front gate in October

History of the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden

Winter 2019/2020

2020 begins the 113th year of the Garden, it having been established on April 15, 1907. It was the 68th year for the Friends and Susan Wilkins’ 17th year as Garden Curator.

This year brought the SARS-coV-2 virus to the Untied States, spreading from a few locations into a nationwide and worldwide pandemic, known as Covid-19, taking over 400,000 lives in the United States by year-end, millions more abroad, and restricting personal interaction in many forms. Garden activity was restricted, in person meetings were abandoned for virtual meetings and it was a year of political upheaval. 2020 is also the 50th anniversary of dedication of the Martha E. Crone Shelter at the Wildflower Garden and of the Friends volunteer docent program for the Shelter.

As the new year arrived with future events still the future Friends President Kathy Connelly messaged the Friends membership with these words:

book cover
Cover of the 3rd Edition Plant Identification Book.

As the new year dawns, the Garden paths are covered with snow and with the footprints of the foxes that overwinter there. The only humans inside the gates these days, from time to time, is the Curator and her crew, doing that work that is best done during the deep freeze. 

The rest of us are thinking about this very special place and planning how to be the best possible stewards and supporters in the coming year. The Friends will coordinate volunteers, invest in new plants, pay for student bus transport, as usual, and will also support the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s (MPRB) new project updating Garden buildings and re-visioning the entrance area.


Over the Winter months Gary Bebeau compiled the 3rd edition of the Plant Identification Book. The 2nd edition of 180 copies was almost sold out. The new edition of 350 copies was printed in February at Fast Print. It was much enlarged, now totaling 264 pages vs 142. 787 species of plants were represented with 1,949 photos. Price increased to $26.95 from 19.95.

The first Friends board meeting of the year was held in the evening of January 27 at the home of past president Pam Weiner. The status of the Friends Fiscal Sponsorship arrangement with the Cullen Nature Preserve was reviewed. No transactions ever occurred via this arrangement and Cullen received their own non-profit status later in the Spring. The Garden Shelter improvement plan had been put on hold as the project manager had resigned from the MPRB. With no new person assigned, the project moved forward to 2021.

The old oak on the west path in the Upland in January 2020. Photo G D Bebeau.

oak on west path

Jim Proctor commented that a faction of anti-pesticide activists has been very vocal about opposing use of pesticides, including in the Volunteer Stewardship Area around the Garden (the VSA). Jim spoke at a recent MPRB meeting where the issue was being discussed. Kathy Connelly said she and Jim will follow through on this to educate others about the Friend’s position, which is to support Jim’s assertion that wise and measured use of pesticides is necessary in some instances. MPRB data show that the amounts of pesticides used in the Garden are small, ounces in fact. Jim’s presentation helped provide MPRB staff with helpful information and a public showing that the community was not universally opposed to pesticide use.

However, the MPRB’s proposal (see 2018 and 2019 history) to ban pesticides (which includes herbicides and fungicides) in city parks took another step forward with a discussion at the MPRB meetings. A summary of where the MPRB was on this topic was written by Jeremy Barrick on January 22 and was basically the policy adopted by the operations committee and then the board. (pdf copy)

A second issue confronting the MPRB was the private developer request in 2019 to store stormwater runoff on a part of Theodore Wirth Park. That issue was addressed at the January 22 meeting. (pdf copy). Some members of the Friends board wanted a response drafted on the developers proposal but the argument at the January 27 board meeting was that there were many political entities involved in this and our concerns while legitimate, we should not weigh-in now. The developer’s request was eventually rejected.

David Hosack
David Hosack, American Naturalist; the subject of Victoria Johnson's new book American Eden.

Susan Wilkins could not be in attendance at the meeting but via a submitted report she stated that equity training was being provided to all staff to implement and encourage everyone to feel welcome. The Eloise Butler Wild Flower Garden is not a private garden; it’s a public garden and should be welcoming to all according to the goals of the MPRB’s Parks for All initiative. She also announced that ash trees in some areas where visitors walk are going to be taken down. Choices for replacement plants and trees are being informed by many factors including climate change. The goal is to pick plants and trees that grow well in the current environment, not recreate the past. At the MPRB, commissioner Jono Cowgill replaced Brad Bourn as president. The board meeting included review of membership, volunteer and financial reports from the end of 2019.

