Upland Garden at Eloise Butler in Oct.

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

Winter 1989/1990

Cary George with ladder
Gardener Cary George. Friends photo.

This is the fourth year with Gardener Cary George in charge of the Garden.

Note: The first issue of the Friend’s newsletter, The Fringed Gentian™, was numbered out of sequence this year. The correct volume number is used in the text. The "as printed" number is shown at the bottom of this page.

A sweep of the Garden in November 1989 turned up no deer and Cary found no evidence of deer having been in the Garden during the winter months which was good news after the past few years.

He also reported that work would be done along the steep trail at the back of the Garden leading to the upland prairie. This is the only trail in the Garden where one experiences the total elevation change from the woodland to the upland prairie. The trail dates to the mid 1970s and had an undesirable understory of Buckthorn, Raspberry, Boxelder and Poison Ivy. The clearings would be burned and some wildflowers could be planted, but switchbacks were not added until 1997. In 2005, the Ken Avery Birding Terrace would be created along this trail. The fox population in the Garden appeared to be high based on tracks and rabbit kills.

During the winter months the Park Board carpenters put in a new cedar bridge with handrails over the main water channel, replacing an old wooden dock that had been used and also replaced the three cement bridges over the smaller water channels with new cedar ones. [Photo below]

Back Path in the Garden
The back trail, shown here after a 1997 renovation when the switchbacks were put in. Photo G D Bebeau

The Friends were working during the winter on securing a large boulder that could be carved into a bird bath for placement on the upland prairie. The committee of three (Kathryn Stennes, Geri Benavides and Connie Lavoie) found a 1,200 pound specimen at Gray Cloud Island in Washington County at the J. L. Shiely Stone works. Shiely donated the boulder and then it was moved to West Lake Landscape in Eden Prairie where Jon Roe was to carve out the bird bath. It was to be ready for the Garden in April. A $1,000 bequest received from the Dr. Marian Grimes Estate in 1988 was applied to the cost. [Full story]

Twin Cities Magazine City Pages nominated the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden as the best garden in the Twin Cities because “it displays a subtle, more naturalistic beauty that teaches the mind and informs the sensibility.”

New Bird Bath
The new prairie birdbath. Photo G D Bebeau

Park Board Coordinator of Horticulture Programs Mary Maguire Lerman told the Friends that the Garden would enter the computer age this spring when one of the computers donated by Walker Art Center to the Park Board was scheduled to be placed in the Shelter so that staff could keep plant list information.

Most of these details were reported in the March 1990 issue of The Friends’ newsletter, The Fringed Gentian™. (Vol. 38 #1) The newsletter would get a new look and new editor with the next issue as this was Betty Bridgman’s last issue as editor.

The winter of 1989/1990 was very mild with January and February temperatures well above average. Snowfall was only slightly below average but because of the warm temps the ground was frequently without snow cover.

Below: The new bridge over the water channel in the wetland. Mpls Tribune photo.

New wetland bridge

Spring 1990

Kitten Tails
Kitten Tails (Besseya bullii) Cary found some in Wirth Park. Photo ©Chris Noll, Wisconsin Flora.

The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden held their annual meeting on a rainy and cold Saturday, May 19th, at the Martha Crone Shelter in the Garden. Directors elected were: Geri Benavides, Harriet Betzold (new), Betty Bryan, Elaine Christenson, Sallie Cole, Mel Duoos, Ann Kessen, Connie Bartz-Lavoie, Gloria Miller, Donna Sandstrom, Shirley Schultz, Joyce Smeby, Kathryn Stennes, Pat Thomesen.

Re-elected to their offices at the Board of Directors meeting were: Ann Kessen, President; Betty Bryan, Vice-President; Joyce Smeby, Secretary; and Melvin Duoos, Treasurer. Pat Thomesen continued as membership chair, Elaine Christenson as memorials chair, Shirley Schultz as Volunteer coordinator.

Betty Bridgman retired from the board and retired as editor of The Fringed Gentian™ after seven years and Kathy Stennis became editor.

There were five Garden Naturalists during the 1990 season - Marcia Holmberg, Nancy Niggley, Dawn Doering, Stephanie Torbert and Karen Shick. Nancy recapped the season this far at the meeting. Foreman of Horticulture for the Park Board, Dan Hasty, was present and reviewed the new signage for the Garden entrance and the Parkway entrance. It would be in place by June 1st.

Martha Hellander was present to review progress on her biography of Eloise Butler. She hoped to finish the text this year.

The Garden front gate as it looked in 1992 before the inscription was added. Stonework was done in 1990. Photo G D Bebeau

When former Garden Curator Martha Crone passed away in 1989 her daughter Janet gave her slide collection to the Friends via Martha Hellander. For the past year Elaine Christenson had been sorting through them, setting aside Martha’s Kodachromes of the Garden and plants. The Friends planned to use them at group meetings to introduce people to the Garden. [Note: These were kept by the Friends for a number of years and eventually were deposited with in the Martha Crone Collection at the Minnesota Historical Society.]

Cary George made a presentation about the Garden. The deer problem of past seasons had not resurfaced, vandalism was down, but some recent immigrants to the area were entering the Garden and collecting certain plants - an issue that would continue into the first decade of the new century. He brought in a specimen of Garlic Mustard [which at that time was just coming on people’s radar as a very invasive plant] and noted that he found a grouping of 27 Kitten Tails (Besseya bullii) in a secluded part of Wirth Park. A portion of these were transplanted to the Garden. These are an endangered plant known from only a few sites in 11 Minnesota counties. The DNR was notified of the location. His talk was interrupted by two Scarlet Tanagers that appeared at the Shelter window.

