2019 begins the 113th year of the Garden, the 67th year for the Friends and Susan Wilkins’ 16th year as Garden Curator.
It was one of those years when a long sought-after goal was achieved - the completion of the wetland boardwalk - the planning for which began ten years prior in 2010. The year was also kind to the vegetation in the Garden as rainfall was timely and in November 2019 there were large snowfalls to protect the plants, so large that by November month-end all previous annual precipitation records were broken and at year end the historic mark was 43.17 inches of precipitation.
However, this being Minnesota there were a few other curves: It was not until January 19 that we had our first below zero temperature - the latest date ever, but January 28 gave us the coldest day in 26 years at 28 degrees below zero F; February set a snowfall record of 38.9 inches, a foot more than the previous record and the 4th snowiest month ever in the Twin Cities.
The Friends held their first Board meeting of the year on February 4 at Past-president Pam Weiner’s house. There was much to discuss. First was the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board’s (MPRB) proposal to ban pesticides (which includes herbicides and fungicides) in city parks. There has been opposition raised about how control of certain invasive species will be handled, particularly large Buckthorn stumps that cannot be pulled out and must be treated to prevent re-sprout. The issue was not decided at this date but the ban was put into place later in the year.
During the winter the 2nd half of the wetland boardwalk was installed with a few minor finishing touches to be done in April. The first section of the boardwalk installed in 2015 was reinforced with special support plates to keep the support piers from sinking too far in to damp wetland soil during the freeze-thaw cycle of our winters. The MPRB was paying for the upgrade. Dedication of the final section was set for April 26 which would also be Arbor Day celebration in Wirth Park. [Boardwalk history]
Plans were reviewed for a special event at the Garden around the time of the Lady’s-slippers blooming. President Kathy Connelly had drafted a Restated Articles of Incorporation, the first revision since 1991, and those were approved. [pdf copy] A bylaw revision was being worked on.
Membership and treasurer’s reports were received by email as both Jayne Funk and Gary Bebeau were absent from the meeting.
In other activities, volunteer coordinator Melissa Hansen said that the MPRB was requiring a new volunteer application form that would be submitted directly to them for processing and background checks. Colin Bartol was taking over editorship of the newsletter; Jennifer Olson was working on having a quest speaker at the annual meeting of the Friends. Jim Proctor undated the board on what FIPAG (Friends Invasive Plant Action Group) had accomplished in the Maple Glen last fall. He also noted that Liz Anderson was no longer going to be co-coordinator of the group as she wanted to spend more time on other volunteer work.
On February 19 the annual Wild Ones Conference was held in St. Paul and the Friends had a sponsorship table. Visitors learned about the Friends and the Wildflower Garden. The Friends’ Garden-themed note cards and the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden Plant Identification Book were available for purchase.
In mid-February the Friends received an anonymous donation of $50,000 to support the Wildflower Garden. This was the largest single donation ever received by the Friends.
The ice and snow stuck around long enough such that the Garden did not open until April 8, then had to close again for a major snowstorm on April 10/11 leaving 8.9 inches of new snow. Snow Trilliums were in bloom before the storm. The boardwalk installation however was finished by April 1 so all was ready for the dedication. Trail Source did the installation with assistance from Landscape Architect James Robin. The Garden reopened on April 17.
Below: The completed boardwalk on April 9 before the heavy snow that forced the Garden to close until April 17. Photo G D Bebeau
Seventy-five years previously Martha Crone wrote on April 1, 1944:
Six inches snow covering the ground. Nothing up and still very cold. Heavy snow storm in November followed by mild weather during December, January and February. March has been cold.” On April 2nd “the temperature was 14 above in the morning. Pails of water frozen almost solid in the office. (1)
The resident foxes of the Garden again had a litter of kits.
The spring meeting of The Friends Board was on April 1 at the new Trailhead Building in Wirth Park - a test run to see if the facility would work for meetings - not satisfactory due to noise level. Kathy Connelly presented the revised bylaws and they were approved. [pdf copy] They replaced the 2015 revision. Melissa Hansen went over the new shelter volunteer procedures where reference checks and background checks were now handled by the MPRB, not our volunteer coordinator. An orientation was set for April and new volunteers would again have to shadow an experienced volunteer through a training shift. Seven new volunteers have signed up.
