Woodland bench with false rue anemone

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

Winter 1975/1976

Ken Avery begins his 18th 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.

The is Evie Chadbourn’s first issue of the newsletter as sole editor, taking over from Marie Davidson who had resigned last year after helping Evie with the October issue.

Spotted Jewel Weed
Spotted Jewelweed, one of two species in the Garden and the 'plant of contention' between Eloise Butler and Clinton Odell. (photo G. D. Bebeau)

In the newsletter, (Vol. 24 No. 1 Jan 1976), Ken Avery told what he does during the winter when the Garden is closed, other than keeping the bird feeders full. This winter he had 60 dead elms to remove from the Garden and near-by area. Beginning in February he helps other gardeners in the Park Board green houses starting new plants for the coming year’s planting in the city parks. Sam Baker (Ken’s assistant in the Garden) broke his arm and was “off duty.”

Friends President Moana Beim expressed the need for younger people to join the Friends and shared with the editor some history of how her father, Clinton Odell became associated with Eloise Butler, particularly the story about Jewelweed:

Although working closely together, Mr. Odell and Miss Butler had one area of disagreement- - -she felt that everything that grew in the wild had a place in the garden (even poison ivy); he distinguished between wildflowers and what to him were weeds. Therefore, the story goes, they had this big argument as to whether they should or should not plant jewelweed. He hated it---she loved it---they argued---she won---she planted it. So for three years they argued about jewelweed while they watched it grow. And recorded in Mr. Odell's journals are his following yearly comments - - - "The first year the jewel weed marched through the bog: - - - "The second year it started up the hill: - - - "The third year it went up and over the hill, and something is darn well going to be done!" So workers were brought in again and they pulled jewelweed for days. Moana Beim, our current president, well remembers the garden as a girl and the many hours she spent helping her dad pull jewelweed.

The Friends held a Board meeting on Jan. 7th at the home of Mrs Beim. The entire board plus Ken Avery were in attendance. The insurance rider to cover contents at the Martha Crone Shelter would cost $33 to insure things valued at $3,320 [List of items]. Mrs. Beim also gave Ken Avery a list of unfinished work that needed to be done before the Friends released the $2,000 for the Garden Entrance project that was begun in 1975 (details in that history). This project was considered to be the Friends contribution to the nation’s Bi-centennial celebration. Ken noted that it was uncertain at this time whether he would have any help in the Garden this year.

Spring 1976

Skunk Cabbage
Skunk Cabbage, (Symplocarpus foetidus) Photo G D Bebeau

In The Fringed Gentian™ (Vol. 24 No. 2 April 1976) former Garden Curator and former Gentian editor Martha Crone submitted what would be her last correspondence to the Friends Membership:

Once again the awaking of Spring, coming after a long time of waiting. How fortunate to have this lovely Reserve to enjoy where Springtime’s beauty unfolds in every flower. Flowers are eager to answer the call of the warming sun, even while patches of snow remain. They must make the most of the sunlight before the forest deepens and veils the woodland. How delightful to hear the first songs of the returning birds. Wildflower and bird sanctuaries that have been established will greatly benefit future generations. How fortunate that this native area was added while still in its unspoiled state. It’s most necessary to meet the demands of our expanding population.
I have devoted my life to what I consider this satisfying pursuit.

Ken Avery reported more about winter work in the Garden and the early spring:

When I see the Skunk Cabbage is blooming already, it's hard for me to believe, or even remember, what it was like last year at this time, To be honest about it, we didn't even open until the third week in April last year.

This year everything is different. The Skunk Cabbage is blooming; the Snow Trillium is in bud and will be blooming by the first of April; the Wild Leek is two inches high; and the Bloodroot is breaking the surface of the ground, To say the least, Spring is really breaking out all over!

Pileated Woodpecker
Pileated woodpecker in Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. Photo courtesy Melissa Hansen.

Two weeks ago I saw two Pileated Woodpeckers flying over Theodore Wirth Lake. This was a most welcome sight. When I first started at the Garden in 1954, the Pileated was a permanent resident and while not a year has passed without our seeing one, they have all been casual visitors for the last fifteen years. I hope that seeing two of them means that they are living here again.

