Cary George in the Garden in winter

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

Winter 1986/1987

Cary George
Above: Cary George

This is the first year with Gardener Cary George in charge of the Garden. Significantly, 1987 was also the 80th anniversary of the founding of the Wildflower Garden.

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.

At the end of 1986, Gardener Ken Avery retired after 28 years as the person in charge of caring for the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. He had succeeded Martha Crone upon her retirement at the end of 1959 and she had succeeded Eloise Butler upon the death of Eloise in 1933. Thus Cary George became only the 4th person in the succession of caretakers of the Garden. Cary had already spent 10 years working in horticulture with the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, principally growing flowers and plants in the Park System greenhouses - plants that would be used for spring planting in the Minneapolis Parks.

Outside the Garden area, Highway 12 was being re-constructed into what became I-394. There would be detrimental effects from construction on the ground water flow to the springs around the Garden. Most had suffered from the draw down of the water table over the years such that only the Great Medicine Spring would occasionally flow. The tamarack bog west of the Garden was being renovated. During the winter a dense growth of Buckthorn was removed in preparation for providing better walking access to that area.

1987 would become the second warmest year in local weather history. The first three months of the year began that way. Almost every day, temperatures were above average and snowfall was scant. There was rarely any snow cover on the ground (unlike the photos shown above) and the spring plant bloom would be quite early.

Spring 1987

Gloria Miller
Above: Gloria Miller, re- elected president of The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden.

Spring was early - very early. The Garden opened on schedule on April 1st. The snow trilliums had already bloomed five days before, setting a modern day early bloom date. Plants were 2-3 weeks ahead of average development The winter had been mild with little snow cover and while April 1986 had been the wettest in history with 5.88 inches of rain, April 1987 proved to be one of the driest with just 0.16 inch of precipitation. As a result, modern day early bloom date records were set for the following plants.

Snow Trillium (Trillium nivale) March 26
White Trout Lily (Erythronium albidum) April 9
Cutleaf Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata) April 9
Yellow Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum) April 11
Minn. (dwarf) Trout Lily (Erythronium propullans) April 12
Early Meadow Rue (Thalictrum dioicum) April 20.

Cary George was able to access Ken Avery's daily records of plant bloom - records going back to the late 50's. You can see some of those records in this pdf file. Avery Records of 25 plants

The prairie was not burned this year as the Garden could not get a permit.

Because of the road work on Highway 12, new directions to the Garden had to be given as construction closed the Hy. 12 exits to Wirth Parkway. A new alarm system funded by the Friends had been installed in the Martha Crone Shelter during the winter as a result of a break-in that had occurred in 1986. Cost to the Friends was $1,325 including repairs of damaged items in the Shelter.

Cary George
Gardener Cary George with an example of Twin Leaf (Jeffersonia diphylla). Friends Photo.

On May 30th, the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden held their annual meeting in the Garden at the Martha Crone Shelter. Elected to the Friends' Board were: Ione Allison (new), Connie Bartz (new), Betty Bridgman, Betty Bryan, Dr. Norman Busse, Sallie Cole, Melvin Duoos, Elizabeth Jensen, Ann Kessen, Gloria Miller, Catherine Ordner, Shirley Schultz, Joyce Smeby, Patricia Thomesen.
Ex-officio members: Kenneth Avery and Dan Hasty.
Leaving the board this year were Natalie Adler, Cindy Berg, Doris Larson.

New Gardener Cary George was introduced to the Friends membership. He mentioned that the Census of the Garden that the Friends paid for in 1986 had been completed by Barb Delany and that the bog area had been cleared of Buckthorn. (This of course, would be required to be done again and again in future years.)

At the Board of Directors meeting following the annual meeting, re-elected as president was Gloria Miller; Betty Bryan, Vice President; Joyce Smeby, Secretary; Melvin Duoos, Treasurer.

