Upland Garden in fall

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

Winter 1959/59

Ken Avery begins his 1st year as Gardener.

Martha Crone
Martha Crone, retired Curator of the Garden. Photo from Martha Crone Collection, MHS.

The Winter of 1958-59 was very hard on the Garden Plants. There was a moisture deficit coming into the winter, a violent wind storm in November, little rain or snow in December and January with no snow cover left on the ground in January. Snow in February only lasted on the ground for the month. After the turn of the year the warmer winter sun, reaching a ground exposed due to lack of snow, caused much thawing and refreezing. Many perennials and shrubs were lost. Martha Crone wrote with optimism in the winter issue of The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden's newsletter - The Fringed Gentian™ (Vol. 7 No. 1) - that “usually a cold early winter is followed by a balmy March and early spring."

At the beginning of the year, Martha retired as Garden Curator, after 26 years in the position and fifteen years prior to that as unpaid assistant to Eloise Butler. She made an appeal in the same issue of the newsletter:

Clinton Odell
Clinton Odell with spouse Amy and daughter Moana. Odell family photo.

“There must be greater support to protect this bit of wild area and keep it in its natural condition. It is really a challenge to keep this Wild Flower Garden since we and the next generation need the beauty of our native flowers, many of which are disappearing in advance of our civilization.”

The Friends held their Annual Meeting on Jan. 6th at the Walker Art Institute. Elected to the Board of Directors were: Russell Bennett, Earle Brown, Dorothy Binder, Elizabeth Carpenter, Martha Crone, Leonard Ramberg, Carl Rawson, Mrs. Clarence (Ebba) Tolg.

Friends officers elected at the board meeting following the annual meeting were Dorothy Binder, President; Leonard Ramberg Vice President; Martha Crone Secretary/Treasurer. Martha Crone was also in charge of membership and was editor of The Fringed Gentian™. Mrs. Binder was a founding member of The Friends and became president the previous year upon the death of Clinton Odell, Friends founder and first president. At this meeting plans were “molded” for a memorial for Mr. Odell. (which would be installed in summer).

It was voted to give $500 to the Board of Park Commissioners to assist in maintenance of the Wild Flower Garden, the same amount as in past years since the founding of the Friends in 1952.

Spring 1959

In the Garden, Ken Avery was beginning his first season as Curator (a title that would be changed to "Gardener" in 1965). He wrote in his annual report that as 1959 “was my first opportunity to place an order, I concentrated upon replacing those plants that had been destroyed during the winter.”

Snow Trillium
Snow Trillium (Trillium nivale) Photo ©G D Bebeau

“However, I also planted some species which I believe should be represented in the Reserve but were not growing there at that time” (1) (Ed. note: This term "Reserve" is a holdover from earlier days when the Garden was sometimes referred to as “The Eloise Butler Native Plant Reserve". Eloise had originally called the Garden The Wild Botanic Garden" but early on changed it to "The Native Plant Reserve" as the teachers found the name to be misleading to the public. EB 1926 Early History.)

He also explained his use of existing plants:

"The number of plants we obtained this way [Ed: outside sourcing] was dwarfed by the number we planted from our own material. These were propagated both by seed and by separating clumps of perennials, some of which had become so crowded that they had stopped blooming completely. It appears possible to increase some of our finest materials in this way. I intend to take full advantage of this in the future." (1)

As the new man in charge of the Garden, Ken Avery was highlighted in the Minneapolis Star newspaper's column "Town Toppers." (Column). A frequent reader of that column was then U. S. Senator from Minnesota Hubert Humphrey and Senator Humphrey sent Ken a letter in reference to the column (letter).

In The Fringed Gentian™, (Vol. 7 No. 2) Editor Martha Crone writes of spring:

“The Snow Trillium comes with the spring's first sunbeam, it blooms briefly, ripens its seeds and disappears for the rest of the season. The Song Sparrow is as much a harbinger of spring as the Robin or the Bluebird.” She also recommended that members plant a tree - “it is one of the most practical and economical methods of helping nature.”

Summer 1959

Odell Bench in the Prairie
The Limestone bench in the Upland Garden dedicated to Clinton Odell, installed in the Summer of 1959.

