Bog in Winter

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

Winter 1963/64

Ken Avery begins his 6th year as Gardener.

Wirth Park Map
The 1964 expanded area of control for the Garden is outlined in gray.

In 1964 the Park Board assigned the area surrounding the Garden to the care of the Garden Curator. This area quadrupled the space for the Gardener to take care of (Ken had assistants at this time - but was to lose them in later years.) He also had problems with visitors to the area - persons he termed “undesirables.” His main problem was twofold - 1) the parking lot at the bottom of the entry drive to the Garden (the purpose of which was to serve the Great Medicine Spring but the spring was frequently dry so few water enthusiasts went there) and 2) motorcycles. Ken explains it best:

The lot "will only hold two or three cars but is rather secluded and a high percentage of those using it seem to be “undesirables”--we remove more beer cans, wine bottles, etc. from this area then we do from our larger parking lot.”

He then requested that the area be closed to parking. [Note: This problem would not go away until the lot was actually closed in the mid-2000s].

“The second and more urgent problem is that of motorcycles on the foot paths in the area. I am sure that on some of the nicer Sundays last Spring as many as 50 would race through the park. They would go through in packs of a dozen or more scaring any living thing in their proximity and driving all peace and quiet out before them. I feel that if something isn’t done soon they will make the park of little use to anyone who isn’t on a motorcycle.”

He offered some suggestions such as placing posts with cables between to prevent them from leaving the paved roads. (1)

Ken routinely came to the Garden in the winter to check on things and fill bird feeders. He noted sighting some uncommon birds during the winter at the Garden: Tufted Titmouse, 2 Goshawks and a Great Horned Owl. He also observed a red fox near the Garden Office. (2)

The Annual Meeting of The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden was held on March 2nd at the Minneapolis Athletic Club. The Board members elected were: Kenneth Avery, Dorothy Binder, Russell H. Bennett, Martha Crone, Marion Cross, Elizabeth Carpenter, Whitney Eastman, Loyd Hale, Walter E. Lehnert, Mrs. George Ludcke Sr. (Jessie), Alice Martin, Leonard Odell, Elizabeth Reed, Leonard F. Ramberg, Carl Rawson, Mrs. Robert Strange, Mrs. Clarence (Ebba) Tolg and Alvin Witt.

Officers elected at the board meeting were: Walter E. Lehnert, President; Mrs. Clarence Tolg, Vice-President; Martha E. Crone, Secretary - Treasurer. Martha Crone continued as editor of the newsletter and membership chair.

Martha Crone reported that 27 new members had joined the Friends during the past year. $500 was approved for Park Board use toward maintenance of the Garden.

In the Friends’ newsletter, The Fringed Gentian™ (Vol. 12 No. 1), Martha Crone wrote:

“The long winter months provide ample opportunity for observation of many interests. How pleasant to enjoy a warm fireside and watch the unfolding moods of weather. All this pleasure is missed by those living in areas of no-season-change. How unbelievable it seems in the severe cold and silent nights of January and February, that in a few months we shall be looking forward to the first flowers of spring.”

She also wrote about Sesame seed, Silk-worm cocoons, the lily and rose families, the completion of Highway 61 from Minnesota to Canada [See information below in the Spring section for the connection] and of how birds accomplish the tasks of clearing the bark of trees of insects.

Weather: The first snow did not fall until December 1963 and then not much, but December turned much colder than normal so the snow stayed on the ground to protect the plants. The lack of heavy snow continued into the first quarter of 1964 with never a snowfall exceeding three inches and the total season being less than 30 inches. Temperatures were warmer than normal.

Spring 1964

Ostrich Fern
Ostrich Fern fiddleheads (Matteuccia struthiopteris). Photo ©G D Bebeau.

With the beginning of this Garden season, Ken Avery had more ground to cover with the expansion of the area under the Gardener’s control. Outside of the fenced area of the Garden proper, this new area was the surrounding wild area west to the Parkway, north to Glenwood Ave. and east to the picnic grounds. Ken was in favor of this change. In fact he considered it an important milestone -

"... one rivaling, if not exceeding, in importance that of the addition of the Prairie Garden in 1944."
He added - "This quadrupled the area we have to work with and makes it possible to treat the entire area as one integrated unit. We of the Wild Flower Garden are eager to assume this task.....we have always felt that the chief value of this area was for the study and appreciation of nature. Now that the Board has passed the motion dedicating it to this end, we are planning to adjust all maintenance activities toward this goal. It will not require any great change but just that all activities be paced to show greater respect for the ecological relationship of the area and to exploit all of its possibilities as a natural area." (1)

On April 12th a fierce gale hit the Garden and later many evergreen trees showed the effects of scorching by the wind (2). Other than that the weather was typical for the time of year but under average for rainfall.