I think I mentioned last year that the plague had struck--the plague in this case being Dutch Elm Disease. I've been working here most of the winter with the crew removing the corpses. We cut the dead trees down and burn all the parts that can be reasonably handled in this way. Then spray those parts that are too big to burn with a chemical that kills the grubs in the bark to prevent them from maturing and spreading the disease to healthy trees. I hope that we have found them all and in so doing we have arrested the spread of the disease in the park. We have certainly tried.

The Annual Meeting of the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden was held in the Garden, on Saturday May 15th, 1976, in the Martha Crone Shelter, 25 people attending.

Kenneth Avery gave his report of the status of the Garden, including that it was the earliest year for flowering of the Garden that he could remember. A question was raised by Mildred Olson about re-foresting the Garden after all the elm losses. This was the first time there is a record of talking about this issue which would be important for the next 50 years. Ken thought some of it would happen with natural re-growth and some would have to be planted. The re-planting would in fact take place for many years, and has never stopped as some areas must periodically be thinned of the more invasive species and the remaining old growth dies.

Below: The East Woodland in Winter. Most of the trees are elms in this photo taken on Feb. 2, 1953, before the onslaught of Dutch Elm Disease. Photo from a Kodachrome taken by Martha Crone.

Violet Way in winter 1953

Betty Bridgman made a motion to remove the word “false” from any Garden sign, as there were no false plants, just different plants, and they all had alternate names. Her motion was as follows:

"I move that we request the change of every marker in the Garden which has the word "false" on it. No natural plant is false, and none imitates another plant, "False" is the word for phony or artificial, False flowers are plastic, paper, glass or wood. Every plant has a name that does not include the word "false." For instance, where our marker says False Solomon's Seal, it should say Solomon's Plume or Smilacina racemosa."

Motion passed after she agreed to bear the cost of new signs. She must have done so as minutes of the Annual Meeting one year later on June 4, 1977 have this: "Ken (Avery) apologized to Mrs. Bridgmen for not entirely completing the changing of markers of plants having “false” as part of their common names. He has done those whose botanical names he could find."

It was decided that new steps from the parking lot to the Garden should be a first priority for the Friends. The 1975 project had included a new handrail, but not new steps. Dr. Marian Grimes reported on the shelter volunteer (hosts) program with 28 people on list.

Directors elected were: Moana Beim, Jean Chamberlain, Evie Chadbourn, Alexander Dean, Robert Dassett Jr., Lynn Deweese (new), Dr. Marian Grimes, Bruce Hooper, Walter Lehnert , John Murtfeldt (new), Mildred Olson.

Ex-officio member: Kenneth Avery. Martha Crone as honorary life member.

At the Board meeting following the annual meeting, new officers elected were: Alexander Dean, President; Lynn Deweese, Vice President; Jean Chamberlain, Secretary; Bruce Hooper, Treasurer.

Evie Chadbourn continued the duties of editor of The Fringed Gentian™. It was at this meeting that the duties of Secretary, treasurer and newsletter editor were first split off to three different people, although the Secretary would still be responsible for membership. Since 1952 all four duties had been assigned to the Secretary/Treasurer.

Summer 1976

Shelter Bench
One of the six benches in the Martha Crone Shelter. Five were gifted by local garden and birding groups, the sixth provided by the Friends. Photo G D Bebeau

The summer issue of The Fringed Gentian™ (Vol. 24 No. 3 July 1976) contained a report of the Friends Annual Meeting referenced above. Editor Evie Chadbourn wrote about what is a bog? and how does it differ from a marsh or a swamp. Gardener Ken Avery gave some statistics about how early the spring flower season was - - - the earliest in his records.

The Friends held a Board meeting on June 26 at the home of Mr. Dean to discuss issues left over from the May 15th meeting. The Friends had released the $2,000 to the Park Board; it was approved that a new membership roster be issued; and it was voted to spend up to $1,000 on an elm tree inoculation project to see what the results might be. Also, a sixth bench for the table in the shelter had been ordered but not received. The first five benches were gifts of several clubs and societies in the cities. Details in the Shelter History article.

New Friends President Alexander Dean penned his first notes to the membership in the Summer issue of the Newsletter:

When we think of our little society as embracing all those members who, for whatever reason, lay aside from time to time their urgent daily tasks and devote time, thought and energy to help perpetuate the wildness and the wildings of our dear Garden, we realize how aptly we are named---"Friends of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden"! It is more than a lovely plot of ground holding countless lovely creatures no longer common to the City in which it exists. It is a quiet corner in thought for each to come to for the refreshment and inspiration which the contemplation of God's ideas expressed in nature always bring to mankind.