The delayed Fall issue of the Friends newsletter, The Fringed Gentian™, (Vol. 67 No. 3) was distributed in late February. It was the last issue for designer Theresa Ptak as she was out of state and had difficulty arranging time. Articles were about Summer School at the Garden, a review of a new book about naturalist David Hosack titled American Eden; and a description of various sunbeam effects seen in the sky. Jim Proctor wrote on the work the Friends Invasive Plant Action Group (FIPAG) had accomplished in the Maple Glen adjacent to the Garden during the past Fall; Susan Wilkins summed up the 2019 Garden season and Kathy Connelly explained the needs behind the Shelter addition plan, which had now been delayed until 2021 as explained above.

The Winter months were mild, the lowest temperature was -13 degrees F on February 20. By March 20 most snow had melted. March was a very dry month with little rain or snow.

Circumstances of the world changed quickly. On March 27 all non-essential travel was restricted in Minnesota until April 10 due to the spread of the Corona virus.

Spring 2020

Were it not for the Covid-19 pandemic, the Garden would have opened on April 1 but would have had to deal with a six inch snowfall on April 12 and temperatures of 20 degrees overnight. With the travel and gathering of people restrictions continuing in place, many businesses and public facilities closed, Susan Wilkins was able to write on April 21 to the Friends:

program cover
The cover of the Spring Program brochure.

It is a sad EBWG season in the sense that the Garden is sequestered away from those who find such joy in being a part of sprint’s unfolding here. On a brighter note, the Garden is looking quite beautiful, healthy and vibrant. The snow trillium have flowered and now the bloodroot, trout lilies, hepatica and leatherwood blossoms are starting to shine. The mother fox and her young are happily living under the bathrooms and office/tool shed, four kits in all. The great horned owl family is living nearby in a very high nest and a pair of mallards, as always, has taken up residence in the wetland garden.. There is a sense of “normalcy” here, life unfolding as we have come to expect, so please know that the Garden itself hasn’t missed a beat in the dance of spring this season.

Susan also noted that the Garden staff was on site to care for the collections. During the winter months an entire program of Garden hikes and educational programs had been designed and a 13 page brochure (pdf copy)covering them all for the months of April and May was prepared. Now, all had to be abandoned. Instead, the Garden staff quickly responded and had developed their own virtual means of connecting people to the Garden. Via video, weekly wildflower walks were presented and filmed by the Garden Naturalists. Every Thursday morning there was a live Facebook Garden Storytime for children.

By the time the Friends held their next board meeting on May 18, plans for opening the Garden were formulated. Due to personal distancing requirements during the pandemic the shelter would not be open to visitors. Visitors would be met at the front gate. The goal was to open the Garden safely. Susan Wilkins explained how it would work: Over 40 signs including rules for visitors in the Garden were already posted; one way trails were marked as well as pass zone directions set up. There will be a controlled entry system. Timed entrance will be limited to 10 people per time slot during the Garden’s hours of 10 to 7. The staff had already conducted a simulation, and people reported experiencing a nice, quiet time inside.

Below: The 2020 Garden trail map showing the one-way trail system. Map - MPRB.

2020 trail map

For those waiting at the main entrance there was a porta potty available. A 2020 visitors guide was given out to enhance visitors’ experience. Signs were posted outside the entrance to help visitors plan their visit and suggesting a one hour experience. The staff at the gate would be able to tell visitors how long the wait to enter would be. Face masks had been given out to staff and they had practice distancing from others by six feet which was the current pandemic protocol. All MPRB staff were to wear face masks. The general public had been asked to do so as well by the state health department but at this point in the year it was not yet mandatory as it became later in Summer for visiting public places. Lots of cleaning supplies were available as it was believed that antibacterial applications to touched surfaced was needed. Naturalists were available in case the visitors had plant questions. The phone system was working and calls to the shelter went to Susan’s email.