Resignations from the Friends Board were received from Jennifer Dunne and Jayne Funk. The Minnesota Charities Report for 2018 was approved for filing. Susan Wilkins had submitted in January a list of projects for funding in the year 2020. Two were selected and approved -
1. Purchasing up to 1,500 sedges to fill in bare areas of the woodland hillsides and
2. Purchasing up to 1,000 wildflowers and ferns to plant between the front entrance and the shelter along the trail. The total cost was estimated to be $7,000.
A new 3-year membership category was approved, principally to be used for gift memberships.
The final plans for Arbor Day on April 26 were reviewed. The Garden staff was planning a Family Day for a Sunday in June and Director Steve Benson was working on the Friends part of the activities.
The Arbor Day official event was from 4 PM to 8 PM but at 3 PM the boardwalk dedication was held. The Friends had a small information table in the patio area of the Shelter. Board members and volunteers assisted Garden staff on the events of the Day. Jennifer Olson prepared a handout on Minneapolis Heritage Trees that were in Wirth Park and on the reverse side was information about the Tamarack. [PDF copy] Activities in Wirth Park included a tree planting, tree climbing, a nature play, a 5K race plus games, a food truck and beer garden.
Below: The boardwalk dedication on April 26, 2019. L to r: MPRB Commissioner Jono Cowgill; Friends' Board Member Pam Weiner; donor Tom Hoch, MPRB Commissioner Meg Forney; donor Mark Addicks; Friends President Kathy Connelly.
The total cost of the entire boardwalk was just under $300,000 not including some expenses related to the wood and some maintenance work incurred by MPRB. The Friends had contributed $148,104 for the entire project.
On Mother’s Day, May 12, The Friends had an information table on the patio in the Garden with Kathy Connelly, Janet Anderson, Gary Bebeau and Christi Bystedt helping. Six new members were obtained.
Editor Colin Bartol’s first issue of The Fringed Gentian™ (Vol. 67 No. 1) came out in April. It included articles about the Purple Pitcher plant, saving the Monarchs and the Aurora Borealis. Susan Wilkins reviewed the boardwalk project; Kathy Connelly gave notice of the upcoming annual meeting and FIPAG reviewed their recent work.
Garden Curator Susan Wilkins wrote in that issue:
The return of spring is such a heartening part of our four season cycle. It feels like a genuine miracle, to have the warming earth re-awaken the vibrancy of our sensory awareness. Especially those senses that can almost go dormant in the winter, like one’s sense of smell. Until a whiff of damp earth reminds a woodland walker how much they longed for a mossy moment in the thawing sprawl of a spring forest.
A celebration of completion of the boardwalk was hosted by Pam Weiner at her house on Sunday May 19. Attending were the major donors to the project, Mark Addicks and Tom Hoch. It was at their historic house on James Avenue that a fund-raising event for The Friends was held in June 2015.
FIPAG had 3 workdays scheduled in May and June in the Volunteer Stewardship Area around the Garden pulling Garlic Mustard, but due to continued rainy weather only one day took place. They were able to plant sedges and Wild Ginger in the Maple Glen on the steep slopes where Buckthorn had been removed. This was a necessity to prevent erosion of the soils on the unprotected hillsides.
The annual meeting of the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden was held at 7 PM on May 20 at the Kenwood Community Center. Thirteen members were present. Summary reports of Friends activities were available and presented to those attending. The upcoming Summer events were reviewed.
Elected to the board for one year terms were Janet Anderson (new), Candy Bartol, Colin Bartol, Gary Bebeau, Steve Benson, Kathy Connelly, Melissa Hansen, Lauren Husting, Jennifer Olson, Jim Proctor, Sally Pundt, Steve Pundt, Pam Weiner and Susan Wilkins (ex-officio).
