Garden shelter in Winter

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

Winter 1972/1973

Ken Avery begins his 15th year as Gardener.

Note: All issues of the Friend’s Newsletter, The Fringed Gentian™, were numbered out of sequence this year. The correct volume numbers are used in the text. The "as printed" numbers are shown a the bottom of this page.

Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated woodpecker. Photo G D Bebeau.

In the newsletter, (Vol. 21 No. 1 Jan 1973) Gardener Ken Avery reported on the status of the spring in back of the garden and of winter birds:

One physical phenomenon, which I have written of in the past and which seems to have been eliminated now, is the spring which ran from the time Minneapolis was first found until now. [Referring to the Great Medicine Spring] I’m afraid that we have finally managed to bring an end to this faithful servant as we have to so many before it. I have checked the water level and it is still well below the the original present surface of the ground (which is eighteen inches below the original contour of the earth). It may run again for short periods of time but I’m afraid it should no longer be called a spring anymore than we should call a puddle a lake.

One old friend that gave me a fright last year is back, however, and seems to be ready to stay - our Great Horned Owl. Last year I saw him a few times in late fall and then not one more time all winter. I was afraid the greatly expanded winter use of the area all might have discouraged this shy bird and that he had secured more remote lodgings, but he is back as usual this winter.

Another bird which I have seen with some regularity this fall is the Pileated Woodpecker. This spectacular bird used to be one of our valued residents but for close to ten years now none have made their home here in the Sanctuary. We have seen them every year but only at widely spaced intervals. We have continued to hope that one (and preferably two) will make our Sanctuary their sanctuary. The bird which I have seen this fall has remained in the area much longer than any have for the last few years so I remain an optimist.

Great horned owl
Great Horned Owl at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Photo from 2014, ©G D Bebeau

I should also report that the Saw-whet Owl, a bird that is not at all common in this area, showed himself to me at the spring about a week before Christmas. I have seen the species in the Sanctuary once before about nineteen months ago when one was seen in a white pine by the front gate at about five-thirty one afternoon and it was at the same place at the same time again the next day. I went back time and again to see if this were this were his schedule but I did not see one again until this December.

In 1972 the Friends Board of Directors began to develop some histories. A short history of why the Garden was established and about why this spot was chosen for a native plant sanctuary was printed in this issue of the newsletter:

The idea of the wildflower garden arose from the difficulties experienced by the teachers of botany in familiarizing their students with living plants growing in their natural surroundings. Long journeys had been made with their classes, only to find out few scattered plants, which perhaps by the next season were exterminated by the needs of a rapidly growing city. Thus was gradually evolved the plan of obtaining before it was too late a plot of land that could support the greater share of our Minnesota flora.

An ideal spot, fulfilling all requirements, was found in Theodore Wirth Park (then known as Glenwood Park), the largest park area in Minneapolis, and one interspersed with hills and valley and possessed of great natural beauty. To the original tract comprising about three acres, additional area was added from time to time, until at present the garden totals 20 acres fenced in and receiving intense maintenance and protected by the surrounding sanctuary of about forty acres.”

That last statement is somewhat odd, as the only fenced area at the time was the current configuration of the Garden, excluding the one acre addition of 1993. Fourteen acres is the better number. At one time Eloise referred to having 20 acres and also 25 acres, but that included the north meadow where the Mallard Pool was located, which area was abandoned in 1944. [See article "open water in the wetland.]

Spring 1973

Skunk Cabbage
Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) in the Garden. Photo ©G D Bebeau

In The Fringed Gentian™ (Vol. 21 No. 2 April 1973) Ken Avery reported that this would be one of the earliest springs he could remember in the Garden. The Skunk Cabbage was already blooming on the 17th of March and it usually did not bloom till much later because the low spots in the wetland were deeply frozen. He also updated information on the spring:

I’m afraid that this will be my last word on the spring which I have mentioned in my past reports. [see Winter section above] it remained dry all winter this year. I left town for a week and when I returned on March 17, I noticed that someone had capped the spring. On my first day back in the Garden, (the 19th) I removed the cap and about one cup of water rushed out and then it was over; and I’m afraid it is over forever. Our spring has gone the way of the Passenger Pigeon and for somewhat the same reason.