The Friends put on a “Conducted Tour” of the Garden on Saturday May 16th for Friends members and their friends. Martha Crone wrote:

“The weather was perfect and the many spring flowers were at their best... The Pink Azalea (Azalea vaseyi -now Rhododendron vaseyi) was in fine bloom. The ferns were uncurling their fiddle-heads, just in an interesting stage, the Ostrich Fern [photo above] and the Interrupted being unusually lovely. Many hours were spent by many in this picturesque wooded area, in admiration of the attractive natural arrangement.”

Cedar Creek Bog
The Cedar Creek area where Martha Crone sold her property to the University of Minnesota

Ken was also busy with spring tours. He reported that he helped “approximately 60 grade school classes, 5 High schools, 20 youth groups, and 8 adult groups on tours through the Garden. There are, of course, many groups that come through with a competent leader and need little, if any, assistance. Considering that the Garden was started by a group of teachers who wanted to preserve an area where they could study nature, I think that the increase in scheduled tours by such groups is most gratifying.” (1)

In the spring issue of the Friends Newsletter, (Vol. 12, No. 2) Martha Crone wrote:

“A world of green tender things and soft winds and the sound of streams that we have not heard for many a month. The starting again of Nature’s cycle of growth. Winter is past, a turning point is reached. Spring is loved the most, when newness of buds and green leaves are everywhere and there is a sudden sweetness in the air."

"Spring rushes by so swiftly, one must be alert to greet it. The lovely budding time soon reaches the tide of the season. That breathless moment, just as plants are actually emerging. The atmosphere of promise, the tightly-curled fronds of ferns one day, the next day bursting out. The spring flowers are treasured the most. One can never do full justice to the springtime, it passes altogether too quickly.”

Lake Superior
Along the North Shore of Lake Superior near Hovland where Martha Crone purchased a cabin.

She also included her usual “Bird Notes”, mentioning the Baltimore Oriole and the Indigo-bunting which had a favorite place to nest in the Garden. She wrote about mushroom hunting in the spring, the Planting Moon of spring, Water Chestnut, notes on Sigurd Olson’s book Runes of the North, and then included an article titled A Cabin on the Shore.

When her land and cabin at Cedar Creek sold, (3) sometime in the fall of 1963 or winter of 1963/64 Martha acquired some land with a pleasant cabin on the North Shore of Lake Superior, just off Highway 61, about 15 miles from Canada, at the town of Hovland. She wrote:

“In this world of tension, what a pleasant relief to come to this refuge away from the city noise and bustle. Here is found solace in silence. Having searched for many years for a place where can be seen sunrises and sunsets across the lake. Northern lights, clear cold water and a rock-bound coast similar to the coast of Maine. This was it. The cabin is build on a shelf of rock above the water’s edge, high enough to be safe from the waves. Surrounded by the beauty of sky, water and forest which can be seen from every window of the cabin, also looking across the lake toward the south can be seen the islands stretching away into purple distances. From this, one never tires.”

Below: A view of the Crone cabin on Lake Superior as it looked in 2014. Photo Nick Wander.

Summer 1964

American Dog Violet
American Dog Violet (Viola labradorica). Photo ©Mark Feider, Wisconsin Flora.

Gardener Ken Avery had developed a policy of re-introducing species that had once grown in the Garden but over time, had disappeared. In addition, he added new native species to the Garden. In 1964 the following made his list and some are shown here. The names Ken used are given first followed by any more recent name changes or alternate names. Only a few are extant today. (1)

Macloskey's Violet, (Northern White Violet) (Viola macloskeyi) Photo ©G D Bebeau.

During the summer Ken and his helpers, principally Ed Bruckelmyer, were able to add a considerable amount of black flexible pipe to supplement and extend the Garden watering system, finally bringing a water supply down to the Woodland Garden. Previously they had to run hoses from the water connection in the upper Garden.

In the Friends Newsletter, (Vol. 12 No. 3) editor Martha Crone wrote:

“The summer Garden: Spring flowers are through blooming and the forest is deepening and there is shade and shadows. Midsummer flowers take to the open as woodlands become too shaded for blossoms. From then until frost a constantly changing panorama is seen.

Each season seems to reach a peak and then end, but just beyond we can sight new loveliness. Each season has its own treasures.”

She also included articles about the Spring Garden Tour, a “bird notes” column, the evergreen damage from the spring storm, what a bulb is and the difference between bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes.

Sweet White Violet
Sweet White Violet (Viola blanda). Photo ©G D Bebeau
Hooked Spur Violet
Sandland (Hooked Spur) Violet (Viola adunca). Photo ©Emmett J. Judziewicz, Wisconsin Flora
Silverweed (Argentina anserina). Photo ©Emmett J. Judziewicz, Wisconsin Flora

During the Summer Minneapolis Star columnist Abe Altrowitz wrote on July 23 about his experiences with Eloise Butler but he began his column with this:

This is vacation time for the bald-headed fishing addict, but the weather keeps the shoreline loaded with bathers and I hie myself to an old, old haunt - the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden...But the surroundings are very much the same as I remember them from way back when.