At the Board of Directors meeting following the annual meeting, the officers elected were: Kathleen Connelly, President; Janet Anderson, Vice-president; Candy Bartol, Secretary; Gary Bebeau, Treasurer.
In committee roles were: Gary Bebeau, memorials, money management and website; Melissa Hansen, volunteers; Jennifer Olson, historian; Jim Proctor, Invasive Plant Action Group (with non-board member Kari Christianson, co-chair); Colin Bartol, newsletter editor; Lauren Husting, electronic communications.
Kathy Connelly was submitting a new application for tax exempt status to the Minnesota Department of Revenue. The Friends had done the same in 2000 but it was rejected. Steve Benson reported on the preparations for Family Day coming up in June.
The Garden’s public programs offered in May provide a sampling of the wide variety of things the Garden staff was doing. A Nature Tots set of programs appropriate for kids 2 to 5 provided classes titled “Budding Botanists,”Camouflaged Critters,” “Art in the Garden,” and “Rainbow in the Garden.” “Garden Storytime” occurred each Wednesday; each Saturday still had the “early birders” ramble, and every Sunday had a family wildflower walk. Saturdays and Sundays had many other events. [pdf of program list] (2)
May was much wetter than usual with many heavy rains. The Mississippi River dropped below flood stage in St. Paul on May 5, ending a 42-day flood period - longest ever. With a delayed start in April and a wet May, the spring wildflowers bloomed quickly but briefly.
June 9 was Family Day at the Garden. The Showy Lady’s-slippers were in bloom. Throughout the day Jennifer Olson and her book club held a “story time” under the hemlocks. A self-directed “nature quest” for young people organized by staffers Elaine Thander and Wendy Tremblay went on all day with small prizes for those who could rummage through the Garden and put answers on a clue card. The Friends funded the presence of an artist, La Luchadora, to make custom lady’s-slipper screen prints. She brought in a mobile cart for people to interact with. A felt board and a frog toss added to the activities. Other Friends volunteers had an information table on the patio, where four new members signed up. 425 people were counted coming in at the front gate.
This type of event requires considerable planning time, staff time, and a large number of volunteers to carry it out - so much time in fact, that it was decided by the Curator that such events cannot be done very often. The Friends can only concur with the decision as the Friends are not responsible for the staff time or the Garden budget.
During the summer the plants arrived that the Friends were funding: 145 shrubs from Prairie Restorations and 122 trees from Outback Nursery. The shrubs were planted between Geranium Lane and Lady’s Slipper Lane and a few in the Fern Glen. The trees went between Violet Way and edges of the Upland Garden.
The first group included
American Elder, Winterberry, Balsam Fir, Bog Birch, Silky Dogwood, Redosier Dogwood, Thimbleberry, Pussy Willow, White Cedar and three native introductions - Low Juniper, Inland Serviceberry and Autumn Willow - the latter had been noted in the Garden by Eloise Butler in 1916.
The second group included:
White Pine, Eastern Wahoo, Witch Hazel, Red Elderberry, Red Maple, Sugar Maple, Blue Beech, Hackberry, American Plum, American Basswood, and a reintroduction of Cockspur Hawthorn which Eloise Butler had planted back in 1912. [List with quantities]
Below: The beautiful flowers of Cockspur Hawthorn which was re-introduced to the Garden in 2019. Note the long spur-like thorns. Photo G D Bebeau.
In June Christi Bystedt volunteered to be membership coordinator, a non-board position, picking up the membership duties from Jayne Funk. A review of how membership communication was handled led to several changes. Members receiving renewal notices by paper or by email were now sent a follow up letter by mail 60 days later if there was no response to the first communication. A request to rejoin letter was sent to all former members who had been dropped in the past year. Email renewal notices were now sent out using the MailChimp database.
On August 19-21 a group of park officials and civic leaders from Pittsburgh were in Minneapolis to meet with the same local officials on a “ParkXhange” visit. They were led by Pittsburgh Parks Superintendent Jayne Miller (former MPRB Superintendent). They visited the Wildflower Garden on the morning of August 20 for purposes of hearing about how the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden interact with the MPRB. Friends board member Gary Bebeau met them and explained the function of the Friends and took them on a tour of the newly completed boardwalk.
