Harriet Betzold grew up on a farm west of the Twin Cities, surrounded by flowers, plants, trees and a large garden. Years later, when she and her husband were raising their family in Golden Valley, she was delighted to find the nearby Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. “My interest in the Garden started when our two children were quite small and we needed to connect with nature,” she recalls. “So we were frequent visitors to walk the paths and name the wildflowers and identify the birds and occasional squirrel or other animals.” Before long, Harriet’s deep appreciation of nature and the Garden launched her long association with the Friends of the Wildflower Garden. She began volunteering in the shelter in the 1980s and soon joined the Friends board, serving as president from 1994 to 1997. Later, Harriet coordinated volunteer activities (sharing the task with Shirley Schultz) and edited the Fringed Gentian™ for a short stint.
During Harriet’s tenure on the board, the Friends helped make such lasting improvements to the Garden as the stone gate at the north entrance and improvements to the Shelter. Benches and other garden amenities were provided and gardening equipment bought.
Harriet says her favorite time of year in the Garden is “the spring when the ephemerals are just starting to sprout and bloom and the birds are seeking out their territory for nesting. Identifying a bird by its song is a satisfying experience.” Her interest in birding dates back to her days on the family farm, when an aunt shared her extensive knowledge of birds. In high school, Harriet created a bird book for a biology class project. Later in life, she spent countless hours observing and drawing birds in the Garden.
Harriet retired from the Friends board in 2009 but remains active in community work. Reflecting on her decades of involvement with the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden, she remarks, “I’m glad the Minneapolis Park Board had the foresight to preserve these 15 acres in the middle of the Metropolitan Area for future generations to study and enjoy. Being the oldest public wildflower garden in the nation is something to be proud of. Hope it will be here forever.”
Note 1: Article by Donna Ahrens
Note 2: This article was published in the Friends newsletter the Fringed Gentian™ Winter 2011, Vol. 59 #1.
Harriet was elected to the Friends Board of Directors in May 1990, remaining on the Board until May 2009; from 1991 to May 1994 she was Vice-President and President from May 1994 to May 1997. Harriet was an active volunteer until 2010. In 2002 for the 50th Anniversary of The Friends, Harriet recorded her memories of the Garden Read them here.