The Garden thus officially opened May 20. The Garden’s website outlined the procedures in detail in a Garden Visit Guide:
What to Know Before Your Visit

• Garden hours are 10 am to 7 pm, Tuesdays through Sundays. The last entry is at 6:30 pm.
• Group size is limited to 10 people visiting together.
• Visitor capacity is limited; there may be a long line at the entrance. Entry times are staggered so that everyone can enjoy the Garden with safe social distancing. Staff determine when groups and individuals enter.
• Plan to spend about 1 hour inside the Garden. A single, one-way trail includes steep hills and uneven terrain with wood chips, rocks, tree roots, etc.
• Social distancing is required. Throughout your visit, remain at least 6 feet away from other individuals and household groups.
• Children must be within reach of an adult from the same household at all times.
• Bench use in the Garden is limited. Do NOT use benches marked with green tape. Maintain social distancing, and please consider others’ needs when using a bench. Restrooms are closed and drinking water is not available; please plan your restroom use and water needs accordingly. An ADA-accessible temporary toilet in the Garden parking lot is maintained weekly by contractors (not MPRB staff). Hand sanitizer may not be available.
• Consider bringing: Insect repellent, water, hand sanitizer/wipes, sunscreen, sunhat,  raingear, and a mask (to wear to protect staff and other visitors).
• Cameras are permitted, but please do not bring tripods, photo umbrellas, reflectors or other large camera accessories.
• Pets are not allowed. Service animals performing work are permitted.
• Follow all Centers for Disease Control and Minnesota Department of Health guidelines for protecting yourself and others, including:
◦ Stay home if you are sick
◦ Cover your mouth if you cough or sneeze
◦ Stay at least 6 feet from people from other households
◦ Cloth masks or face coverings are recommended
◦ Wash hands before and after visiting
• Parking is limited and meters are enforced. Make sure to reserve enough time at meters for your Garden visit, including the time before entering.

Visitor Assistance

• MPRB staff are stationed outside the Garden at the main entrance during operating hours and inside at the back (north) gate periodically.
• Please respect staff. Stay at least 6 feet away at all times.

During Your Visit

• A one-way trail with signs leads all the way through the Garden. Its length is a little over 1 mile and may take more than an hour to complete. See map for details.
• Stay on the trail at all times and maintain a social distance of at least 6 feet from other individuals or household groups. Remember to keep children in reach of an adult at all times.
• Please be considerate of those around you in maintaining your pace through the Garden.
• Turning back is not allowed. Visitors may pass others at the designated passing zone halfway through the Garden (see map), or at designated areas near benches, if the benches are not occupied. Do not step off the trail to take a picture. While photography is permitted from the trail, please be mindful of the time it takes. Do not ask other visitors to move out of your camera view or take pictures for you.
• Use of benches is limited. Do not use benches marked with green tape. Do not share benches with others outside your group, and please be considerate of others’ needs when using a bench.

After Your Visit:

Please avoid lingering near the Garden entrance and in the parking lot, so that everyone can follow social distancing requirements.

Below: The arrangement at the front gate during 2020. Garden staff await visitors. An abundance of signs inform visitors of what to expect. Photo G D Bebeau.

front gate area

This is the system which worked and was in place throughout the 2020 Garden season. During the first week of the Garden open to the public, nature provided the usual assortment of Minnesota May weather: sometimes gloomy forecasts, sunny times of day., clammy mornings and sticky afternoons.

Before the Garden opened Jim Proctor of the Friends Invasive Plant Action Group (FIPAG) discovered that Garlic Mustard was not aware of the pandemic. It was growing in the VSA and Maple Glen. He had previously announced that there would not be any Spring invasive work due to restrictions since Garlic Muster was under control, but he had to write on May 13 to the FIPAG volunteers:

It turns out there’s a quite a bit more garlic mustard than we initially thought. We will need more help, so here’s the plan. We’re looking for volunteers experienced with garlic mustard who can meet us this Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. We will assign you an area and you will commit to five or six hours of work over the next three weeks. You’ll have to bring your own gloves and a dandelion puller (or a decent sized flat head screwdriver) and garbage bags.