During the summer the MPRB announced that budgeted funds may be available for some infrastructure upgrades to the Wildflower Garden in 2020 or 2021. On June 19, Kathy Connelly, Gary Bebeau, Pam Weiner and Jim Proctor met with Susan Wilkins and MPRB staff members Emma Pachuta, MaryLynn Pulsner and Adam Arvidson to review what they had in mind. The work would include an addition to the Crone Shelter for staff needs, moving them out of the old gardener’s shed, which would then be replaced with a new maintenance building and moved to a more appropriate area. A family bathroom would be added to the current restroom building and some ideas were also reviewed on how to improve the entrance area to the Garden from the parking lot to the gate. Emma later came to the Friends board meeting in September to review this with the entire board.
Below: A rendering of the proposed addition to the Crone Shelter - MPRB drawing.
The summer issue of the Friends newsletter (Vol. 67 No. 2) highlighted the 75th Anniversary of the upland addition to the original Wild Flower Garden. In 1944 Friends founder Clinton Odell had persuaded the Board of Park Commissioners to include a new upland area and abandon the north meadow where Eloise Butler’s Mallard Pool had been located. Full details of that endeavor at this link.
Other articles in the newsletter included what goes on underground in root systems, Kathy Connelly’s review of Friends’ activities and notes about her visit to the Devil Track Wildflower Sanctuary in Northern Minnesota. An interview with board member Lauren Husting rounded out the issue.
Garden programs were used by 781 4th grade students, representing 11 schools, during the summer with their bus transportation costs subsidized by the Friends' Student Transportation Grant Program.
More summer examples of MPRB programs for youngsters at the Wildflower Garden were: A 3-program group for 4th to 6th graders titled “Igniting Critical Thinking” and for 7th to 12th graders a 3-program group titled “Becoming Stewards.” [pdf of brochure] Special programs aimed at Scouts were also available [pdf]. A very special booklet was put together titled “What Will I Experience at the Garden?” that was a guide for individuals, families and groups as to what to expect to see and how to be aware of the rules. Illustrations were plentiful and the text was brief and at a level of understanding that youngsters could comprehend it. [pdf]
Some detail of what goes on in these programs is explained by MPRB Garden Naturalist Kyla Sisson:
Although most school groups visiting the Garden only stay for an hour, summer school students are immersed in nature for most of their school day. Aligned with science standards for their grade level, the program explores the concept of adaptations. Half the day focuses on birds, using games and hands-on play to investigate how birds have adapted to survive in their is the opportunity to see birds up close. (3).
Today, use of the Garden by students is primarily limited to the lower grades in schools in Minneapolis, as many other botanical sites are now around for such purposes, especially for higher education. That was not the case in the past. Eloise Butler was quoted 100 years prior in an article in the Minneapolis Journal titled “Botanists all over U.S. Visit Glenwood Wildflower Garden:”
All Minneapolis botany teachers, including those at the University of Minnesota, send their students to study in this beautiful outdoor museum of flowers. Many students of botany and lovers of flowers in St. Paul, too are frequent visitors. The curator’s office is equipped with anti-mosquito fluid so that those who can stay away from the woods for fear of the over-enthusiastic mosquito, need have not fear. If the visitor’s epidermis is unusually thin, he can get a “face and hand wash” free and after the fluid has been applied the mosquito will break all aerial records getting away from him.
In Martha Crone’s tenure as Curator University Professors Roberts, Breckinridge, Posner and Kilgore continued to bring in their University classes for study as they had done when Eloise was Curator.
July days were very warm, not in extremes, but the average temperature made July the warmest ever in the Twin Cities. By August 11 warblers were being sighted in the Garden on their migration south.
On September 9th The Friends set up an information table in downtown Robbinsdale at the annual “meet and greet” event. Board member Janet Anderson arranged it and Gary Bebeau and Christi Bystedt helped out. They talked to a number of people about the Garden, some of whom were already familiar with it, but it was a cold evening with continuous drizzle and rain so turnout was light.