And so I come to the office of President of this "Friends" following those who have served it so well, with a deep sense of gratitude for all that has helpfully gone before, Also with the conviction that the new Board working together with the new officers and the "Old Hands" will have a fun and highly constructive year. To keep our Garden wild needs not our "wild" thoughts, but our helpful ones and we hope to have some of these from all of you.

Autumn 1976

In The Fringed Gentian™, (Vol. 24 No. 4 October 1976) Ken Avery reported that he had been of little use in the Garden since August 1st as he had back and leg problems, but he and Mr. Murtfeldt were able to get a large elm treated. Ken wrote:

Tribune graphic
Drawing of the old elm in the north meadow that was highlighted in a May 24, 1942 newspaper article.

You will be interested in knowing that the largest elm in Minneapolis has been treated with Lignasan, (This tree grows in the bog between our back gate and Xerxes Avenue - girth 16 feet, 4 inches). When the trees were showing symptoms of Dutch Elm Disease last summer, I checked that tree and it appeared to have the disease. A short time later at a meeting of our Board of Directors it was decided to attempt to save our elms with Lignasan. It seems that the company which does this commercially, however, has their equipment on trucks, etc., so that they could not get the equipment into the Garden to treat the trees there, but John Murtfeldt, who is in charge of this project, did get one company to treat this precious old tree. I suspect we have saved it - - at least for one year. If you haven't been down to see it, we lost about half of the remaining elms in the Garden this summer. It's a shame --- the Garden will never be the same!

[While the vignette in the 1942 newspaper article estimates the tree as 350 years old, modern tree age tables would calculate closer to 250 years.]

Editor Evie Chadbourn reported on "where did the Franklin Gulls depart to" when they left Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet each morning after spending the nights there. They followed the flocks to, of all places, the large parking lot at Met Stadium. After resting there, most of the gulls ended up in the Mississippi Valley areas.

President Alexander Dean wrote this about the plight of the Garden in the fall Newsletter:

Our woodland garden in the north sloping dell, high canopied with great trees and dropping down to the little marsh and littler pool, has changed its character with age and blight. Much of the canopy has gone, opening up to more sunlight than the woodland wildflowers can stand; therefore encouraging the growth of brush, vines and heavy weeds to cover the forest floor, A new generation of trees (some probably planted) and time will be required to bring back the woodland nature of this area, The upper garden is prairie which probably should be managed as the DNR is handling the prairie parks in the western part of the state to perpetuate the lovely flora of the grasslands. The garden being a living thing changes with time. Our challenge is to see that Minneapolis' commitment to keeping it a sanctuary does not change!

Below: The fall issue of The Fringed Gentian™ contained a nice drawing of the Garden Shelter and new path to the gate - not clear who did it, only the initials ‘mhd’ which may have been retired Secretary/Treasurer and Newsletter editor Marie H. Davidson. Note that 1), a wire has been run between trees supporting a new bird feeder, just where it is today; 2) the boulder containing the memorial tablet for Eloise Butler sits on the side of the path next to what might be one of the several Pin Oaks planted there from time to time. A Leatherwood shrub is in that spot today.

Sketch of Martha Crone Shelter

At a Friends Board meeting on Oct. 16th at the Martha Crone Shelter, it was approved to buy for the Garden at Mr. Avery’s request, an electric starter for the Garden tractor and a jack. Total cost was $207. Ken Avery had received notice that the Garden may have to close earlier next season. It was agreed that a small committee should visit with the Park Board to re-affirm the relationship with the Friends.

1976 was an extremely dry year with less than 17 inches of precipitation; there was an early Spring and an abnormally cold October.

Photo top of page: Violet Way path in the Woodland Garden. False Rue Anemone around the bench. Photo ©G D Bebeau

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. 24, # 1, January 1976, Evie Chadbourn, Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 26]

Vol. 24, # 2, April 1976, Evie Chadbourn, Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 26]

Vol. 24, # 3, July, 1976, Evie Chadbourn, Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 26]

Vol. 24, # 4, Autumn, 1976, Evie Chadbourn , Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 26]

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. "https://www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org" - 030321