A memorial for Clinton Odell (Founder of Friends of the Wild Flower Garden who passed away June 4, 1958) was placed on the central hill of the Upland Garden. Martha Crone purchased a memorial "settee" from the Mankato Stone Company with funds contributed by herself and 11 other friends of Clinton Odell. The bench, of native Mankato Dolomite, with memorial plaque, sits near a fountain and a large White Oak tree.

Contributors to the Odell Bench were: Elizabeth Carpenter, John T. Magaw, Ebba Tolg, Dorothy Binder, Wm. H. Hale, Mr. & Mrs. R. Leuthold, Mrs. C. S. Hoyt, George Luxton, Earle Brown, Mr. R. E. Cole, Mr. S. W. Dwinnell, Martha Crone.

The dedication was reported in the Minneapolis Tribune on June 14, so it was presumably held just a day or two prior. Friend's President Dorothy Binder was quoted speaking of Clinton Odell that he "put a good deal of his personal fortune and a lot of toil into the garden." "He was out there digging and pulling weeds on week-ends when other people were playing golf." The article gave a brief history of the Friends and of the Garden. (PDF)

At the dedication of the Clinton Odell bench. l to r: Dorothy Binder, Martha Crone, Amy Odell. Mpls. Tribune photo.

In The Fringed Gentian™ (Vol. 7 No. 3), editor Martha Crone includes a column on “bird notes” in which she says:

“The vivid memory of another Spring is again past. Bluebirds were nesting in the Garden after an absence of several years. Their scarcity was noted everywhere for many years.”

She reports on the Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberous):

"that is neither from Jerusalem nor an artichoke but that the flavor of the tuber is similar to an artichoke. It can be propagated like potato tubers and if undisturbed, it will spread rapidly. August is the time to plant Trillium, as long as you protect the roots from squirrels."

We again hear her philosophy for the Garden:

“The function of the Wildflower Garden is to provide such an area (wild) so the urbanites can find peacefulness and repose close at hand in the fields, woods and marsh of this area. It makes for richer and more interesting living.”

Early summer temperatures were close to average but July through early September had above average temperature. Fortunately there was adequate rainfall including two rains over 2 inches each in June.

Autumn 1959

Martha Crone notes in The Fringed Gentian™ (Vol. 7 No. 4), that autumn is the season of nostalgia.

“Autumn is for understanding how well it is that each year should bring such a time for all growing things to pause and rest.”

Ken Avery
Ken Avery in the Garden

She discusses fall planting of such plants as Trillium, Mertensia and Lady’s-slippers, suggesting that Bluebells and Trillium be planted near together for effect. During the year Martha gave illustrated lectures about the Garden to 12 groups, using her extensive slide collection.

Fall temperatures took a dip after mid-September with temps well below average in October and November. There was a heavy snowfall in early October followed by a killing frost that cut down many flowers before they were finished blooming. There was light precipitation after the first week of November and in December the temperatures were well above normal, seldom below 20 degrees and very little precipitation. There was no snow cover at the end of the year. Not a good autumn for next years plant growth and for winter protection - a similar situation to the prior year.

By the end of the year the Friends had added 4 new members

Martha noted some of the challenges facing the Garden this past year:

"A difficult year was ahead considering the severe blow dealt the Garden due to weather conditions of the previous year. Lack of moisture during the summer and a cold snow-less winter. Great damage is to be expected which will take a number of years to remedy. These are the ups and downs the Garden meets occasionally. Here is a splendid opportunity for Friends of the Wild Flower Garden to help" (2)

(1). Annual Report of the Garden Curator to the Board of Park Commissioners 1959-60, to Superintendent Charles E. Doell.
(2). Friends of the Wild Flower Garden Secretary’s Report - 1959

Photo top of page: The Upland Garden in autumn on Oct. 15, 1948, from a Kodachrome taken by Martha Crone.

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. 7, # 1, January 1959, Martha Crone, Editor.
Vol. 7, # 2, April 1959, Martha Crone, Editor.
Vol. 7, # 3, July 1959, Martha Crone, Editor.
Vol. 7, # 4, October 1959, Martha Crone, Editor.
Vol. 8, # 1, January 1960, Martha Crone, Editor.

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.

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

Friends Home Page

©2019 Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. All contemporary photos are ©G D Bebeau. Photos credited to others 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.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org" - 120119