Betty Bridgman remained as editor of the newsletter The Fringed Gentian™, Pat Thomesen, past president 1984-85, was membership secretary, Shirley Schultz continued as volunteer coordinator, Sally Cole as memorials chair. At the time, the Friends had 203 members.

In The Fringed Gentian™ editor Betty Bridgman announced that there would a celebration of the 80th Anniversary of the Garden on June 13th, with Garden tours conducted and a volunteer reception hosted by the Friends at the Martha Crone Shelter.

Summer 1987

Allegheny Serviceberry
Allegheny Serviceberry, (Amelanchier laevis). Photo G D Bebeau

The 80th Anniversary of the Garden was held on June 13th, with Garden tours conducted by the Garden naturalists and a volunteer reception hosted by the Friends at the Martha Crone Shelter. WCCO Radio and Mpls-St. Paul Magazine chose the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden as one of their "Summer Pleasures" days and the date was set to be August 17th. The Minnesota Horticulturalist in the June issue printed a story by Mary McGuire Lerman on Eloise Butler's efforts to establish the Garden. (PDF copy of article)

After the dry weather of April rains had returned by mid-May, but not any large amounts; June was light also but from mid-July to mid-August there was a deluge. July 1987 was the wettest calendar month in local history with 17.90 inches of rain, which included one storm that dropped over 8 inches on the Garden and knocked out the phone service.

Cary George added plants to the Garden that included
Wild Blue Phlox, Butterfly Milkweed, Blue Flag, Large flowered Penstemon, Sweet Flag, Bottlebrush Grass, Pagoda Dogwood, Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum)

The following were noted as new to the Garden but two had been Eloise Butler introductions.

Ken Avery
Retired Gardener Ken Avery. Newspaper photo.

In the The Fringed Gentian™, former Gardener Ken Avery, wrote a letter of goodbye - his last letter to the membership of the Friends. He gave his reasons for leaving the Garden:

When I first came into the Garden under Mrs. Crone, I fell in love with what I found there and have never intentionally changed it in any way. Oh, it has changed, nature and society have changed and in so doing have forced some changes, but most of these were just cosmetic. In most ways, it has remained much as it was when I first walked through its front gate. 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.

Autumn 1987

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) Several of these were planted in the bog in 1987 in honor of Ken Avery. Photo G D Bebeau

One of the plants Gardener Cary George planted in 1987 was Winterberry. Three were inserted in the marsh along the bog trail. He was planting it in honor of Ken Avery, as that was the only honor Ken had accepted and Cary said he had to search for the correct species. Winterberry, Ilex verticillata, is the only holly native to Minnesota. Friends secretary Joyce Smeby and her family helped Cary plant the shrubs. There was to be a dedicatory plaque mounted to a rock which was discussed the next year at the Friends 1988 May 14th Board meeting, but that was never placed.

Cary also noted in his plant lists that at this time the Garden now contained two species of Goldenrod - Crossleaf and Giant - that were not listed on Martha Crone's 1951 Garden Census. We are unsure of which species he meant by "Crossleaf" but Giant is (Solidago gigantea) and was first planted in the Garden in 1919 by Eloise Butler.

Garden naturalists reported that mushrooms were in abundance in the Garden this past season. There were lots of shaggy manes, a large Polyporus frondorus and a sizable sulphur shelf (Laetiporus sulphureus aka Chicken of the woods or L. cincinnatus).

The wet July and August undoubtedly contributed to the abundance. Wet as the summer was, late August, September and October were quite dry. There were some snowfalls in Nov. and Dec. but no significant amounts. The year ended however as the second wettest in local weather history.

The Garden closed on October 31st completing Cary George's first year as Gardener at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden.

Photo top of page: Cary George in the winter Garden (Friends photo from 2000)

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. 35, # 1, March 1987, Betty Bridgman, Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 37]

Vol. 35, # 2, May 1987, Betty Bridgman, Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 37]

Vol. 35, # 3, August, 1987, Betty Bridgman, Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 37]

Vol. 35, # 4, September, 1987, Betty Bridgman, Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 37]

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. "" - 010921