He was able to get a small group together and work was done over the next few weeks.

That board meeting of May 18 was the first virtual meeting for the Friends. It was hosted by Colin Bartol via Web-ex. Committee reports were presented and a fall date was set for the annual meeting instead of the typical May meeting time. It was hoped in person meetings would be allowed by that time. The usual committee reports were given. The volunteer report by Melissa Hansen was unusual in that there was no volunteer activity due to the shelter remaining closed. Six new people has been scheduled for training but that was canceled also.

The Friends annual charities reports to the state and to the IRS were approved. It was noted that the Garden’s back wrought iron fence in the wetland area was continuing to deteriorate around its footings and leaning considerably. It would be fixed during the coming winter. A motion was put forth for the Friends to buy face masks for the Garden staff to hand to visitors who came without one and the motion originally carried but was later rescinded as that was something the MPRB should have responsibility for.

The Fringed Gentian™was getting back on schedule with the Spring issue coming out in May with Gary Bebeau helping editor Colin Bartol with the layout design. (Vol. 68 No. 1) The issue focused on climate change and what effects it would have on the Wildflower Garden. Environmentalist Carolyn Sampson wrote about what differences one person can make; Colin Bartol wrote about the earthworm invasion; the city of Golden Valley was highlighted for its resolution to protect pollinators and to protect habitat.

Below: A Parade for Pollinators held in Golden Valley and organized by People for Pollinators. Photo Jeannie Schwartz

Golden Valley Parade

Another article in the newsletter covered the 50th anniversary of the completion of the Martha E. Crone Shelter. Details of the planning and construction are covered in other parts of the Friends history but with the completion the building was turned over to the city on May 13. Friends, Board of Park Commissioner officials and the interested public gathered for the dedication. The dedication plaque mounted on the front pillar reads:
“The Martha E. Crone Shelter was planned, financed and erected by The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc and it was given to the City of Minneapolis through the Board of Park Commissioners and dedicated May 13, 1970 at 4:30 PM.”

Below: At the dedication of the shelter - in front left, Leonard C. Odell, master of ceremonies; center, Martha E. Crone; right, Hiram H. Livingston, architect. Minneapolis Star photo.

Shelter dedication

Martha Crone wrote to the Friends in July 1970:

I take this opportunity to express my appreciation and extend my heartfelt gratitude to all members and friends who made possible the beautiful shelter building in the Eloise Butler Wild Flower Garden and Bird Sanctuary and dedicated it to me. This is really the culmination of many years of my life devoted to the Garden.

Summer 2020

Nordquist fountain
The Nordquist Fountain installed in 1995. Photo - Friends

2020 is the 25th anniversary year of several improvements added to the Wildflower Garden in 1995. There are 3 fountains in the Garden, constructed with limestone bases, and the newest one, referred to here, is up on the prairie near the large White Oak. The dedication plaque is to Dr. Daniel Nordquist. The fountain was built by LaMere Concrete & Masonry and funded by the Friends via a memorial from Dr. Nordquist’s mother and father. They also funded, as a memorial, the wood bookcase that sits by the volunteer’s desk in the Garden Shelter.

A more substantial improvement was the back gate - the one you enter the Garden from if you come from Wirth Beach - at least you could if Covid-19 protocols had not closed it for the 2020 season. This construction was designed by MPRB landscape architect Sandy Welch (as was the front gate 5 years earlier), built by LaMere Concrete, and funded by the Friends for $9,089. The original design included four columns, just like the front gate, but the cost was too high, so only two columns were built. Then the iron work on the gate, the wrought iron fencing in the immediate area of the gate, plus the wrought iron fencing that is currently around the front gate was installed by Able Fence Co. and funded by the Friends for $8,300.

Below: The Garden back gate completed in 1995 except for some of the stonework retaining wall. Photo G D Bebeau.

Back Gate

The back gate work continued into 1997 with the stone work retaining walls completed by the MPRB. Then in 2005 the Friends funded the continuation of the iron fencing from the back gate area to the back corners of the Garden. All these 1995 improvements have held up well these 25 years except for the fence post piers in the wet area at back of the Garden. That issue would be rectified in the coming Winter.

