Upland Garden Bnch in July

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

Winter 1985/1986

Back gate of the Garden in winter
The back gate of the Garden in Winter. This gate arrangement was installed in 1995. Photo by Judy Remington.

Ken Avery begins his 28th and final 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 at the bottom of this page.

During the winter of 1985-86, temperatures on many days in November and December 1985 were 15 to 25 degrees below average. Nevertheless there were some good snowfalls in November including one of 8.5 inches and with the low temperatures good snow depth for the plants was maintained with 12 inches still on the ground at the end of the year. After the new year, temperatures fluctuated above and below the average range in a more normal manner and snowfalls continued such that there was no period without snow cover from January 1st until the end of March. In fact snow depth began the year at 12 inches and increased to 18 inches during late February and early March. There were no significant snowfalls after mid-March. Thus the plants in the Garden were well insulated from the freeze-thaw cycle that could prove so ruinous in some years.

At the Board Meeting of the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden on January 26th, the Friends approved funding of $1,000 for hiring a University of Minnesota Graduate student, Barbara Delany, to prepare a plant census of the Garden. She was to make at least three visits to the Garden to complete the census. The census was completed during the year. Ms. Delany had been recommended by University of Minnesota botanist Tom Morley at the request of Mary Maguire Lerman, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) Coordinator of Horticultural Programs, who also spoke at the meeting about the newly announced Floating Bog Project, now known as the Quaking Bog.

Work in the bog was begun the first week of January to remove non-native shrubs so that tamarack seedlings could get sunlight, then the bog area would be restored. During restoration, a bridge to cross the water moat surrounding the bog was put in place and then a board walk to circle part of the area for viewing plants. The Quaking Bog is located on the West side of the parkway almost directly across from the Wildflower Garden. Both Eloise Butler and Martha Crone sourced plants from this bog for the wetland in the Garden.

Lerman also announced that new Garden signs, a bulletin board and holders for the guide book would be put in place this year at the front gate. These updates had previously been announced in the fall of 1985. A new update to the Garden guidebook was in the works for printing this year.

The MPRB Horticultural Staff cut and burned buckthorn in the wetland area in early spring and burned it on site. The same event took place in late fall.

Spring 1986

1987 Guidebook illustration
Illustration of a bog from the newly planned Garden Guidebook.

The Garden opened on April 1st.

There were actually two spring issues of the Friends newsletter, The Fringed Gentian™; one was dated April (Vol. 34 No. 1) and the other May (Vol. 34 No. 2); Betty Bridgman was editor. A break-in to the Martha Crone Shelter was reported during the first week of April. Glass was broken in the exhibits, several books were destroyed, some furniture damaged and the front door was broken. More information on the guidebook update was presented. The Friends paid $800 to repair furniture and $525 for an alarm system, a system the Friends Board refused to approve in 1975.

In the new guidebook, there was a new section on birds and mammals by Garden naturalists Laurie Hougen, David Rafferty and Stephanie Torbert; there were drawings by Stephanie Torbert, Pete Ascher, Michael Ryan and Sandy Murphy, and a new map incorporating contours and the numbered guideposts by the Cartography Lab of the Department of Geography at the University of Minnesota.

In the Garden, the new numbered guide posts were being installed to match the new guidebook stations. Some were in the same location as shown in the 1981 Guide, but a number were moved and additional posts were added, particularly in the Upland Garden. Friends President Patricia A. Thomesen expected to have the guidebook on hand at the Friends annual meeting in May. All was well in design but the actual guidebook would not show up in print until 1987. The draft had been left with Ken Avery but it had disappeared and had to be reconstructed. Once printed, it would go through 5 printings and revisions.

Gloria Miller
Gloria Miller, newly elected president of The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden.

The May issue of the newsletter (Vol. 34 No. 2) contained a book review of Common Wildflowers of Minnesota by Gerald Ownbey and with drawings by Wilma Monserud. The book was originally published by the University of Minnesota in 1971 and has had several re-printings including a paperback version. Many of the drawings were made in the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden.

