Four Fabulous Wild Flower Sanctuaries

When we first walked our land, it was a week before Labor Day 2003.  I’m sure there were wild flowers everywhere, but I can’t remember them.  I was trying to feel the whole 44 acres at once.  What is too big?  Was it too little?  Was it too flat?  Was it too hilly?  I was more focused on the macro elements of the deciduous woods running through the middleof the land, and the acres of hopeful young pines, spruces and oaks marching over the contour of the earth in their perfect little rows.  Mostly my eyes kept returning to that glorious bowl of blue sky cupped over the hollow where two valleys intersected.

Wild geranium

Wild geranium

But as I have crissed and crossed those acres again and again in all lights of day and times of year, I see it as a vast wild flower garden.  Every year I learn more of their names and their ways and try to encourage them. Shooting Stars.  Blazing Stars. Pale Purple Cone Flowers. Hoary Pucoon.  Wild Quinine.  Prairie Milkweed.  Wood Betony.  The list keeps growing.  See my post from July 17, Prairie Gold here

Taking care of our land has consumed our vacation time for the present.  This summer and fall we will be taking off from work a half day or two at a time to nail the batten boards on the barn, ( see my July 7 post, Building Our Timberframe Barn here ) cut in a window, lay the loft floor, build the growing boxes in the greenhouse, clear the house site, and set in the cisterns.

But if I could go on a fantasy vacation, Iwould head out for these


1.  Eloise Butler wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary, Minneapolis MN

Eloise Butler going at it.

Eloise Butler going at it. Photo courtesy of Minneapolis Public Library

This 15-acre sanctuary tucked into a sky-scrapery city calls itself the oldest public wildflower garden in the United States.  Evidently Ms. Butler, with three other botany teachers, petitioned the parks board to create the sanctuary which she tended the rest of her life.  I feel a grateful connection to Eloise who found a piece of earth and dedicated herself to its preservation in a natural state.

And I feel fortunate that the land I have taken under my wing does not present the challenges she faced working creating a blooming sanctuary in the middle of booming urban development.

2.  New England Wild Flower Society’s Garden in the Woods, North Framingham Mass.

The NEWFS calls it’s Garden in the Woods a living museum showcasing more than a thousand native plant species, including 150 that are rare and endangered.  The Society actually owns and manages ten sanctuaries in New England and operates the 75-acre Nasami Farm, where they are creating a Native Plant Center to supply landscape professionals, home owners and the green industry with native planting options.

3.  Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, The University of Texas at Austin

If I found myself in Texas I would make a bee line for Lady Bird’s Wildflower Center.  When I was a snotty teen and twenty something, I used to scorn Lady Bird for setting her first lady sights so low as beautifying the highways.  Now I see that she was a visionary whose dream has become a research center that supports the Native Plant Information Network. Check it out here .  Or even better, Ask Mr. Smarty Plants your knotty native plant questions here.   Now, there is a legacy that I cannot scorn.  Thank you, Lady Bird.

4.  Castle Crest Wildflower Trail, Crater Lake National Park in Oregon

Crater Lake

Crater Lake

If you like your wild flowers in a really dramatic setting, how can you beat Crater Lake with its deep blue lake, steep cliffs, photogenic islands and volcanically explosive history?  To visit the Castle Crest Wildflower Garden, you have to negotiate an unpaved footpath and five log bridges where wild flowers that would normally bloom in less accessible spots have been gathered and cultivated on a trail that passes through a forest, swamp, wet-meadow and grassy slope!

Sigh.  For the time being, I am not going to see these sanctuaries except in my dreams.  For now, I’m keeping my eyes to the ground and putting one foot in front of the other to protect wild flowers and all native plants on my own land, and tomorrow night, I’m going to visit a nearby wild flower sanctuary at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum for a guided tour of its native plants.

Share your best wildflower siting?  Where and why?   I would love to post again and include your dream wild flower garden in the list.

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