The week of June 15th brought storms and rain around the time of the Summer Solstice. One maple fell across a section of the boardwalk and another rotted tree collapsed near the toolshed. But many flowers were coming into bloom, including Fireweed and False White Indigo. For flashing color a Scarlet Tanager made an appearance. One Thursday morning in July during Garden storytime two Garden naturalists were approached by a young red fox while reading the children’s story Are You A Butterfly?. From a courteous distance of six feet, the curious creature studied the two naturalists for nearly five minutes before slipping into the prairie. (note 1)

In July the Friends mailed a post card note to all supporters outlining the events of the season, suggesting a visit to the Garden and announcing that the Friends annual meeting would be held in the Fall this year after everyone’s vacation time was past.

After a wet July, August alternated between wet weeks and dry weeks, but visitors to the Garden continued to see one of the nicest displays of flowers in recent years. The wild turkeys were mostly absent during the Summer, retuning in the Fall for acorn season. The naturalists kept busy refilling the suet feeders in front of the Shelter, finally discovering that it was a pair of pileated woodpeckers that were helping themselves very often. A rare rusty-patched bumblebee was sighted during the last week of August. This is Minnesota’s state bee. A Cooper’s Hawk was around the Garden most of the season. (Note 2)

storytime in the Garden
A Garden Naturalist presents a weekly Storytime video on Facebook. Photo MPRB.
Naturalist talk
A Garden Naturalist conducts a weekly wildflower walk via video. Photo MPRB.

The Friends ended the Summer with a virtual board meeting via Zoom hosted by Lauren Husting on August 27. Jim Proctor updated the board on the status of preventing erosion when areas are cleared of garlic mustard and buckthorn. The Maple Glen was used as an experiment. Grass plots did not work out well but Wild Ginger and sedge were successful. He has learned that in shady areas cutting buckthorn and leaving part of the stem, preventing soil movement, often results in the plant dying anyway. This is not successful where the stem gets a lot of sunlight.

As the shelter has not been open for volunteer staffing and group gatherings were restricted, there would not be a volunteer appreciation event this fall. The annual meeting was scheduled for Oct. 18 via Zoom. Susan Wilkins presented proposals for the Friends to fund in 2021. An allocation of $7,500 was made for plants and a separate allocation of an additional $10,000 was approved for uses to be determined in the new year. President Connelly wishes to have 2020 as her last year as president. She felt a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee should be formed to review our practices and position ourselves as an inclusive and meaningful organization. Steve Pundt, Lauren Husting and Steve Benson volunteered to form the committee. Membership issues, especially fewer members renewing during this pandemic year were discussed. A summary of membership activity is at the end of the Autumn section.

Autumn 2020

The Summer/Fall issue of the Friends newsletter came out in early September. (Vol. 68 No. 2) Editor Colin Bartol covered a history of prior Garden closures, almost all related to weather and any unlike the current situation. Past President of the Friends, Pam Weiner was interviewed.

President Kathy Connelly wrote:

During this time of unrest, I have been thankful for the Garden, and enjoyed visiting there. I am immensely grateful for the leadership of the Garden Curator, Susan Wilkins and to others on the Park Board, who designed a way to open the Garden safely. And also for the Garden staff who bravely staff the areas where they encounter members of the public, possibly exposing themselves to the virus. I have been delighted by the Garden’s robust social media presence that has expanded by the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board on Facebook and Instagram during this time.

Garden staff
Some of the Garden Staff who handled all the new procedures in 2020. Photo MPRB.

Susan Wilkins wrote about how the restricted visit rules were working and about planting work. She wrote:

Another gift of the Garden this year comes thanks to the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden. Staff have been busy, all season long, planting a variety of plant species in all corners of the Garden. The Friends funded plantings along the entry way trail, Trillium Trail, and adjacent hillsides are adding to the richness and beauty of the Garden experience and to the health of the Garden’s woodland plant collection. This project will continue into September with at least 25 species of wildflowers, ferns, sedges and grasses represented and. over 2,000 plants being added by the time the project is completed. Year by year and plant by plant, the complexity and beauty of the Garden’s plant collections grow with a little help from the Friends. Thank you to all of the members who have contributed to these efforts.

