In late 2019, the MPRB voted to approve a wonderful concept plan developed by its leadership and staff for improvements to the Garden. The proposal for improvements at the Garden is significant. It shows the esteem in which the Garden is held and recognizes the changes in the way the public uses and experiences the Garden.
The need for the project is undeniable. As interest in native plants and natural history (including birds) has become more popular across the country, Garden patronage has increased, and so has demand for programing. Those familiar with the Shelter know that right now, Garden staff’s only workspace is in the Shelter’s tiny kitchen alcove, and some of the space behind the public counter, with no privacy for scheduling and coordination activities. So the current proposal includes a modest expansion of the Shelter that will reflect the importance of the work of the hardworking, creative and dedicated Garden staff, and allow for the relocation of the curator’s office from the toolshed to the Shelter. With the Garden staff relocated into the expansion, there will be more programming space in the reconfigured Shelter interior. We understand that all of this will be accomplished while preserving the rustic feel and appearance of the Shelter.
With increased popularity and changing environmental conditions, the need for staff and equipment to tend the Garden has increased. The proposal includes the removal and replacement of the toolshed. The critical work of tending the Garden will be better supported in a new location in a new structure, closer to the delivery point of plants and other materials. The Garden fence will be moved slightly to enclose this new building.
During the extensive public engagement process for the project, that was led capably by MPRB senior planner Emma Pachuta, it was recognized that the barbed-wire-topped fence that encloses a portion of the Garden is in poor condition, and in several places runs closely parallel to Garden pathways, making for a discordant experience of a peaceful place. So, another concept that is included in the proposal is the re-alignment of the fence
away from Garden paths, slightly expanding the Garden acreage without impacting existing walking paths outside the current Garden boundaries. This re-alignment could encompass areas of the Garden perimeter that have been painstakingly worked on for many years by the Garden’s invasives plant group and that were historically included in the Garden.
Another element of the proposal is for the expansion of the rustic toilets to include an accessible family-friendly all-gendered bathroom. The need for such a basic amenity is undebatable and underscored by the Garden’s increased popularity with families. Improving the access to the Garden’s main entrance gate from the parking lot, and improved signage are also part of the concept plan.
Significant funding for the project will be required. A majority of that funding is expected to come from MPRB funds allocated for Wirth Park, in which the Garden is located. The balance will come from grants and donations. The Friends hope that Garden patrons will be willing to make special contributions to the Friends for the project. All contributions made for this purpose will be dedicated to the project. More information about the project and opportunities to support it will be available in the months to come.
To learn more, please visit the MPRB project webpage, and sign up for email updates. You can show your support for the Garden by writing and thanking MPRB Commissioners for their unanimous approval of the concept plan. Please let them know how much the Garden means to you and that you will be watching the progress of the project.
Below: The old Gardener's shed on Oct. 27, 2019. Besides a tool room it is also the Curator's office. The development plan is to replace it with a new tool shed in a more appropriate area. Photo G D Bebeau
There are two wonderful announcements I am happy to make this issue.
First, with great pleasure and humility, the Friends want to express their gratitude to the generous anonymous donor of $50,000 to the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. This sum, received this spring, is truly meaningful for an organization of our size, and we definitely feel the responsibility placed in our hands to use these funds in the best possible ways to advance the interests of the Garden. We have hopes for collaborative Garden projects where this money can be put to good use. In the interim, we hope to strengthen our student transportation program that brings school children into the Garden for summer programs and also to continue our supplemental funding of planting projects in the Garden. Thank you, donor, for your dedication to the Garden and recognition of the Friends’ efforts.
Second, the MPRB has begun efforts to plan for improvements in the Garden! The Friends will be a part of this planning process and you can be too! Possible changes include reconfiguring the buildings in the Garden – rest assured the Shelter’s character will not be changed – but changes to the entry area near the parking lot may include a new building, improved pathways and stairs, and a gathering space. The MPRB is committed to incorporating input from users into the plan, and take your comments very seriously. One thing that is just logistically not possible for infrastructure reasons are hot water and flush toilets. Please attend the community engagement meetings and participate in taking the survey that will collect your thoughts about how the Garden can be made even more welcoming and continue to fill its unique role as a place of contemplation and learning.
