Gardener's work shed

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

Winter 1978/1979

Ken Avery begins his 21st 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.

No winter information. A winter issue of the newsletter was not issued, nor was a Board meeting held.

Spring 1979

In The Friend’s newsletter, (Vol. 27 No. 1 Spring 1979), Ken Avery debated whether this spring was later than the one in 1975 but decided that 1975 was later. He focused on the Skunk Cabbage that, this year bloomed on April 6th, but in 1975 did not bloom until April 18th. He then added these comments:

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

A few facts about our Skunk Cabbage. The earliest it has ever bloomed was March 13th in 1973; the latest was April 19th in 1964. (I have kept records since 1958.) The average opening date is April 5th. It has opened on April 18th twice - once in 1965 and once in 1975. In spite of our late spring, it has bloomed later than this in seven years and on the same date in two years.

On April 11th I finally began to see the first spring birds. First the Hermit Thrush, and on the 12th Fox Sparrows and a Woodcock. This is the second time I've seen the Woodcock in the Garden in the last 25 years.

For those of you who are waiting breathlessly for news of the Garden spring. It is flowing stronger than it has for at least 10 years. [Referring to the Great Medicine Spring]

Seventeen former Shelter volunteers returned to volunteer this year.

The Friends held a Board Meeting on April 28th at which the first recipients of the new study grants were chosen. In 1978 the board established two grants: One would be to establish scholarships for a few high school students to pursue the natural sciences. The second was to make tuition grants for grade school teachers in the Minneapolis Public School system to take a Nature Study course or an Audubon camp in summer. Names of grant recipients are listed in the Summer issue of The Fringed Gentian™.

The Annual Meeting of the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden was held in the Garden, on Saturday May 19th, 1979, in the Martha Crone Shelter, 38 persons attending on a lovely spring day, including the new Superintendent of Parks, Charles Spears.

Hepatica Hill
This is a view of Hepatica Hill before the onslaught of Dutch Elm Disease. This is one area where Ken Avery probably moved out some of the Hepatica due to loss of top canopy. Photo from a Kodachrome taken by Martha Crone on April 16, 1955.

Kenneth Avery gave his report of the status of the Garden. He reported that he transplanted a number of the Hepatica that, with the loss of canopy cover from the elms, were now too exposed. Some of the other plants were more protected by taller summer vegetation. Signage, explaining things about the Garden, had been talked about for the last three years, but now a volunteer, Janet O’Leary, was actually working on it. The Metropolitan Council was taking a census of Garden visitors entering the Garden. Sundays averaged 200 and the weekdays averaged 60.

The 12 recipients of study grants and their parents were introduced and the grants presented. The students work would be supervised by Dr. Norman L. Busse of the Minneapolis Public Schools, who was also in attendance at the meeting. Charles Spears then said a few words of thanks for what the Friends were doing for young people. The grants totaled $950.

Directors elected were: Moana Beim, Jean Chamberlain, Alexander Dean, Robert Dassett Jr., Lynn Deweese, Catherine Faragher (returns) Dr. Marian Grimes, Lynne Holman, Walter Lehnert, John Murtfeldt, Mildred Olson and Caroline Price (new).
Ex-officio member: Kenneth Avery. Martha Crone as honorary life member.

At the Board meeting following the annual meeting, new officers elected were: John Murtfeldt, President; Mildred Olson, Vice President; Jean Chamberlain, Secretary; Caroline Price, Treasurer.
Lynn and Pat Deweese continued the duties of editors of The Fringed Gentian™.

Summer 1979

In the summer issue of The Fringed Gentian™ (Vol. 27 No. 3 Summer 1979 - there was not a Vol. 27 No. 2 published) Ken Avery reported this observation and comment:

I saw a man picking up rocks the other day. He was a slim man, wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase. When I came upon him picking up rocks, he had an expression on his face as though I had caught him at something. I know now what he was doing and why he was picking up the rocks --- it is one of the strangest things that has happened around here since I have been at the Garden. In early May, I saw him in the swamp behind the Garden, appearing to be hiding behind a tree. About a week later I saw him in the same vicinity, very busy as something. I saw him there several times. Finally one day when he wasn’t around, I remembered him and I went over to see what he had been doing. What he was doing was husbanding the world. Along the bank where water seeps out of the ground, he had gouged a small gully from one of the sources of water toward the brook that flows through the swamp. He had covered the bottom with flat rocks and used others to form sides to this channel. He had covered it with a sheet of rusty metal and then paved the area around it with sticks. It was (and is) very neat.

Over the years, a few people have used this area (that which is not in the Garden itself) as a refuge from a too complicated world. Mrs. Crone told of a man who had dug a cave out of the side of a hill and lived there for some time. During the last ten or so years the area has become so popular and crowded that I thought those days of refuge were over, but now that I’ve seen the thin man picking up rock, I’m glad to see we can still find room for everyone.

Below: The Wetland in early August at the peak of summer vegetation.

Marsh in Summer

The report about the annual meeting was also given in the summer issue. New Friends President John Murtfeldt introduced himself and told about his establishing a native plant garden from seed.