The Friends provide funding for 36 different species of flowers, ferns and sedges - total of 2,664 plants - cost $7,341, which were all planted at various times during the year. [List of plants] In addition the MPRB provided another 2,000 plants.

The lead article in the newsletter was a review of current social media campaigns that highlighted Black scientists and nature enthusiasts, written by Lauren Husting. The final article was about the historical research on Native American ethnobotany by Minnesota writer Frances Densmore. Her notes about the use of various native plants by Minnesota Native Americans is quoted frequently in the Friends website plant identification pages.

graphic image

This issue highlighted the people who have been Friends members for 50 years or more.

The Garden continued presenting a great show of color in September and October. The second week brought low overnight temperatures and while the relatively wet summer and early fall resulted in the usual speculation of what the effect would be on Fall color; it turned out to be spectacular, but earlier.

Below: The Crone Shelter nestled in October colors. Photo Bob Ambler.

Shelter in October

The annual meeting of the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden was held at 1 PM on October 18 via Zoom with Lauren Husting hosting. Twenty members were present. Summary reports of Friends activities were presented. President Connelly reviewed the past year and most events have been included in previous pages of this history. A new item was that she and Jim Proctor toured the South Wirth area with representatives of the Loppett Foundation as there was still a question of their trails being too close to the Garden buffer zone. The situation with those trails was a contested issue for may years, now the trails in that area that had been cleared and used previously will be closed and trees planted. The MPRB was being asked to pay for the trees, but the Foundation would take care of planting them.

Susan Wilkins noted that the MPRB has set major goals for 2020 to 2030 on how to incorporate indigenous community members and give recognition through land acknowledgment. The latter was usually carried out by stating that the parks were located on Dakota Homelands and by signage such as renaming of Lake Calhoun and adjacent parkways to Lake Bde Maka Ska. She wrote later in the year:

The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board is working diligently to assure that each and every person in every corner of our beautiful City and beyond feels welcome, safe, comfortable and engaged while visiting public park spaces in Minneapolis, including the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. There is work to do and one way to be a part of this work is to review and send your feedback about the new Comprehensive Plan that will be used as a guiding tool for shaping the priorities and policy direction of the MPRB for the next ten years. This draft was developed with significant community engagement and input gathered in a variety of ways over a year-long outreach process. [Newsletter, Vol. 68 No. 3 Winter 2020]

With the Garden now closed for the season except for the last October weekends, Susan said the daily average visitor count was about 175 and many were first time visitors. The tally at the entrance gate was nearly 23,000 visitors.

Elected to the board at the meeting for one year terms or, under the new bylaws, until the next election was held, were Candy Bartol, Colin Bartol, Gary Bebeau, Steve Benson, Kathy Connelly, Lauren Husting, Jennifer Olson, Jim Proctor, Sally Pundt, Steve Pundt, Pam Weiner and Susan Wilkins (ex-officio). Melissa Hansen left the board but remained as Volunteer Coordinator.

At the Board of Directors meeting following the annual meeting, the officers elected were: Kathleen Connelly, President until Dec. 31; Jennifer Olson, President after Dec. 31, Candy Bartol, Secretary; Gary Bebeau, Treasurer.

In committee roles were: Gary Bebeau, Memorials, Money Management and Website; Melissa Hansen, Volunteers; Jim Proctor, Invasive Plant Action Group (with non-board member Kari Christianson, co-chair); Colin Bartol, newsletter editor; Lauren Husting, media communications and non-board member Christi Bystedt as membership coordinator.

