The Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

So I think the time has come to start posting about the Minneapolis Garden Bloggers Fling, which happened back in July. Let’s start with our visit to the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden.

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Rudbeckia, Wild Bergamot, and Culver’s Root on a gentle slope.

About a century ago, Eloise Butler taught botany in the Minneapolis public schools. A woman ahead of her time, she was a conservationist and lover of native wildflowers. Thanks to her efforts, this garden (a part of the Minneapolis park system) was founded in 1907. It’s the oldest public garden of its kind in the country.

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A lovely orange lily, though if I remember correctly not a native. 

Covering 15 acres, the garden includes a bog and shady wetland, an upland deciduous woodland, and an open area of grasses, flowers, and occasional trees. The garden also includes a bird sanctuary, and is a popular spot for birding.

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When we flingers arrived we were greeted by the staff and divided into three groups, based on how fast we wanted to walk (and hence how much ground we were going to cover). I thought this was a clever approach.

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More Culver’s Root

 

Judy and I were happy to go with the dawdlers. We would much rather take our time examining details and taking photographs of a smaller area than cover more ground at a faster pace. Plus, I’m just naturally pokey.

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Fireweed

It’s important to note that this is a naturalistic garden, but not really a natural area. It is intensively managed by permanent and seasonal staff, along with volunteers. They work to control invasives, build up the population of chosen plants, and maintain and improve each of the garden ecosystems as well as the hardscape.

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The prairie-like area had a much higher ratio of flowers to grasses than you would find in a natural prairie. Most, but not all, of the flowers were native to the region. The Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) were in bloom during our visit.

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Here’s some Solomon’s Plume (Maianthemum racemosum) with berries that aren’t quite ripe.

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I was happy to see some Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum) standing tall in a sunny spot.

The Eloise Butler Garden reminded me just a bit of the Lurie Garden in Chicago. Both are naturalistic urban gardens, though the Eloise Butler Garden is larger and has more landscape types. Also, it feels much more secluded than the Lurie, where you are constantly reminded by the surrounding skyline that you are in a large city.

All in all, the Eloise Butler Garden is a place well worth visiting for lovers of birds, trees, and wildflowers. I’d like to go back and visit in the spring when the shady areas are full of woodland flowers.

27 Comments on “The Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden

  1. Excellent. One of the best posts about this amazing place! You make some great points about it being intensely managed. In an age of invasive, non-native plants, “natural” areas aren’t what they used to be. I’ve heard many naturalists and restoration folks discuss the pros and cons of fighting the invasive plants. If we don’t do it, will the native plants disappear, or will they find a way to overcome and compete for their own place in the natural landscape? Can we afford to try the experiment? In any case, this wildflower garden is very special and your post provides an excellent view of it.

  2. Well, she was ahead of her time. Interesting to read about garden and get a little insight into the fling also. The Culver’s Root is effectively displayed–have never grown it.

  3. Jason, your first photo was inspirational. On the berm by the Skating Pond at Glen Villa, I have Rudbeckia and a scabious of some sort already. Culver’s Root grows wild in the area. I’m going to transplant some to mix in with the two plants for a longer lasting and richer bloom.

  4. It’s lovely and wow, “the oldest public garden of its kind.” Love naturalistic gardens. Wish there were many more like it.

  5. I loved this garden and you made a thought-provoking observation about it being naturalistic but not necessarily natural – I hadn’t really though of that. I decided to go with the quicker group but did find myself at the back of the pack most of the time as I’m a bit of a dawdler as well 🙂

  6. Eloise Butler would be happy to see all these gardeners enjoying her garden a century later! I also am a dawdler. Garden tours can sometimes be frustrating; I always find myself running to catch up with the pack because I stop to take photos or wander off on a side path.

  7. Nothing wrong about being pokey.
    Over 100 years… that gives me some hope that we won’t completely pillage the natural world while making America great again.

  8. What an amazing woman to have created a natural garden so long ago. I have read about pioneering women in Australia who stay close to the land, & are natural observers & they are probably similar to Eloise Butler.

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