Martha Crone began her 21st year as Garden Curator.
NOTE on photos: From 1948 to 1957 Martha Crone assembled a collection of Kodachrome slides that she took of plants and landscape of the Wildflower Garden. The assemblage eventually totaled over 4,000 slides. She used these slides to give illustrated lectures about the Garden to various clubs, groups and organizations. Martha Crone was a founding member of the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, a director from 1952 to 1972 and an honorary life member thereafter.
After her death in 1989 her daughter Janet, passed the collection to the Friends via Friends member Martha Hellander who was in the process of researching a book about Eloise Butler. The Friends sorted the collection and then for a short time, used them at lectures about the Garden. Some of those images are shown on this page.
In January the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden put out the first issue of their 4-page newsletter - The Fringed Gentian™ (Vol. 1 No. 1, January 1953). What to expect of the newsletter was explained by Friends President Clinton Odell this way:
This is the first issue of our Wild Flower Publication - begun in a small, inexpensive way. Let no one be misled by its size - good things frequently come in small packages.
Martha Crone, our editor, is a talented writer. One of our Minneapolis newspapers several years ago ran a number of her contributions to “Museum Notes” on its editorial page. She has also been well received as a lecturer on wild flowers, having given over thirty talks, before various clubs and gatherings during the year just past, illustrated by beautiful Kodachrome slides taken by her in the Wild Flower Garden. In addition to telling you about wild flowers and how to raise them, Mrs. Crone will write about birds visiting the garden.
You will find nothing herein about business or politics, war or sports - so in your home, read it by your fireside and become relaxed for a few minutes, in an atmosphere of wild flowers, birds and Thoreausian beauty.
And why that title? - Martha explains:
The Fringed Gentian™ was chosen as the title for this publication because
this flower is considered one of the choicest of American wild flowers. It was once proposed as our National flower.
This very beautiful and elusive gentian blooms during September and October, really an after-bloom of Autumn days - last yet loved the best. It will always be associated in one's mind with the charming lines written by the poet William Cullen Bryant -
Thou waitest late and cometh alone,
When woods are bare and birds are flown,
And frosts and shortening days portend
The aged year is near his end.
The delicate violet-blue corolla, open only in sunshine, is a vase-like
tube with four rounded and spreading lobes, finely fringed around the top.
They close with a twisting gesture at night or on dull days.
It is fast disappearing due to the increased cultivation of wild land. As the population increases the wild flowers decrease.
Among other rare flowers the Fringed Gentian is being successfully grown in the Wild Flower Garden. With a thorough understanding of its habits and requirements it can be propagated. It requires low moist meadows or bogs.
In that same issue Martha then wrote about the Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), the Horse Gentian (Triosteum perfoliatum) and a winter brook. A section from Thoreau’s journals about Snow Crystals was quoted.
And in the first issue, as she would in many later issues, Martha wrote about the value of the Garden:
Thousands of people have enjoyed the facilities of the Wild Flower Garden, either for pleasure or study. Much remains to be done to fully develop the garden. It requires sufficient funds, help and material to do justice to such a unique garden, which is conducted for the preservation of herbaceous plants, shrubs and trees.
The value of the work being done in this Wild Flower Garden cannot be too strongly stressed, since the rapid advance of civilization is causing most of the remaining wild land to disappear. This natural heritage is worthy of perpetual preservation for the generations to follow. Help us to grow and prosper by inviting an acquaintance who is interested in wild flowers to membership.
Then Martha sent along something else with the mailing: “The enclosed binder was designed for filing of issues of our publication for future reference.” During her 20 year tenure as editor she would continue to send out these binders annually.
The first annual meeting of the Friends was held in January at the registered office - that is, the headquarters of Clinton Odell’s firm, the Burma-vita Company, at 2318 Chestnut Avenue West, just east of the Garden.
Elected to the Board of Directors were: Russell Bennett, Earle Brown (new), Dorothy Binder, Martha Crone, Donald C. Dayton, Clinton Odell, Leonard Ramberg, Mrs. Clarence (Ebba) Tolg (new).
This immediate expansion of the board brought in Earle Brown who must have been known by Clinton Odell and Mrs. Clarence Tolg who was known to Martha Crone for many years prior to this as she appears in Martha's records twice in 1942, stopping in the Garden for a visit. The connection was wildflowers.
She was known as "Ebba" and also called Betty. In 1939 she had helped form the Golden Valley Garden Club, gave gardening talks and maintained a good sized wild flower garden at her home on 206 Meadow Lane North in Golden Valley, just a short distance from the Wildflower Garden. She was on the Minneapolis Campfire Girls Council in 1940s. Her husband, Clarence, became well known in the 1960s as "Uncle Fogey" on WCCO radio.
Friends officers were Clinton Odell, President; Donald C. Dayton, Vice President; Mrs. Carroll (Dorothy) Binder, Vice President; Leonard Ramberg, Treasurer; Martha Crone Secretary. Martha Crone was also in charge of membership and was editor of the Fringed Gentian™
Martha's new duties were covered in the Minneapolis Star's column "Town Toppers" on March 12. It identified her as the "wild flower lady" and explained her background and what she has accomplished at the Wild Flower Garden. One statement was "In most lives, work is one thing and hobbies are another. In Mrs. Crone's case it's hard to find any dividing line." (PDF of article)
In the Friends’ newsletter (Vol. 1 No. 2, April 1953) Martha Crone wrote about Snow Trillium, May Time, Skunk Cabbage, Wafer Ash, Pasque Flower, May Apple, and transplanting wild flowers. She wrote of spring:
There are few lovelier sights than finding in sheltered nooks where the sun has rested, patches of Hepaticas, Snow Trilliums and Bloodroot, the real harbingers of spring. These often are covered over again with a snowy blanket of recurring blizzards.