The Friends final Board meeting of the year was held on September 23 at the Kenwood Community Center. MPRB planner Emma Pachuta was present for the first hour to review the plans for upgrading the shelter and restroom. During October a public survey would be taken to get a sense of what type of design elements Garden visitors were interested in. The results pointed to a desire to keep the Garden facilities simple and rustic.
The Friends’ budget for 2020 was presented and approved. The Friends budget is a year behind the budget set for the Garden. It was agreed that the Friends would budget a standing sum of $7,500 for funding MPRB Garden projects, with the particular projects to be approved from year to year, to assist Susan with her budgeting process. In addition an emergency fund of $1,500 will be maintained for boardwalk and other necessary work that will not otherwise be funded.
Susan Wilkins reviewed the tree care situation at the Garden. Some older oaks on the west hillside were still affected by Oak Wilt and four of the more significant ones were being injected to fore-stall the fungus. Additional ash trees were going to be removed during the Winter. More work of clearing over-story plants was also going on in the Fern Glen. Overall, the Garden’s plants were doing well. The staff had tallied 17,000 visitors into the Shelter as of August, which was well ahead of the 14,000 for the entire 2018 season.
Below: A portion of the Fern Glen in summer 2019 cleared of un-necessary growth and cover. Photo G D Bebeau
On Nov. 6, a public hearing on the concept design plan for the “Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary Operations and Visitor Comfort Improvements Project” as it was officially known was scheduled at 6:30 pm during the regular Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) of Commissioners meeting. The concept was approved, so the idea now moved to the budget hearings in early 2020.
The MPRB autumn programs at the Garden continued with new sessions for the children’s programs, storytime and family hikes. Also highlighted were Homeschool Days for homeschoolers, another ongoing Garden program. The Friends’ FIPAG Buckthorn removal schedule was also listed in the autumn brochure [PDF].
FIPAG’s work this autumn was a 3-event schedule in October in the Maple Glen. Significant progress was made including some renewal work on the back side (East) of the Garden fence.
Below: FIPAG at work in the Maple Glen on October 12, 2019. Photo - Friends.
50 years ago in September 1969 construction began on the shelter at Eloise Butler. The Board of Park Commissioners maintenance staff had cleared the site and the Friends’ contractor Joe Peterson Construction, was putting in the foundation.
It had been a long process. The original Garden shelter/office was constructed in 1915 to Eloise Butler’s specifications. It was now 54 years old and had served 3 curators. When the Friends asked the Board of Park Commissioners (renamed to the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board in 1970) to make plans for a new building in early 1968, they were not able to budget money for the foreseeable future so Superintendent Robert Ruhe suggested that the Friends provide a design for approval and provide the funding. The Friends did so. Friends board member Wilbur Tusler hired architect Hiram Livingston to do the design. Funds were raised but not completely until the last minute.
On October 23, 1969 former curator Martha Crone hammered in a “golden nail” (retrieved from the old building) on the above ground construction, all of which was duly reported by Barbara Flanagan of the Minneapolis Star. The new building was named for Martha Crone at its dedication on May 13, 1970. Details of the shelter construction are in this document.
The spring and summer had been wet. Fall color was very good but late. The first freeze (29 degrees) was not until October 24 and the first hard freeze waited until the week of November 3rd, which brought down the last of leaves and the last blackbirds departed.
The Garden closed on weekdays on October 15, opening on weekends for the remainder of October. Susan Wilkins noted that an estimated 60,000 people visited the Garden during the season and that the final shelter visitor count was 19,643. She wrote:
Each count represents each visit a person makes to the Shelter. It is truly incredible to think that such a significant number of visitors had a meaningful exchange with staff and volunteers; viewed the interesting natural history displays created by Garden staff; participated in a craft activity; interacted with the touch and see table; utilized reference books and field guides, children’s books, and more. [The Fringed Gentian™ vol 67 No. 3].