Moccasin Flower
Stemless Lady's-slipper or Moccasin Flower (Cypripedium acaule). Photo ©G D Bebeau.

President Kessen reviewed plans for the new front entrance to the Garden [the current entrance in 2020] that the Friends were funding. The stonework would be completed this year and there were plans for a wooden arbor that would not be completed for several more years. Membership dues were also discussed, in particular the $5 basic membership. The cost of the newsletter exceeded the dues amount. This issue of cost vs dues would resurface in later years once again, as it had in years past.

All this information was relayed to the Friends’ members in the June edition of The Fringed Gentian™ (Vol. 38 #2) which took on a new editor in the form of Kathy Stennis who redesigned the look of it, which design would be used until the spring of 2008, and she also had it printed on recycled paper for the first time.

Cary George reported that the Yellow Lady’s-slipper [Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens] bloomed on May 24 for the first time in 3 years, and the Stemless Lady’s-slipper (Cypripedium acaule) was growing vegetatively but without bloom. The Stemless was a favorite of Eloise Butler, Martha Crone and Ken Avery, all of whom planted them a number of times, but they always died out. Cary had planted the current group in 1989 and as they are not indigenous to the Garden, they have never been replanted.

Summer 1990

Heritage Black Cherry
Cary George with the Minneapolis Heritage Black Cherry tree in the Garden. Friends photo.

The grand niece of Eloise Butler, Ms. Eloise Butler from California, visited the Garden in June in the company of Martha Hellander who was writing the biography of the first curator. (The Fringed Gentian™ Vol. 38 #2)

Final design work on the new front gate by Park Board landscape architect Sandy Welsh was approved by the Friends. Three basic designs had been presented to the Friends and the chosen one was then modified in a fourth version for approval. Work would begin in September. The old metal gate from 1975, still in good form, was retained and re-set into the new stonework. The Friend’s funding for the entrance, totaling $9,680 was made possible by a large gift to the Friends from the Hamlin Trust.

The Friends had discussed replacing the flagstones that provided the solid surface of the patio area in front of the Martha Crone Shelter with concrete and had secured Park Board approval but the replacement was never done. (1)

Heritage White Oak
Cary George with the Minneapolis Heritage White Oak tree in the Garden. Friends photo.

In the Friends’ newsletter, Gardener Cary George reported that on July 8th 70 mph straight-line winds knocked down five 100 year old Red Oaks and two mature Green Ash in the Garden. The Garden in 1990 contained 63 species of trees with the 100-year old oaks being from the previous forest generation and the newer generation composed of 20 to 40-year trees. He reviewed the Minneapolis Heritage Tree Program and the six heritage trees located within the Garden: the Pin Cherry, Mountain Maple, Siberian Crabapple, White Oak, Canadian Hemlock and a Black Cherry. [The White Oak would be brought down be another storm years later] (Vol. 38 # 3)

Cary would also make a very astute observation with this paragraph:

Dutch elm disease took virtually all the American Elms in the mid-70’s. Oak wilt has become the major threat in the 90’s. A mysterious disease called “Ash Decline” had killed many of the Green Ash planted in the 70’s. Critics would say we learned nothing from the monoculture planting of elms in the 1920’s, as green ash have been over-planted and form a large percentage of trees planted on public land and in streetscapes. [And that was before most people ever heard of the Emerald Ash Borer.]

The summer was very wet, especially June with numerous rainfalls over one inch. Temperature was normal so there were plenty of mosquitoes, lush foliage, many mushrooms and many dragonflies.

Autumn 1990

Martha Hellander
Martha Hellander, author of The Wild Gardener. Friends photo.

Martha Hellander, writing the biography of Eloise Butler, gave a well-attended talk at the Garden on Sept. 30th about the pre-garden years of Eloise Butler’s life. Martha also received a second grant from Minnesota Historical Society to continue her work. The Friends also provided $3,400 during the year.

In the Friends’ newsletter, (Vol. 38 No. 4) Cary George reviewed the status of the natural springs in the area of the Garden. All the springs in the Garden had dried up in previous years but the Great Medicine Spring just outside the Garden continued to flow until recent years. Beginning in 1987 the flow was minimal. He thought a hand pump could be installed but that the sense of community spirit of slowly filling jugs would be lost. The de-watering of the roadway for the construction of I-394, nearby, has always been looked at as a partial reason for the decline. [Note: In 1998-99 The Friends would under take reviving the spring]

Wild Garderner Book
Martha Hellander, author of The Wild Gardener

The Friends decided to increase the basic membership fee from $5 to $10, add a $15 family rate, but retain a $7 limited income membership. Work began on a revision of The Friends’ Bylaws. (Vol. 38 #4)

Fall bird migration had a few interesting species - Cooper’s Hawk, a merlin and a Swainson’s Thrush. Precipitation in the fall was very light, and the first hard frost was not until October 18. The garden closed on Oct. 31st. The volunteer staff for the season numbered 49.

Photo top of page: The Upland Garden viewed from the east in October. 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


(1) Meeting Minutes and correspondence of the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden. Conversation with Cary George, April 26, 2019.

Archive of the Friends Newsletter The Fringed Gentian™

Vol. 38, # 1, March 1990, Betty Bridgman, Editor [Mis-labeled as Vol. 40]

Vol. 38, # 2, June 1990, Kathy Stennes, Editor

Vol. 38, # 3, September, 1990, Kathy Stennes, Editor

Vol. 38, # 4, December, 1990, Kathy Stennes, Editor

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" - 020321