As published in The Fringed Gentian™.
by Susan Wilkins
It’s been a busy season full of people, projects and programs at the Wildflower Garden. It was one of our busiest years on record in the Garden’s modern history. It is estimated that 60,000 people visit the Garden each season. In 2019, Garden staff and volunteers recorded 19,643 visitor interactions in the Visitor Shelter during the hours that the building is open and staffed. 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. In addition, 4,091 youth and adults participated in engaging nature focused- programs led by Garden naturalists at the Wildflower Garden and a select number of programs at Regional Parks in the Minneapolis Park System. Each year the Wildflower Garden enchants and inspires more people.
The bustle of the 112th Garden season was complemented by a truly gorgeous procession of moderate temperatures and more than ample rainfall. The verdant Garden created an amazing atmosphere and so many visitors took delight in the dynamic beauty and educational opportunities of this extraordinary botanic garden all season long.
Several special programs and projects took place this year along with the on-going schedule of Garden naturalist led nature programming for the public and for organized groups like school groups, youth clubs, garden clubs and more. As occurs every year, rigorous garden care and enhancement was coordinated and implemented by Garden staff. Over 4,000 wildflowers, grasses, sedges, trees and shrubs were selected and added to the plant collections this season. All of this essential work, carried out by skilled Garden staff day in and day out, is thanks to the enduring commitment of the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board to provide on-going funding and support of this treasured and historic native plant garden and sanctuary for wild birds.
I would like to acknowledge the program and project highlights from the past season that the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden were involved with. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to these efforts. In early spring, before the Garden opened, phase two of the boardwalk project was completed in the wetland garden area. A public ribbon cutting ceremony was held in late April to recognize the generosity of the Friends and to celebrate this much anticipated addition to the Garden. Thank you to each and every Friends member who contributed to this meaningful project. The boardwalk has elevated the wetland garden experience in more than one way!
Susan's article continues below the photo.
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.
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The Friends continue to fund an important transportation grant that provides subsidized transportation to youth attending programs coordinated and led by Garden staff. This grant increases the accessibility of the Wildflower Garden experience to youth from schools who may otherwise find transportation costs to be a barrier. This program has served over four thousand youth in the community since its inception in 2009.
The Friends leadership for two vital volunteer programs at the Wildflower Garden, the Shelter Volunteer program and the Friends Invasive Plant Action Group (FIPAG), has contributed to the success and enhancement of the visitor experience. Thank you to Melissa Hansen, the Shelter Volunteer program coordinator and Jim Proctor and Kari Christianson who co-lead the FIAPG program, for your steadfast volunteer work.
The Friends also support volunteers at the Wildflower Garden by hosting a beautiful volunteer appreciation banquet each autumn. The event has blossomed over the years and is the perfect way to acknowledge the contributions of the 80+ on-going Garden volunteers. It also brings closure to and a sense of shared joy for the work carried out by Garden volunteers for the season that has just passed.
The Friends also funded two special planting projects to enhance Garden areas where extensive invasive plant removal work has been carried out by Garden staff in past years. This season 257 trees and shrubs were planted in both the wetland and woodland garden areas by Garden staff thank the generous donation of funds by the Friends. Staff are preparing, once again, for another meaningful year of work at the Wildflower Garden and to another season full of opportunities for visitors and volunteers to explore, enjoy, contribute and learn in this treasured public garden. A heartfelt thank you for all that you do to support the Wildflower Garden.
Susan Wilkins' comments appear courtesy of the MPRB.
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. In the pauses afforded by those moments of re-awakening, for me, the inhale of spring restores and the exhale carries along an acknowledgement that the sensory stillness of another winter is in retreat. What a visceral experience to live in a land where so much change occurs at this time of year. What a gift to have such a vibrant and familiar place to re-awaken one’s senses as the Wildflower Garden.
In addition to the return of spring, we have much to celebrate here at the Wildflower Garden. Remarkably and with great joy, phase two of the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden boardwalk project has been completed, with an additional 327 feet of elevated boardwalk installed. This includes a 40 foot long tapered gathering space with a slender 20 foot long curved bench. This design allows for the free-flowing movement of visitors while providing space for birding and the study and enjoyment of the wetland garden. Now fully complete, the boardwalk totals over 600 feet in length and meanders elegantly through the heart of the historic Wildflower Garden.
A grand opening ceremony will take place on Friday, April 26, 2016 from 2 to 4 pm with the ribbon cutting at 3 pm.
This project was made possible through a collaborative effort between the Friends of the Wild Flower Garden (Friends) and the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board (MPRB). Working together for over seven years from inception to completion, this project has exemplified how the Friends and the MPRB work together to bring out the very best at the Wildflower Garden. The generous Friends’ project donations totaled over $142,000 for phases one and two of the project— financially supporting more than 50% of the design, construction and installation costs to bring this project to completion.
The Phase I section of the Boardwalk. Photo Kari Ramstrom.
Several Friends board members were closely involved with this project along with numerous contractors and MPRB staff members. The amount of effort, creativity and ingenuity to envision the boardwalk and the dedication and perseverance to bring it to fruition over these past many years is largely awe-inspiring, and honestly, a tad astounding.
With deep and sincere gratitude, thank you to the Friends, project funders, project cheerleaders, designers, contractors, and MPRB staff- everyone who has supported these efforts. All of whom were essential to completing the Wildflower Garden’s award-winning boardwalk.
Friends’ members, your monetary gifts large and small towards the project are genuinely appreciated and held with great esteem by the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board. Without your contributions, this project would not have been made possible. Thank you and enjoy this beautiful addition to the Wildflower Garden that we all cherish.
And happy spring!
Susan Wilkins is the Garden’s Curator. Her column appears courtesy of the Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board.