He then goes into his remembrances of Eloise "she was a plumpish little lady who reminded me of England's Queen Victoria." [Full column in this pdf.]

Another columnist took an entirely different approach to the Garden - it was too quiet! Jim Kimball writing in the Minneapolis Tribune on June 25 said:

Most Minneapolitans have not seen the most relaxing and one of the most beautiful parts of their city's parks - the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden in Theodore Wirth park...When you climb to the high point it is startling to see the Minneapolis skyline so close at hand. It also is a place where one can sit and be satisfied with the world and all that is in it. But somehow I was not satisfied. Not satisfied because more people should be enjoying it.

He speaks of Ken Avery who "seems to have a genuine feeling for the place...His ambition is to have a little bit of wilderness where people can come and in serenity, enjoy the plants, birds and wildlife."

Then Kimball goes on to say that there is plenty of room to expand the garden, make room for more trails, etc. It needed more experts - botanists, ecologists - to do it better and bring in more people. "Certainly in our metropolitan area there is ample biological talent to provide leadership in making the garden even more beautiful...It is a thing of beauty. It could be much larger and it could be the most unusual and beautiful feature of the Minneapolis Park system." I would wonder what Ken Avery, who was giving him a walk-around, thought of all that? [Full column PDF]

Summer weather was typical for the period with several rains over 2 inches in late August and Early September.

Autumn 1964

Ken Avery
Gardener Ken Avery

Gardener Ken Avery estimated that 150,000 people visited the Garden during the season and this included people visiting the new area added to the control of the Gardener outside the Garden fence. A work crew was available to him for trimming and removing trees and dying limbs and they also removed any dead elms that were in the Garden.

In his annual report he again requested that a mail station be erected for the Garden. There was not any way for mail for the Garden to actually be delivered so it ended up in various places such as the Park Board Office and the Golf Course Chalet in Wirth Park and was thus extremely delayed. Ken’s comments were:

“Last spring when one of my assistants was golfing he visited the Chalet at Wirth Golf Course and while he was there one of the attendants remembered that some mail addressed to the Garden had been delivered there at the Chalet. He looked through the desk and found what he hoped was all of it. Some of it had been delivered a couple of months earlier and required answers. Then about a month ago my assistant again visited the Chalet and again they remembered that they had some mail for us. One of the letters was mailed last spring requesting information on the possibility of a conducted tour of the Garden last June. Needless to say the only answer I could send now was one of apology. (1)

He went on to conclude that future incidents would only lead to a very poor public image. The Garden never did get a mail box to this day.

In the Friends Newsletter, (Vol. 12 No. 4), Martha Crone wrote:

"When the summer has grown old the mellow days of early autumn cast a glow of color over the trees and shrubs. The sumacs covering hillsides are most outstanding in their flaming color. Only a few embers of summer remain, yet the golden blaze of color burns brightly for sometime. Each season has its own beauty and this is beyond compare. After the foliage has dropped, vistas are opened that have been obscured during the summer months."

She also wrote articles about what a gardener should do at the close of the growing season, about bananas, Herring Gulls, the Tangelo, and the Colchicum autumnale lily. (Autumn Crocus - which is not native to the northern states. It flowers in the fall after the leaves die back.

In regards the Park Boards annexation of abutting land to the Garden she said:

“The Garden has existed for many years and is prospering and with combined efforts can be further developed. The time to preserve this bit of remaining wilderness is now or it would be gone forever. If we fail to secure these natural features and suffer them to be destroyed, no power on earth can restore them. Conservation cannot take a holiday. It is too vital an issue. We have every reason to be proud of this little section set aside to show in years to come what our native area looked like. It is only fitting that we should increase our efforts toward bigger and better accomplishments.”

Weather in the fall was not vastly off-average; one rain was over 2 inches in early September but it was drier that normal with the year ending below average in precipitation.

(1). Annual Report of the Garden Curator to the Board of Park Commissioners dated March 12, 1965, to Superintendent Howard Moore.
(2). The Fringed Gentian™, Vol. 12 No. 3 July 1964
(3). In 1936 Martha and Bill Crone acquired 40 acres of land at Cedar Forrest and in subsequent years build a small cabin and log bridges to reach it from the surrounding wetland. In 1961 the University inquired about purchasing the Crone land for inclusion in what became the Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve. Complete article at the link above.

Photo top of page: A view of the woodland marsh on Nov. 8, 1951, from a Kodachrome 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.

Friends of the Wild Flower Garden Secretary’s Report - 1964

Archive of the Friends Newsletter The Fringed Gentian™

Vol. 12, # 1, January 1964, Martha Crone, Editor.

Vol. 12, # 2, April 1964, Martha Crone, Editor.

Vol. 12, # 3, July 1964, Martha Crone, Editor.

Vol. 12, # 4, October 1964, 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. 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. "" - 122320