The following volunteer news was reported:

The Board hosted a picnic for our many loyal volunteers on June 16th. Unfortunately the weather truly tried everyone's mettle. In the midst of driving rain and tornadic winds a small group of very loyal Friends assembled for a rolicking good time. An excellent feast was prepared by Marjorie Dean and Jane Hooper ... and enjoyed by all. To the many volunteers whose intelligent caution kept them from joining our merry group - - - the BOARD does truly appreciate your hours of dedication in keeping the Martha Crone Shelter open during the season. Thank you each! Thank you all!

Lynn Deweese
Newsletter co-editor Lynn Deweese who interviewed Charles Spears. Photo courtesy Lynne Holman.

The Gentian co-editor, Lynn Deweese, had an interview with the new Minneapolis Superintendent of Parks, Charles Spears. The first of three parts of this interview was published in this issue. Two questions asked of him are reprinted here:

Q. Knowing the special bias of the Friends, what do you see as the place of the Eloise Butler Garden in the park system?

A. I see it as a very important function, Where else can city youngsters who possibly cannot afford to go to other places find the native plants. I think it is important that they have a place such as your Garden, or the Diamond Lake area, or the refuge at Lake Harriet, or getting back into some other areas that are not mowed so completely. In fact, we are looking at the possibility that we may be mowing too much. Maybe there are places we should not mow to encourage more wild life, for habitat and also maybe to save some money.

Q. What role do you see the Friends having?

A. I see it as one of continuing protection of the area. Without it where would the Garden’s voice come from. There have been periods when lobbying was the only thing the Friends represented. That is one of their strengths. Also, I would like them to work up special projects that might take certain amounts of money not available from the Park's budget and be active in raising the money. The Garden is a wonderful place, it makes you feel far away from the city. [You can read the entire interview in this PDF File.]

Autumn 1979

Ken Avery
Gardener Ken Avery

In his report as Gardener in The Fringed Gentian™, (Vol. 27 No. 4 Autumn 1979), Ken Avery wrote of the cool autumn and water management in the wetland:

October 22, a most cold, wet, miserable day this fall, I was sitting in the tool house when I happened to notice the Burgess Fluidic Oscillating Sprinkler that I bought, or to be more accurate, you bought for me, a few years ago and I realized that I had not used it once this year. I believe that this is the first year in all of the years I have worked at the Garden that we have not had to water once. I suspect that the weather statistics will contradict me, but I think that this is the wettest year we have ever had. The bog has been saturated all year. The path has remained spongy wet all summer and we even had to raise one section of it to make it passable.

He then revieed the old pools in the wetland and the methods of keeping them filled with water and not with silt. You can read all about the pools on this page, but here is his latest bit:

This year (after only 20 years) the little channel was plugged so we had to clean it out too. If you could see me doing it you would wonder if you had slipped back into a past century. You would see me waist deep in water and mud (I do wear waders) dipping the gook out with a 5 gallon paint pail which has been bored full of holes. -- It looks like something out of the digging of the Erie Canal. It's hard work. I don't think you could hire a man to do it today, but it seems to me to be the only way to do the job that won't produce more scars than it heals. It keeps me young -- or whatever I am.

Mike ryan
New Park Board Environmentalist, Mike Ryan. Photo courtesy Lynne Holman.

Friends President John Murtfeldt quoted from a 1939 book by Jens Jensen: Siftings -

What a difference between the atmosphere of this hidden retreat and the sophisticated gardens . . . Here you might come and go as you pleased, throw yourself on the grass, or sit down under overarching trees, centuries old, a remnant of a great forest that once covered this region. Many native flowers found a home here, and in a thorn thicket close by a thrush would sing at eventide, unharmed and unconcerned. Here was most precious freedom.

Might that not be the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden? Except for the part of throwing yourself on the grass.

The second installment of an interview with new Parks Superintendent Charles Spears was printed. One segment was:

Q. What sorts of projects do you see the Friends being involved in?

A. I would see them helping to better interpret what is there - the educational end of the Garden. So people do know what they are seeing and the worth of it. They should come away from there with a better feeling of why it is there in the first place. There are possibilities for good self-guided touring - well signed, etc. I would like to see some evening programs in the Garden. A naturalist might give a night life program one night a week during the season. In some cases that could be on a volunteer basis with members of the group doing that. They've got expertise - but what they need to do is share it. Wouldn't it be nice if some of the Friends could relate experiences and knowledge to youth groups, and others!” [You can read the entire interview in this PDF File.]

28 volunteers staffed the Shelter during the season.

At an October Board of Directors meeting of The Friends, new Park Board Environmentalist, Mike Ryan, attended with examples of the text to be used in the new self-guided brochures that Mary Maguire Lerman and Friends Board member Lynne Holman had been working on for some time. It was expected that the final copy may be ready in the spring.

Photo top of page: The Gardener's work shed, shown in late 1990s. 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. 27, # 1, Spring 1979, Lynn and Pat Deweese, Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 29]

Vol. 27, # 3, Summer, 1979, Lynn and Pat Deweese, Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 29]

Vol. 27, # 4, Autumn, 1979, Lynn and Pat Deweese, Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 29]

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. "" - 120219