Spring weather allowed the Garden to open on April 1st and in the first 4 days of April Martha Crone noted it was lovely warm weather with Snow Trilliums and Hepaticas budding. All the snow was gone as was the frost. On Sunday April 5, large crowds of people came to the Garden. Her crop of Rhododendron, planted a few years ago, weathered the winter in fine shape. On the 9th she commenced her planting program, putting in 100 Snow Trillium, 25 Trout Lilies and 10 Hepaticas. But nice weather was not to last. A thunderstorm on the 14th was followed by a snow storm on the 15th and then cold and wind. Temperatures dropped down to 20 degrees until April 20th. The Snow Trilliums and Hepaticas that were in full bloom were froze stiff, but survived the eventual thawing out.(1)
April 20 must have been the first reasonable day, as Martha planted 12 double snow trilliums (unusual plant) received from Mrs. E. H. Cummings in Preston, MN. The cold weather did cause the entire spring season to be late as cold and rainy weeks followed in May also. The hummingbirds came back to the Garden on May 15. This was a date Martha always noted except in the late 1940s when her log is full of nothing but planting notes. On May 18 she gave a tour of the Garden to the members of the Schoolmasters' Wives club.
During the spring months Martha planted the following plants for the first time in the Garden. Many are not native.
In the summer Nnewsletter (Vol. 1 No. 3, July 1953), Martha Crone wrote about Snowball Bush, the Ruby Throated Hummingbird which returned to the Garden this year on May 15th, poison sumac, the Showy lady’s-slipper, ferns, the nighthawk, and the number of wild orchids found in Minnesota.
Of summer she wrote:
The singing of the birds reached its climax during June, the sweetest month of the year. In July it has almost ceased and by August they are mostly silent, the season of nesting is over and they are no longer inspired to sing.
The late summer weather was dry and warm; Martha called it a drought. She had additional help from the Park Board in the Garden from May 2 to July 10, but again wished the extra manpower could be extended later in the season. (2)
On June 18, the Show Lady’s-slippers bloomed. This was the third latest date for bloom ever noted, matching the latest date that Ken Avery and Cary George recorded during their tenures; the second latest was June 21st in 1936 and June 28, 1945 is the latest date known.
Martha planted one new species in the Garden during the summer:
Mimulus moschatus, Musk flower, not native, from Meyers Nursery.
In the fall newsletter (Vol. 1 No. 4, October 1953) Editor Martha Crone wrote about the Jerusalem Artichoke, Indian Pipe, Horsetail, Running Myrtle, Moneywort, Owls, Wild asters, edible wild fruits, and the blooming time of the Gentians. She noted the Friends now had 162 members.
Of autumn she wrote:
September comes as soft twilight after the sultry summer is past. It is the month cf ripening fruits and seeds of various plants. The direct and blazing rays of the summer sun now slant, only warmly upon the earth, the cool nights are refreshing and insect annoyances are past. This is colorful October the finest month of the year.
In her Annual Report to the Board of Park Commissioners Martha Crone termed the fall weather this year a drought. She reported planting during the year 936 plants and 57 varieties of seed. Some of those plants were the new additions noted above. The remainder were species already in the Garden. She set out 100 new aluminum plant markers. The brochures she had developed for a “Self Conducted Tour Thru the Garden” she estimated helped 50,000 visitors. In addition she had Garden plant lists for sale at 10 cents each. She also noted thanks to Clinton Odell for his assistance in furthering the interest in the Garden. (2)
In her annual Secretary’s report to the Friends Martha Crone stated she gave 25 illustrated slide lectures to clubs, garden groups, school groups and others - reaching 1,512 persons. The largest group was the Duluth Garden Flower Society. (3) She also purchased a mosquito sprayer, various seeds and bulbs and other items that her normal budget did not provide for, with Funds from the Friends.(2)
Once again, even though the Garden closed on October 31 and she was only paid through that date, we find her still working in November.
On November 2nd she reports:
No killing frost yet, Dutchman’s Pipe leaves still green. Warm enough without coat, has been 1/2 inch rain during Sept. and Oct. Tufted Titmouse has been feeding several weeks at feeder. (2)
On November 12 she plants in the Garden Gentiana saponaria, Soapwort Gentian or Harvest bells, from seed, not native. Eloise Butler had planted it back in 1929.
Her last entry is on December 2nd where she plants seeds of Aquilegia coerulea, Colorado Blue Columbine and Blue Bellflower Campanulastrum americanum. Martha was fond of starting plants from seed in the fall and a number of the plants she reported setting out in the Garden in large quantities undoubtedly came from seedlings.
(1). Garden Log
(2). Annual Reports of the Garden Curator to the Board of Park Commissioners - dated February 10, 1954 to Charles E. Doell.
(3). Friends of the Wild Flower Garden Secretary’s Report - 1953
Photo top of page: A path into the Upland Garden, photographed by Martha Crone on July 16, 1953.
Martha Crone's Garden Log and her 1951 Census of plants in the Garden.
Various papers and correspondence of Eloise Butler and Martha Crone in the collection of the Minnesota Historical Society.
Meeting Minutes and correspondence of The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden.
Archive of the Friends Newsletter The Fringed Gentian™
Vol. 1, # 1, January 1953, Martha Crone, Editor.
Vol. 1, # 2, April 1953, Martha Crone, Editor.
Vol. 1, # 3, July 1953, Martha Crone, Editor.
Vol. 1, # 4, October 1953, Martha Crone, Editor.
Historical Climatology of Minneapolis-St. Paul Area by Charles Fisk.