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 new boardwalk that was partially funded by the Friends has been dedicated and the Friends have held their annual member and board meetings (thanks to all who came!). We have said good bye to valued board members Betsy McNerney, Barry Schade and Jayne Funk, with thanks for their years of selfless service to the Friends. We hope they continue their involvement and support of the Garden. We also welcome a new board member – vice president Janet Anderson - who comes to the board with terrific experience, strong affinity for the Garden and a wildflower garden in the making at her home close in to north Minneapolis.
In late May, I spent a week in Ely, taking in the boreal forest, and enjoying a second spring. The flowering wild plum and juneberries are cloud-like puffs of white everywhere I turn. Nodding trillium, golden thread, bunchberry, blue bead lily, wood anemone, blueberries and fly honeysuckle were blooming during my visit.
When I spend time in an environment like this, I cannot help but think about the Garden. In particular I am struck by how artfully the Garden’s curators, Susan Wilkins and her predecessors, have crafted a setting that is cultivated, and yet so naturalistic as to appear untended. To be sure, the Garden is skillfully and constantly managed. Trees are taken down that could pose a danger to public safety, and efforts are made to contain plants containing skin irritants away from pathways. The results of decades of efforts removing invasive plants can be seen, as openings in the Garden are flush with new herbaceous, tree and shrub plantings, some of which have been paid for by the Friends. Look for new hemlocks in the Garden, a tribute to past president Pam Weiner sponsored by the Friends.
By the time this newsletter arrives in your mailbox, the lady’s slipper season will have passed, but the new boardwalk provides an incomparable urban opportunity to admire our state flower.
The wetland area remains a stunner all season, with flag, swamp saxifrage and buttonbush yet to come.
A particular success in the development of the Garden is the upland meadow, called the prairie by many. It is the 75th anniversary of the establishment of this part of the Garden. This issue highlights its history and its future. It is a beloved place, with spots to enjoy the special peace of the Garden. On any summer day, one can be lulled into a contemplative state by the insect hum and indigo bunting calls on the breezy oak knoll.
Our remaining Garden oaks persist through the efforts of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board to protect them from oak wilt disease, and through the watchful attention of the curator. Controlled burns help feed the soil and rejuvenate the plant diversity in this area as well. The raspberry thicket and sumac invasion have been tamed. The sitting stone collection (1995 gift from the Friends) remains one of my favorite places to sit and look up at the solitary oak.
The upland garden is an important resource for native pollinators. At a time when other bloomers are winding down, the asters and solidago flowers bridge these beneficial insects to their winter retreat. Grasses burnished to bronze, rich gold and burgundy make the upland meadow the focal point of most late season visits to the Garden. Please celebrate with us this season as we recognize the important milestone for this part of the Garden by going up to the bright open upland meadow, and pausing to appreciate the many hands that wrenched, pulled, weeded, planted, cultivated, and tended the land.
Our Garden, our little piece of earth, seems like such a small place, insignificant in comparison to the lands that are used to feed the world, or lands considered important enough to fight over and even make the ultimate sacrifice to preserve. And yet in each of our lives, the Garden, a little space of natural beauty, looms large in significance because of what it does for our intel-lect and our spirit. This is a reminder that even smaller natural spaces are worth preserving through our individual acts. This paradox reminds us that even small acts of support and generosity in our daily lives can and do make profound differences in the world.
It is a small act, but an important one, that the Friends of the Eloise Butler Wild Flower Garden schedule an annual meeting of members. Unfortunately, very few members (except the Board) have been attending in recent years. At annual meetings, members elect the Board and are updated on financial matters and other reports about activities of the Friends.
Our notice of the 2019 annual members’ meeting appears in this edition of The Fringed Gentian™. Please seriously consider attending in order to become a more active supporter of the Garden!
This year’s annual member meeting will also feature an important vote on amendments to the articles of the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. You can view a PDF of the proposed changes to the Articles on the Friends’ website. One amendment adds language intended to support the Friends’ application for exemption from Minnesota taxes. We are already a 501 (c)(3) organization for federal income tax purposes, but a separate application is required for the State of Minnesota status. Another amendment will make it possible for a quorum of the Board to change the Articles, without requiring a vote of the members, when the need arises.
Friends members are encouraged to provide your input. You are welcome to send me your thoughts, questions, and uggestions. Please email to the attention of Kathy Connelly at this address.