The budget for 2021 was approved and a draft of a revised mission statement was approved. [Copy of text]

Garter Snakes were prevalent in the Garden this year, their routines appearing frequently in the naturalist’s notes. The last report of the season on October 15 included this:

Many garter snakes have been seen slithering through the Garden’s boundless leaf litter. Particularly active this time of year, snakes must carefully prepare for winter. Not only do the serpents need to locate an adequate hibernaculum to pass the winter, but they must also make sure they’ve eaten just the right amount of food. Should they eat too little, they won’t have enough energy to make it through the winter. However, if they eat too much, they risk having undigested food rot inside their stomach during dormancy. The Garden’s garters are busy making sure their fall feasting stays right on schedule with the changing temperatures! (Note 3)

FIPAG’s work this Autumn was a 3 event schedule in October in the Maple Glen. Significant progress was made once again, even though the work force size was smaller, about 38 people total over the three periods, due to the need to keep people separated and the reluctance of some to take part in group activities. Pre-registration for work by time slot was required so that too many people did not show up at the same time. The dates were October 1, 8 & 17. Part of the work this time included stripping new growth from some previous ‘high-cut’ plants and seeding native plants into cut areas.

Below: The Maple Glen in October 2020 showing an area cleared of all non-natives by FIPAG. Photo G D Bebeau.

Maple Glen

In October the MPRB treated some of the oaks in the Garden and in other places in Wirth Park for oak wilt which is an ongoing problem for red oaks. They explained the procedure this way:

vibratory plow
The vibratory type plow used by MPRB in trenching around oak tree roots. Photo MPRB.

The diseased trees identified this year will be removed during the winter and their wood disposed of off-site, as spores from the fungus can overwinter and cause new infections in healthy trees during the next active growing season.
Because oak wilt spreads primarily through root connections of mature oak trees, MPRB has scheduled a control method called vibratory plowing for late October. This method involves contractors cutting underground root connections between healthy and diseased trees, reducing both the spread of the disease and its associated tree mortality.
After plowing, park visitors may notice areas where the soil looks disturbed in a linear fashion. Staff will rake out areas where the soil does not naturally settle. (note 4)

October 19 brought 7 inches of snow - the earliest snow in 104 years. October 28 matched the 1919 record with a cold high temperature of 32 degrees.

In the week of December 9th the MPRB fence contractor, Hansen Brothers, began to repair the fence at the back of the Garden wetland area. Instead of using piers for the fence post, the supports were inserted into hollow galvanized posts which has been driven into the soil until they met a solid surface. The fence would then float in these hollow post, similar to the way the boardwalk supports were designed. Then the original rectangular wrought iron post was slipped over the galvanized post.

Below: The Garden back fence in the process of being repaired. 1st photo - Posts are set over steel supports driven into the soil, replacing concrete piers. 2nd photo - the original post cover is placed over the steel ground post. Photos G D Bebeau.

back fence repaired back fence

The final 2020 issue of The Fringed Gentian™ (Vol. 68 No. 3) came out in December containing articles about Flying Squirrels, how to read snow track of animals and a story of an earlier wild garden that preceded that of Eloise Butler - that of Dr. George Upham Hay near Westfield, New Brunswick. In the newsletter Kathy Connelly said of the year now passing:

This difficult year has yielded some positive things for the Garden thanks to the efforts of the MPRB.  Safe visiting practices for the Garden were implemented, tested, and received positively.  The MPRB Garden naturalists pioneered outreach in informative and entertaining ways that have enriched our experience of the Garden, and MPRB Garden leadership has been prudent and laser-focused on providing a peaceful refuge from the unique challenges of 2020.

Susan Wilkins summed up the Garden year this way:

Although it was a shorter and quieter season, overall, at the Garden, it was a rich one. We received hundreds of comments about how much joy and enrichment people received from their visits and how comfortable they felt walking the trails with the social distancing measures in place. This was heartening. Also, a source of delight was the sheer beauty of the Garden itself. It was a special year where many years of hard, thoughtful work came to fruit. Mass plantings bloomed one after the other in a rainbow of colors, invasive plants noticeably were on the wane, young trees grew bigger, and the synergy of it all took hold. It felt good to walk the trails and see the vibrancy and vitality appear around each bend and witness the Garden’s community of plants and animals thriving, together.

This newsletter issue reported on the passing of four Friends members during the year.

Harriet Betzold. Friends photo of 2011.