The Annual Meeting of the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden was held in the Garden, on Saturday May 12th, 1973, in the Martha Crone Shelter, 24 people attending including a future editor of The Fringed Gentian™ (in 1975), Evie Chadbourn and one of our longest serving members (until 2020 when she passed away) - Marilyn Rohlfing, who joined the Friends in 1972.

Kenneth Avery gave his report of the status of the Garden, in which he noted that the Shelter tape deck, which was part of the music system memorial to Mrs. H. H. Livingston, the wife of the Shelter Architect, had been stolen and that it was being replaced. In 1973 alone there were three break-ins to the Garden. The last one, in May, was into the Martha Crone Shelter where the tape deck was stolen. In an earlier break-in nothing was taken. The remaining break-in was to the tool shed where the chain saw was taken. He also reviewed new plantings and the landscaping in front of the shelter. Ken also requested that an alarm system be considered and also a telephone message system.

Catch basin of Great Medicine Spring
The catch basin of Great Medicine Spring as it looked in 2008. Ken Avery refers to this spring in his text. (photo G. D. Bebeau)

The Friends assets totaled $3,526. Membership totaled 245. Dr. Marian Grimes reported on the shelter volunteer (hosts) program which had 17 volunteers at that date.

Betty Bridgman, Cay Faragher and Mildred Haglin were the nominating committee for the Board of Directors slate.

Directors elected were: Jean Chamberlain, Evie Chadborn, Alexander Dean, Robert Dassett, C. L. DeLaittre, Dr. Marian Grimes, Bruce Hooper, Leonard Odell, Mrs. Mildred Olson, Harry Thorn, Wilber Tusler.

The list of Ex-officio members: Kenneth Avery, Dorothy Binder, Catherine Faragher and Walter Lehnert - same as the previous year.

Honorary Board Membership list was increased by the addition of two men who left the Board this year - Alvin Witt and Leonard Ramberg. A honorary life membership was given to former Garden Curator and Friends founding member, Martha Crone, who also left the board this year.

The request made to the Park Board in 1972 to install a hand railing along the path from the parking lot to the Garden gate was turned down due to lack of funds, although it would be given consideration in the future.

A request was made last June, by Elizabeth George and Cathy Jo Peterson for funding for an educational slide and tape show about the Garden, but they had not implemented the project and no funds were expended.

At the Board meeting following the annual meeting, officers elected were: Robert Dassett Jr., President; Calvin C. DeLaittre, 1st Vice President; Harry Thorn, 2nd Vice-president; Mrs. Mildred Olson, Secretary-Treasurer. Mrs. Olson was also membership secretary and newsletter editor.

Ken Avery's interest birds had developed when he arrived at the Garden in 1954 and found how important the area was as a bird sanctuary. Besides taking classes on birds at the University, he became a member of the Minneapolis Bird Club, which had been organized in 1939 and was affiliated with the Minnesota Orinthologists Union and a Chapter of the National Audubon Society. The Bird Club had a newsletter called the "Kingfisher" and listed in the Spring issue were the Minnesota Audubon Councils areas of concern. Listed as one of two delegates to the general meeting of the society was Ken Avery. (note 1)

Summer 1973

The summer issue of The Fringed Gentian™ (Vol. 21 No. 3 July 1973 ) contained a report of the Friends Annual Meeting referenced above. Gardener Ken Avery wrote this interesting story:

A young man walked into the Martha Crone Shelter with a young squirrel on his shoulder. He said that he had met it up the path and that it had climbed up on its perch on his shoulder. It jumped onto the counter in the shelter, examined everything, upset my coffee, climbed down the door and up my leg, jumped to the desk, back to the counter, and accepted a few sun flower seeds. Later that afternoon, the Batcheors (a couple who bird in the Garden often) were in and the squirrel tried to adopt them. It followed them in a complete circle of the lower garden, over to a little pond outside the fence, and back again. The only way they could get home without it was for me to lock it up in the office while they went to their car.