The Annual Membership Meeting of the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden was held May 31st at the Martha Crone Shelter. Elected to the full Board were: Natalie Adler, Cindy Berg, Betty Bridgman, Betty Bryan, Norman Busse, Sallie Cole, Melvin Duoos, Elizabeth Jensen, Doris Larson, Gloria Miller, Catherine Ordner, Shirley Schultz, Joyce Smeby, Patricia Thomesen.
Ex-officio members: Kenneth Avery and Dan Hasty.
Martha Crone as honorary life member.

Ken Avery made a report and The Park Board’s Foreman of Horticulture, Dan Hasty, was made an ex-officio member of the Board of Directors. He was Ken Avery's direct supervisor. Due to conflicts in the administration of it, the Friends Board also discontinued the small grants program that had begun in 1979. Over those years $14,710 had been granted. 49 volunteers were on the roster to staff the Shelter.

Spring, according to Ken Avery, was "unbelievable early" but it then became fairly normal, with adequate rainfall. (More than adequate in April as the recorded 5.88 inches made it the wettest April in the weather records up to that date.) There was a temperature spike at the end of March with several days above 80 degrees, but no other abnormalities. A work crew helped Ken burn off the Prairie area.

At the Board of Directors meeting following the annual meeting, Gloria Miller was elected President; Elizabeth (Betty) Bryan - Vice President; Joyce Smeby - Secretary; and Natalie Adler - Treasurer. In other slots: Betty Bryan was also Historian; Sallie Cole was Memorials chair; Pat Thomesen became membership chair; Catherine Ordner was grants chair; Shirley Schultz was volunteer coordinator; Betty Bridgman would remain as editor of The Fringed Gentian™ .

Summer 1986

Burgess Fountain
The Burgess Fountain memorial located just inside the front gate of the Garden. Photo G D Bebeau

During the summer in the Garden the Park and Recreation Board installed a new fountain made of Lannon stone inside the front gate. Funds for the fountain were donated in 1985 by William H. Burgess and Gerald Burgess Jr. in honor of their parents Mr. and Mrs. Gerald Henry Burgess, who were frequent visitors to the Garden.

Mrs. Burgess (Louise) died October 10, 1973 in California where she had lived since 1965. She had organized and counseled family-life groups in Minneapolis more than forty years and wrote a column entitled "Let's Be Better" for the Edina Courier from 1950 to 1960. She was also an author, her first book being This Side of the Stars, which was mentioned in The Fringed Gentian™ Vol. 6 No. 3., in July 1958. Louise was a member of the Friends until her death.

Her husband, Gerald H. Burgess, had passed away suddenly on April 29 1938. He was the owner of the Panama Carbon Company in Minneapolis and was the donor of a number of plants in the early 1930's when Martha Crone was curator. In 1939 Martha received a donation of 100 Hay-scented ferns (Dennstaedtia punctilobula) in his memory.

August 3rd at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden, a Sunday, was designated as one the City of Minneapolis’ “Summer Pleasures” days and was publicized by WCCO and Mpls/St. Paul Magazine. August 3rd was also the 135th anniversary of Eloise Butler’s birth. Guided tours were provided for visitors. On that same day, a “Walk Through the August Prairie” was organized by Friends Board member Cathy Ordner and led by naturalist David Rafferty.

The Friends Newsletter, The Fringed Gentian™, (Vol. 34 No. 3) reported on much of this including Gardener Ken Avery’s planting of Prickly Pear (Opuntia humifusa) in the Garden. Martha Crone had first planted this species in 1934 and again in 1949. There was also a report on the progress of the Dutch Elm Disease. Since 1963 when the scourge began, 94,988 trees had been removed with 105,012 remaining - all within the City of Minneapolis. The Garden itself had lost over 175 elms. Buckthorn and Leafy Spurge were also mentioned as Garden invaders, although with all the other concerns, Buckthorn was not yet considered the pressing problem it would become by the late 1990s.

