, photographed on April 22, 1957 by Martha Crone. The Snow Trillium is usually the first spring flower.

In the Friends’ newsletter (Vol. 5 No. 1, January 1957), Editor Martha Crone wrote about last year’s growing season, about the Barred and Great Horned Owl, how bayberry candles were made, the Persimmon Tree, planting our native ferns, Rhododendrons, and the Bitternut Hickory (Carya cordiformis). About the current winter season she wrote:

The greatest joy in winter-time is to think of the beauty of coming spring and summer when sunshine again floods the glens. New green and new spring flowers.

She reviewed the culture of growing ferns and where to plant various types of ferns, all of which species she was currently planting the in the new Fern Glen established the prior year. Friends President Clinton Odell wrote about the Achievement in Horticulture Bronze Medal Martha had received the previous October from the Minnesota Horticultural Society - one of two awarded in 1956.

The Friends held their annual meeting on Wednesday January 2, 1957 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™.

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

December of 1956 and January of 1957 were mild as Martha Crone noted in her log (1) and with a lack of snow. she also noted that Sparrows were bathing in pools of water after a rain.

Spring 1957

Marsh in May
A view of the path in Marsh with Marsh Marigolds, photographed on May 7, 1957 by Martha Crone. Click on image for a wider and larger view.

On April 1 the Garden opened with no snow on the ground but the frost deep into the ground. Martha Crone noted in her log (1) that the winter has been rather mild and with a lack of snow. After the heavy snow of last November 15 there was little until March 15 this year, but April had three snowfalls. The Snow Trilliums were out on April 18 followed by:

Bloodroot, Pasque-flower, Dutchman’s Breeches, etc. Altho Hepatica were beautiful they lasted only a few days due to temperatures of 85 and 88 degrees. They were at their best Apr. 27 and 28.”

On April 3 she noted her first planting of the year - 50 white Mertensia in various places from Mrs. Knudsen in Springfield Ill. They were snowed under the next day with 7 inches.

In the spring newsletter (Vol. 5 No. 2, April 1957), Martha wrote about the easier wild flowers to grow from seed, spring birds, suggestions for making bird houses for martins, wrens and bluebirds, Wild Ginger, spring Orchids and a few edible wild plants. About spring she wrote:

Mere words cannot describe the fragrance of the very breath of spring - a mingling of rain soaked soil just warming in the sun, and the early spring flowers. Commencing with the dainty little Snow Trillium, followed by countless others in swift procession. These early flowers are the most, delicate and the most admired for their beauty.

Twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla), Photo ©G D Bebeau.

Martha noted the publication of a book by Edith Schussler about early life in Montana - “Doctors, Dynamite and Dogs.” Mrs. Schussler was an early pupil and a friend of Eloise Butler. She is pictured in the group photo at Eloise’s 80th birthday party in 1931 and and she was also of friend of Martha’s. A letter to Martha from Edith is noted in the 1939 history.

Writing about the purpose of the Wild Flower Garden, Martha states:

One of the primary purposes of the garden is to help awaken an interest in the out-of-doors, among those who may not yet fully appreciate it. In the garden in a short time, first hand knowledge of wild flowers can be obtained in a relatively small area. Set in a picturesque wooded area, flowers are growing in as nearly a natural environment as can be created. A sufficiently simple method of determining plants will be found.

Among other plants put in this spring, the following were planted for the first time in the Garden:

Below: White Mertensia, (Mertensia virginica). Martha Crone planted 25 of them in 1957. Photo G D Bebeau.

White Virginia Bluebells

Summer 1957

Yellow Lady's-slipper
The Yellow Lady's-slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum var. makasin) in bloom in the Garden, photographed on June 6, 1957 by Martha Crone. Click on image for a larger version.

Im the summer newsletter (Vol. 5 No. 3, July 1957), Martha wrote about the progression of plants from spring into summer, how to plant Trilliums, methods of seed dispersal, the 10 showiest wildflowers, Coralroot, Indian Pipe, and again, the usefulness of the Wild Flower Garden. About summer she wrote:

Summer is now singing its noon song, as it dreams of timid spring flowers now past. By the middle of July, midsummer is half-way between the first growth of June and September's ripening. Goldfinches are gathering the ripened thistle down to line their nests. This beautiful bird nests when others have already reared their broods. The parade of flowers that started in the woods has gradually moved out into the meadows, wood edges and open upland gardens. The colors deepen under the summer sun after the youth of spring is done.

Friends President Clinton Odell received an award this past spring and Martha wrote:

Mr. Clinton M. Odell, our president had the distinction of being awarded an honor plaque, for his many years service in conservation. It was presented by Mr. Cox, Past State Forester, in behalf of and during the 1957 Northwest Sportsman's Show. The Inscription on the plaque reads -

To Clinton M. Odell
Courageous Crusader for Conservation
From the 1957 Northwest Sportsman's Show

This honor bestowed upon Mr. Odell is well deserved, for his many contributions to advancement of Conservation in many lines. His vision and enthusiasm have been the nucleus to help preserve our fast disappearing Natural Resources. He has kindled the interest of many in the great out-of-doors.

