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'Remarkable' Minneapolis garden celebrates state's wildflowers

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Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden
Clockwise from upper left, bee balm, Culver's root, buttonbush and Turk's cap lilies bloom at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary in Minneapolis in July 2012. The 15-acre garden opened in 1907.
Jeffrey Thompson | MPR News 2012

An oasis of Minnesota wildflowers located a short drive or ride from downtown Minneapolis is celebrating its spring and summer blooms on Sunday.

The Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary is located in Wirth Park. It was founded in 1907 by Eloise Butler, whose goal was to have a representative of each flower species found in the state.

"It's a botanic garden that's maintained to feel wild, and then we plant thousands of plants each year to enhance those original plantings and to move things into the future as well," said Susan Wilkins, garden curator at the Wildflower Garden. "To the lay visitor, you would never think that anyone was probably doing anything out here because it feels so natural."

"We're situated just a mile from downtown Minneapolis, and it feels like you're taking a walk out in a state park somewhere," she said.

Prairie hike
Larry Kennebeck hikes through the prairie area at Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary in Minneapolis in July 2012.
Jeffrey Thompson | MPR News 2012

The garden contains wildflowers that are native to Minnesota and adjacent states. Three biomes converge in Minnesota: deciduous forests in the south and central, prairies in the west, and coniferous forests in the north and east.

Among the flowers in bloom in mid-June: the showy lady's slipper, the state flower of Minnesota.

"I look forward to every season at the garden. It changes so much. I think that's what visitors find really rewarding, is to come back throughout the spring, summer and fall months when we're open and to see what's in bloom and to notice how the birds that they're seeing change as well," Wilkins said.

A bee census performed in recent years found 104 species of bees in the 15-acre garden.

"I think that's really remarkable, and the reason why we do (have so many bees) is because of all of the plant diversity that we maintain and curate," Wilkins said.

Sunday's family activities run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The garden is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to one hour before sunset through Oct. 15, and on weekends only from Oct. 16-31.