Wrap-up of the year for the Friends

Total Friends direct support for the Garden during the year was $7,341 for plants; additional educational mission expenditures totaled $4,162. Over the past 20 years the Friends have funded $397,000 for the Garden and the educational program.

The website traffic continued to increase, with just over 360,000 visits during 2020, a 57% increase over 2019. The site handled 90% of sales and 39% of membership support funds.

Donation support during the year was $9,995 from 70 donors. Memorials of $5,709 were received from 37 donors for 9 different persons. Name plates to be added to the Eliason Honor Board in the Crone Shelter are for former Friends director and president Harriet Betzold, former director and MPRB Commissioner Vivian Mason, Barbara Pickering and for Douglas Murray.

At the end of the year the Friends active membership was 199, including 47 life members. Courtesy memberships were 36 for a total count of 235. Sixteen new members joined; 36 were dropped from the roster due to death or for being in-arrears. New members included 2 new life memberships vs 4 in 2019. In spite of many members not renewing their support, perhaps due to other concerns with jobs and the pandemic, a number of other members at the sponsor and sustainer level continued their high level of support so that our average member payment (excluding life) was $50.56, 4 cents less than 2019, although there were fewer payments in total.

The treasurer presented the board of directors two expense reviews during the year. One concerned how administrative expenses are covered by our non-contribution income (sales and investment income) which is referred to in reports as “other income.” For the past 20 year other income has covered all administrative and fund raising expenses, insuring that all contribution income is used to support the Friends mission. That mission consists of two parts - direct support of the Garden and Garden activities such as volunteer support. The second part is our educational program. This is in several subparts: Grants to schools to provide visits to the Garden for an educational program; the website which contains much educational material on plants, the Garden and the natural world; and the educational newsletter.

The newsletter was the subject of the second review. While the production of the newsletter is done entirely by volunteer help without any cost, printing and mailing uses funds. With many members switching to digital access to the newsletter via our website, plus full digital access to non-members, the number of printed copies required for member distribution continues to drop. A member survey indicated that some members, principally our older ones, want a printed copy of the newsletter. It was proposed that the cost of printing and mailing and printing a small number of extra copies for special distribution be limited to around 200 copies per issue and not to print extra copies beyond 200. This would reduce by half the funds needed for the newsletter and leave more funds for the other parts of the mission just referred to. The remaining newsletter cost would also be covered by other income. The closing of the Garden Shelter during 2020 removed the need for providing extra printed copies of the newsletter that were previously put there for distribution and the proposal going forward into 2021 is that printing of extra copies should cease for the reason just stated. When the Shelter re-opens a replacement marketing document for the Friends should replace the newsletter or a minimum number of copies of the current newsletter.

Other Notes

The spread of Covid-19 during the year caused the delay or cancellation of many events. Sports activities either had cancelled or moved to later in the year with delayed seasons playing to empty venues. Baseball for example had a late start 60 game season. The Masters was delayed from April until Autumn. The Summer Olympics were delayed until 2021. The Minnesota State Fair was cancelled. Air travel to Europe was cancelled. Some states had quarantine periods for out-of-state visitors. Businesses that could have employees work from home, did so and closed offices. Bars and restaurants were frequently closed or subject to very restricted occupancy. The serious weather ended the year on December 23 with a blizzard and 8.7 inches of snow.

(1) Garden Naturalists reports - June 15 and July 23.
(2) Garden Naturalists reports - August 1, 8 and 27.
(3) Garden Naturalists report - October 15.
(4) Public announcement, Oct. 22, 2020.

Below: The Garden front entrance area under a new blanket of snow. Photo G D Bebeau.

front steps in snow

Photo top of page: A scene at the front gate on October 10 as visitors wait their turn to enter. 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 The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden.

Archive of the Friends Newsletter The Fringed Gentian™

Vol. 67 No. 3. Fall/Winter 2019/2020, Colin Bartol, Editor

Vol. 68 No. 1 Spring 2020, Colin Bartol, Editor

Vol. 68 No. 2 Summer/Fall 2020, Colin Bartol, Editor

Vol. 68 No. 3 Winter 2020, Colin Bartol, Editor

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

Friends Home Page

©2020 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. "" - 120921