The next day a girl from the Animal Rescue League came over with six little squirrels to release in our Sanctuary but I convinced her that they were still too small to be left there on their own. Before she could leave, “the squirrel" crawled in with the six little squirrels and stole half of their food. Well, five weeks later it is still here,-- the tamest squirrel I have ever seen in my life! I (and you) can actually pick her up-- something that is usually even difficult to do to a squirrel that is being kept as a pet in someone's home.

The girl from the Animal Rescue League has since released her brood too and while they weren't nearly as tame as the first one, they have learned from it that a little friendliness to the public pays off in goodies. Even some of the wild adult squirrels have decided to get in on the game. We are also overrun with chipmunks this year and the whole circus is a delight to the children and parents who come to the Garden. Oh yes, the flowers have been nice this spring too!

Below: The hillside of Interrupted Ferns in the woodland Garden. They have been growing there since Eloise Butler's time. Photo ©G D Bebeau.

Hillside of Interrupted Ferns

The short history of the garden with notes on the origin of the Upland Garden was another article, continuing from the first section published in January.

Martha Crone wrote a note of thanks for the honorary life membership that she had been given in May and added “It has been worth hanging onto this wonderful Reserve, sometimes against great odds. As time goes on its value becomes more apparent. A priceless heritage to leave to those to follow.”

Autumn 1973

Sumac in the Upland Garden.
An infestation of Sumac in the Upland Garden, as much a control problem today as Ken Avery writes about in 1973. Photo from 2013, ©G D Bebeau.

In his report as Gardener in The Fringed Gentian™, (Vol. 21 No. 4 October 1973) Ken Avery noted the following addition to the squirrel story of the past summer:

The squirrel is adult now ... once in a while as I'm walking along a path a squirrel stops whatever busy business is occupying its time as if shocked by the sudden recognition of an old friend and then follows me up to the Shelter for a handful of those most delicious peanuts and sunflower seeds. There are always a number of days between these chance meetings and each time I wonder if it has been the last. Perhaps our encounter as I closed the Garden tonight was it. Who knows?

He also added this bit about the Upland Garden:

Some of you must have noticed that we didn't get the Upland Garden cut this Spring so that now it has a wealth of sumac in its glorious fall foliage. [Ken used a rotary mower with his tractor] I'm sure that it looks just marvelous to most people but to me it is simply a problem. However, there is something in the Uplands that looks as good to me as the sumac does to the unprejudiced eye. The Downy Gentians are just magnificent this year. Each bed we have is blooming and each is outdoing itself. I'm so pleased with them that I find it hard to do anything but stand and stare at them. The drought doesn't seem to have affected them or any other prairie plants adversely. Sometimes I think that adversity is good for wild flowers. It only keeps them in place. The prairie plants can stand almost any amount of drought and thrive while the plants that demand more moisture and are continually invading the prairie are driven back to wetter areas where they belong.

Downy Gentian
Downy Gentian (Gentiana puberulenta) ©G D Bebeau

Friends President Robert Dassett was talking with the Park Board Planning Department about a new fence, gate and bulletin board at the entrance to the Garden that the Friends would pay for since the Park Board had no funds other than for maintenance.

At a Friends Board meeting on Sept. 27 at the Martha Crone Shelter, Mr. Dassett presented drawings from the Park Board for a cedar fence which those present, including Ken Avery, considered too ambitious and overpowering, plus it would not be durable and would block light from the plants. It was decided that the Friends would pay for a re-design and re-construction of the steps with an unobtrusive railing, a modest bulletin board and entrance sign and a bike rack near the entrance. Nothing was done about a new fence until the 1990s.

At the end of the season, 28 people had served as Shelter volunteers.

Joining the Friends this year was Joan Stenberg who remained a member until 2018.

Photo top of page: The Martha Crone Shelter in Winter Snow.

Note 1: Minneapolis Tribune, May 20, 1973, pg 112.

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


Meeting Minutes and correspondence of Friends of the Wild Flower Garden.

Archive of the Friends Newsletter The Fringed Gentian™

Vol. 21, # 1, January 1973, Mildred Olson, Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 23]

Vol. 21, # 2, April 1973, Mildred Olson, Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 23]

Vol. 21, # 3, July, 1973, Mildred Olson, Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 24]

Vol. 21, # 4, October, 1973, Mildred Olson, Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 25]

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. "" - 081421