Common buckthorn
Common Buckthorn, Rhamnus cathartica. Photo G D Bebeau
Leafy Spurge
Leafy Spurge, Euphorbia virgata. Photo G D Bebeau

Autumn 1986

Ken Avery
Retiring Gardener Ken Avery

The October issue of the Friend's newsletter, The Fringed Gentian™, (Vol. 34 No. 4) was dedicated to expressing concern for wildflowers. It was felt that the public in general was forgetting their importance and that some members of the public were ignoring the law for their own profit. A state statute was reprinted, the gist of which is:

No one can buy, sell, offer or expose for sale any Cypredieae, any orchid, lotus, gentian, arbutus or lily species - from any public land - or from private land without the owners consent - and the consent of the commissioner which would be granted only for scientific purposes.

Mention was made of the Department of Natural Resources’ list of endangered or threatened species. Then there was printed a quote from Gerald Ownbey, Professor of Botany, University of Minnesota:

The key to the preservation of plants and animals is the setting aside of habitats, i.e. land areas of sufficient dimension where the species in greatest danger of extinction are found naturally. Plants do not occur in isolation but in fact occur in intricate and in many instances unknown interdependencies with each other and with animals.

Cary George
New Gardener Cary George

This would be a fitting description of the purpose of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. It meshed with Gardener Ken Avery’s view of maintaining the “wildness” of the Garden. Ken's philosophy of maintaining the Garden was best expressed in this statement:

In regular gardens it is desirable that it appears that man has been there and done his work. In our Wildflower Garden the ideal is that it appears that the present viewer is the first person to see the area. (Oct. 12, 1976, letter of Ken Avery to Gordon Morrison, Coordinator of Environmental Ed at Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board).

This was to be Ken’s last season as Gardener. His replacement, Cary George, had already been working for him this season. Ken Avery also felt that Cary George would “belong there.” In Ken’s last letter to the membership of the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden he wrote:

Another reason for leaving at this time is that I can now do so with a clear conscience. Until recently there was no one in the Park system who I felt could take over the Garden. Those of you who have met my replacement, Cary George, know that he is an intelligent person who is interested the Garden and who will husband it very well. I have to admit that my one apprehension in leaving is that he will do such a good job, that this spring might be marked as the end of the dark ages for the Garden. (Ref. The Fringed Gentian™, Vol. 35 No. 3)

The Garden was open until October 31st. Forty volunteers had manned the Martha Crone Shelter during the year. In late fall Buckthorn in the bog was cut and burned on site by the MPRB Horticultural staff.

In the climate department, the fall was the opposite of the spring. After mid-October there was rarely any precipitation and while temperatures were neither abnormally warm or cold, the snowfall was very light with no snow on the ground at the end of the year and the pattern of very light precipitation continued well into the spring of 1987.

In a memo from Mary Maguire Lerman, Coordinator of Horticulture Programs for the Park Board, dated May 29, 1987, to Friends president Gloria Miller, she stated the Board had taken action in the fall to change the Garden's name to "Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary." Back in 1969, the Park Board approved a request made by The Friends in 1968 to add “and Bird Sanctuary” to the name “Eloise Butler Wild Flower Garden,” making it the "Eloise Butler Wild Flower and Bird Sanctuary” dropping the word "garden." The name change is reported in the minutes of a meeting on March 25, 1969 between the Friends and the Park Board at the offices of Mr. Ruhe, the Superintendent. However, “Wild Flower” became “Wildflower” by mistake or because the Park Board wanted it that way, it is not known, but between 1969 and 1986 there were a number of variations of how the name was written, including use of the name that now became officially adopted - that is “Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary.” Details of the name history in this document.

Photo top of page: The Upland Garden in Summer. 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. 34, # 1, April 1986, Betty Bridgman, Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 36]

Vol. 34, # 2, May 1986, Betty Bridgman, Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 36]

Vol. 34, # 3, August, 1986, Betty Bridgman, Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 36]

Vol. 34, # 4, October, 1986, Betty Bridgman, Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 36]

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

Friends Home Page

©2019 Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Photos are the property of the Friends or as credited. 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" - 010821