During the summer, just outside the Garden, the Park Board built a water diversion pipeline that ran from Bassett’s Creek to Brownie Lake and was to be used to add water to the Chain of Lakes when necessary. Pumping began immediately in 1958. The line bisects that boggy area between the picnic grounds and the north side of the Garden, then follows a pathway toward Birch Pond running parallel to the west side of the Garden. The gravel path through that boggy area was put in during the winter of 1975 when crews had to get in heavy equipment to remove diseased American Elms.

2010 photo
The northern meadow, site of the old Lily Pond, is now bisected by the gravel path covering the large water diversion pipeline from Bassett's Creek to Brownie Lake. Eloise Butler’s Mallard Pool was on the far right side of the photo. Photo courtesy Google.
path in marsh
That gravel path in the early years could get very soggy during spring melt. In more recent years it has been built up a little better. Friends photo.

The Showy Lady' slippers bloomed later than average this summer. In his June 30 column in the Minneapolis Tribune George Luxton wrote that the weekend of the 30th would be the last to see the blooms as recent heavy rains had been hard on them. He quoted Martha Crone as saying "Although they normally grow in swamps and wet woods, they can be grown successfully in gardens. They will persist indefinitely when planted in a congenial situation."

Luxton then listed her criteria for a congenial situation and he ended by saying "If proper conditions cannot be met it is well not to waste the plants, since they would soon disappear." Not mentioned in the planting requirements was anything about symbiotic relationship with certain soil fungus called “mycorrhiza.” This was not well understood at that time. He also noted that the collection had about 100 plants which was one of the largest groups in the world and that "it is the pride and joy of Martha Crone, Curator of the gardens."

Autumn 1957

During the autumn Martha Crone added another 308 ferns to the new Fern Glen, begun the prior year, bringing the total to 2,468 and still had $138 of the original grant of $775 to spend. The telephone she requested in 1956 was added during the season so the office was no longer the smallest office in Minneapolis without a telephone, but it still did not have electricity. She gave 15 illustrated slide lectures to clubs, garden groups, school groups and others, totaling almost 1,200 persons with the largest group being the American Institute of Park Executives at the Leamington Hotel on September 23. Back in March she had traveled to Springfield Illinois for a presentation to 200 at the Civic Garden Club. (2)

Garden Office in fall
The Garden Office among the fall colors, photographed on October 15, 1950 by Martha Crone. Click on image for a larger version.

In the fall newsletter (Vol. 5 No. 4, October 1957), Martha wrote about wildflower conservation, which seeds are poisonous, plants to attract birds, the grouping of ferns and azaleas. She then reported on a plant census taken in a 100 x 200 foot area around the Garden office. It contained 163 different species counting all the trees, vines, shrubs and forest floor plants Her intention was to show how a small area can contain a large number of native plants (although the area around the office was probably one of the most saturated due to its location). She also added this:

Much has been said for and against mosquito spraying. It has been proven in the garden after several years of spraying, mosquitoes are kept under control without harm to birds, honey bees, yellow jackets, dragon-flies and various other insects. It is to be regretted that spraying doesn’t control gnats. (2)

It is not known what chemical Martha was using, whether it was DDT or something else, but it would just a few years before “Silent Spring” was published.

She wrote about the flowers of autumn:

Henry Thoreau wrote of autumn sunshine as the glowing embers of summer's fire. A golden blaze has burned brightly for some time this fall, interrupted occasionally by much needed moisture. Nature has again corrected the drouth of the past several years. After this brilliance has passed a frost or heavy wind brings the leaves showering down to carpet the ground. The beauties of nature are an unending source of pleasure. Summer is gone until another year and steps of autumn can be heard.

By the end of the season she had added 880 plants to the Garden. That included 348 ferns, of which 308 went to the new Fern Glen. The other 40 were 15 Walking Fern that were planted elsewhere due to their special habitat needs and 25 Common Polypody that were planted around the 1917 Birdbath. On November 6, her last log entry, she noted the Norway Maple had turned yellow and was shedding leaves (1). She had planted the tree in 1949.

Martha had two helpers in the Garden this year - Ken Avery and Robert Clark. (3)

(1). Garden Log
(2). Martha Crone's Annual Report to the Board of Park Commissioners dated February 8, 1958 to Superintendent Charles E. Doell.
(3). Martha Crone records at Minnesota Historical Society.

Photo top of page: The wetland in Winter, photo by Martha Crone on November 8, 1951.

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.

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 Friends of the Wild Flower Garden.

Archive of the Friends Newsletter The Fringed Gentian™
Vol. 5, # 1, January 1957, Martha Crone, Editor.

Vol. 5, # 2, April 1957, Martha Crone, Editor.

Vol. 5, # 3, July 1957, Martha Crone, Editor.

Vol. 5, # 4, October 1957, Martha Crone, Editor.

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

Friends Home Page

©2017 Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. 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. "" - 030522