Eloise Butler was born on a farm in Maine in 1851. In 1874, she moved to Minneapolis to teach botany and took her students on field trips “botanizing”. In 1907, she persuaded the Minneapolis Park Board to set aside three acres for a wild botanical garden. After 36 years of teaching she retired and became the curator of the garden. In 1924, she spent $700 of her own money to expand the garden to a five acre fenced off area. The garden was re-named the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden in her honor in 1927. She died at 81 tending the garden.
Norwegian businessman Bert Enger (1864-1931) left his estate to the city of Duluth, MN and to some charitable organizations. One third of the money was used to build a memorial tower and 330 acre park on Skyline Drive. The tower was dedicated by Olav, Crown Prince of Norway in 1939.
Enger Tower is five stories up with nice wide steps and railings so not a difficult climb. It is 80 feet tall and has an amazing panoramic view from the top. Today the park has a Japanese garden with a Peace Bell you can ring. It was a gift of Duluth’s sister city, Ohara-Isumi.
The Japanese Garden
Interesting note on the bell. The original Peace Bell which was in the former Cho-ei Temple, is the oldest remaining bell in Ohara, Japan. Ohara donated the bell to a wartime scrap drive but for some reason it was never destroyed. After WWI, in 1946, sailors on the USS Duluth found the bell and took it to the US giving it to the city of Duluth where it was displayed in City Hall. In 1951, the Dean of Chiba University School of Horticulture was pursuing academic travel in the US. He learned of the bell’s existence, met with the Mayor if Duluth, and asked for its return. Mayor George Johnson along with Professor Peterson of the University of Minnesota and the US Air Force and Navy, returned the bell to Ohara on May 2, 1954.
This bell is a close replica of the original bell and presented to Duluth as the Japan-US Friendship Peace Bell, dedicated on June 5, 1994.
Noerenberg Memorial Gardens is located on the shore of Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota’s ninth largest lake at 14,528 acres. The Noerenberg family lived on the land until 1972, when Lora Noerenberg Hoppe bequeathed it to the Park District on her death. Frederick Noerenberg, the founder of Grain Belt Brewery built the estate in 1890. The house is gone but the gardens feature tiered rose beds and manicured lawns in the English Landscape style. It is considered one of the finest formal gardens in Minnesota.
Public gardens are common around the world. Most cities and even small towns have gardens for people to stroll in and enjoy the plants and flowers. The U.S. Botanic Garden is a little different. It is exotic. It has a room just for orchids. Other rooms are for desert plants, medicinal plants, rare and endangered plants, plants from Hawaii, and a jungle. It is rare to see so many different kinds of plants in one place. How did they all get there?
In 1820, US Congress granted the Columbian Institute five acres of land to establish a Botanic Garden. A letter was sent to foreign dignitaries soliciting plant donations. Although they received a good response, and plants were sent from near and far, the finances were never enough to maintain the collection. In 1837 Congress withdrew support and the land reverted to the federal government.
However, that wasn’t the end of it. In 1838, Congress commissioned the US Exploring Expedition to examine and chart remote areas of the globe. Lt. Charles Wilkes set sail on August 18, 1838 with six vessels. Nine civilian scientists joined him including two botanists, William D. Brackenridge and William Rich. The naturalist Charles Pickering was also on board. These men collected pant specimens at every stop.
In four years they logged 87,000 miles, lost two ships and 28 men. They were the last all-sail naval mission to circle the globe. They explored 280 islands and 800 miles of the Oregon coast. One significant discovery they made was Antarctica was a continent and not a series of islands as previously thought. The scientists, with the help of the crew, collected over 60,000 plant and bird specimens including 254 live plants.
Charles Wilkes received a court-martial on his return. He lost one ship on the Columbia River bar, mistreated his officers, and cruelly punished his sailors. The ship’s doctor, Charles Guilou was the major witness against him. He was acquitted except for the illegal punishment of his men. He currently accepts visitors at Arlington Cemetery.
Upon arrival, plants were temporarily housed at the US Patent Office but in late 1842 a greenhouse was added to the building. Congress approved $5,000 to relocate the plants to the greenhouse and soon the Botanic Garden was on its feet again. Over the years other expeditions, such as Commodore Matthew Perry’s trip to Japan in 1852 brought more plants to Washington DC. The US Botanic Garden grew and matured and in the 1920’s was relocated to its current site at the bottom of the US Capitol building.
After a renovation in 2001, the US Botanic Garden has state-of-the-art environmental systems across its eleven gardens. At the center is the Jungle under a central dome that rises 93 feet. Visitors can climb to the top to see the jungle canopy.
The US Botanic Garden continues to receive support from Congress and has more than 60,000 plants in its collection for exhibition, study, conservation, and exchange. Plants from around the world continue to be collected and studied.
It is a lovely place to visit anytime, but especially nice in winter when it is cold outside and tropical inside! You will find it at 100 Maryland Ave SW, Washington DC.