Susan also reported that “over 4,000 wildflowers, grasses, sedges, trees and shrubs were selected and added to the plant collections this season.”This included the shrubs and trees funded by The Friends.
The annual Volunteer Appreciation Event, sponsored by The Friends and the MPRB was on Sunday October 27 from 5 to 8 PM at St. Mary’s Greek Orthodox Church in South Minneapolis. Marna’s Catering of Robbinsdale was the new food vendor this year. Pam Weiner again organized the event and brought in a selection of gardening and plant books. The books were originally donated to an organization that ships books to other countries where specific books on North American plants and gardening would be of no use. Attendees at the event could take home what they wished. Susan Wilkins provided great desserts and also a 5x7 inch hardcover note book for volunteers.
Below: Friends Invasive Plant Action Group Volunteers at the annual event. Photo Bob Ambler.
Lauren Husting prepared at set of post cards to be used for Friends marketing purposes, using photos taken in the Garden by new Friends member Bob Ambler.
The autumn issue of The Friends newsletter was delayed until after the New Year.
Two events relating to land use around the Garden happened in the fall. On the east side of Wirth Park there were four vacant residential lots that were purchased by Firefly Woods, LLC and then placed into a permanent conservation easement creating a buffer between the residential area and the Park. In an opposite state of affairs, on the southeast corner of the Park sat a vacant commercial building and lot, formerly belonging to Century Link. A developer proposed new construction there with the request to the Park Board to build a storm water retention pond on park property. At the close of the year this issue was unresolved.
Another conservation land-use issue directly involved the Friends. Kathy Connelly worked out an agreement with The Friends of Cullen Nature Preserve that the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden would act as their fiscal sponsor until such time as they obtained non-profit status from the IRS. The Cullen Preserve is a 35 acre plot in the City of Minnetonka that had been the homestead of Ann Cullen Smith. When she died on Jan. 25, 2015 she left the property to the city to be retained as a nature preserve. The Friends of Cullen were formed to work with the City on preserving this piece of woodland much like the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden were formed to work with the MPRB in regards the Butler Wildflower Garden.
Below: The entrance into the Cullen Nature Preserve. Photo G D Bebeau.
Total Friends support for the Garden during the year was $32,809, which included $2.349 for volunteer support, $2,730 for Student Transportation, and $27,730 for plants and infrastructure in the Garden.
At year end 165 copies of the 2nd edition of The Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden Plant Identification Book had been sent out with only 12 remaining. Gary Bebeau, the editor, was preparing a 3rd edition for printing in early 2020.
The website traffic continued to increase, with just over 230,000 visits during 2019, a 43% increase over 2018. The site handles 75% of sales and 37% of membership support funds.
Donation support during the year was $59,371 from 76 donors. Memorials of $3,407 were received from 33 donors for 16 different persons. Name plates were added to the Eliason Honor Board in the Crone Shelter for former Friends director Catherine Rudberg, and for Pat Sjoquist, Dorothy Gillette and Elizabeth Higgin.
At the end of the year the Friends active membership was 220, including 46 life members. Courtesy memberships were 35 for a total count of 255. Forty two new members joined; sixty-eight in-arrears members were dropped from the roster but those remaining provided the highest member support total ever - $9,950; this included 4 new life memberships vs 3 in 2018.
(1) Martha Crone - Garden Log - 1944
(2) Garden Programs are created and presented by the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (MPRB) staff associated with the Wildflower Garden.
(3) The Fringed Gentian, Vol. 67, no. 3, Fall/Winter 2019.
Photo top of page: At the dedication of the new boardwalk segment, April 26, 2019. MPRB Photo.
Meeting Minutes and correspondence of the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden.
Archive of the Friends Newsletter The Fringed Gentian™
Vol. 67, no. 1, Spring 2019, Colin Bartol, Editor
Vol. 67, no. 2, Summer 2019, Colin Bartol, Editor
Vol. 67, no. 3, Fall/Winter 2019, Colin Bartol, Editor
Historical Climatology of Minneapolis-St. Paul Area by Charles Fisk.