UNL Gardens website graphic image header

"All Nature seems at work.  Slugs leave their lair
The bees are stirring, birds are on the wing,
And Winter slumbering in the open air,
Wears on his smiling face a dream of spring."
-   Samuel Taylor Coleridge

                                                                                   quote archive

Welcome to the UNL Gardens website!

linden drawing

We are dedicated to the proposition that the living horticultural resources of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln's East Campus are not only places to enjoy aesthetically, they are an invaluable educational tool, a place to reflect on life; they are an often overlooked jewel in the crown of Lincoln's greenspaces.

UNL Gardens is supported by the IANR Vice Chancellor's office with help from the Friends of Maxwell Arboretum and is housed in the Community Forestry and Sustainable Landscape Program of the NFS.

Why on earth, you might ask, does the world need another plant website? There are surely enough by now. While it is true that there are plenty of excellent sites where you can access information about plants, we hope ours will present some major differences. First, we are concerned primarily with the specific plants found on East Campus; our information will act as a guide to those visiting campus and a resource for those who cannot. Secondly, we believe in the principal put forth by Elizabeth Lawrence: "Gardening, reading about gardening, and writing about gardening are all one; no one can garden alone" (The Little Bulbs: A Tale of Two Gardens, 1957). You'll find lots of horticultural "read more about it" here, with a special emphasis on historical resources. We aim as well, to link the horticultural world to the greater world of ideas, to literature, philosophy, history, politics, and poetry. If gardening were just about the plants it would be a great thing; the fact that it connects us to an experience of the wider world is what imbues it with meaning and makes it a sustaining force in our lives.

In addition to material on the gardens of East Campus, we will present information on the horticultural history of the campus, published resources on horticulture of the Great Plains from the past 140 years, and links to other great websites to enrich your gardening experience and love of plants.

This website is in its infancy--a seedling. Check back often to see what new information has been posted. My style on this site will be informal, a discussion between friends. So let me know what else you'd like to see, what information you can add.

See you in the gardens,

Emily Levine
University of Nebraska—“Lincoln

Almanac for Moderns Cover

Those of you who have spent much time on this web site are probably aware of my interest in and admiration for the literary naturalist Donald Culross Peattie (1898-1964). Peattie was a Harvard-trained botanist, remembered today--if at all--for his monumental two-volume A Natural History of Trees. If one reads these books, one will learn that Peattie's beauty lies not just in his botany but in his lyrical philosophical prose. Never before or since has a tree handbook contained such magnificent writing.

In a case of the exception proving the rule, the recent republication of A Natural History of Trees (as a travesty of a butchered one-volume work), only shows how completely we have forgotten this once esteemed master of what we now call "nature writing."

"I think we owe the man and his words some time and consideration...to amend for our great error in forgetting him" ("Donald Culross Peattie: A Friend in the Green Dusk," Columbanus Bestrode [see James Joyce, Ulysses]).

One of Peattie's most profound works and perhaps the one that first gained him a reputation is An Almanac for Moderns (1935). This odd little book contains 352 page-length or less writings for each day of the year. Peattie takes us through an entire year, beginning on the vernal equinox--March 21st--and circling all the way around to that same date. Given his profound mind, this book does not simply record the yearly cycle of the natural world, although this he does with sketches of surprising detail and sensitivity. On the contrary: Peattie uses the Almanac to open the whole world to us.

An Almanac For Moderns quote archive

 Great Plants Logo2016

The Nebraska Statewide Arboretum's GreatPlants® for the Great Plains program ("one of five awards worth watching," Garden Design Magazine) has announced their selections for 2016. Here's the full list and East Campus locations:

Tree of the Year:
American Hornbeam, Carpinus caroliniana
Maxwell Arboretum- east of the creek, north of the footbridge

Conifer of the Year:
Ponderosa Pine, Pinus ponderosa
Throughout campus

Shrub of the Year:
New Jersey Tea, Ceanothus americanus
Evasco Garden and Keim Courtyard

Perennial of the Year:
Fremont’s Primrose, Oenothera macrocarpa var. fremontii
The species can be found in the Yeutter Garden and Fleming Slope

Grass of the Year:
‘Dallas Blues’ Switchgrass, Panicum virgatum ‘Dallas Blues’
Yeutter Garden

Click here to visit the NSA site and read about these wonderful additions to our Great Plains landscapes.

Want to see other GreatPlants®?
Click here to view a map of the 2012 GreatPlants® in Maxwell Arboretum
Click here to view a map of the 2010 Great Plants® in Maxwell Arboretum

New Prunus besseyi (Western Sandcherry) planted June 26th, the day that Charles Bessey was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame. click here for more info
and click here to view historical documentation related to Charles E. Bessey and the Western Sand Cherry

Prunus Besseyi

Russian Oak

We lost one of the oldest trees on campus in August 2009 when the so-called "Russian Oak" across from the Dairy Store was taken down. Age, road construction, and a lightning strike last year, all contributed to the tree's decline. The tree is actually an English Oak that was planted from acorns brought from Russia in 1905. University horticulturist R.A. Emerson is credited with planting this tree which stood as a welcoming beacon at one of the campus's south entrances.



The tours are led by Emily Levine, Special Projects Research Horticulturist and former Grounds Supervisor for the arboretum. They are free and open to the public.

Next tour, June 7, noon-1:00 p.m.

Ready for some herbaceous perennials? We've looked exclusively at woodies the past two months. In June we'll switch things up and head over to the Varner Hall Herbaceous Demonstration Gardens---on the south side of Holdrege Street at about 38th. Not-entirely-legal parking way south behind the building right by the gardens---I think we'll be OK. (Location and directions here: http://nebraska.edu/…/maps-and-directions-to-university-adm…)
Lots of new and interesting plants! Hope to see you at noon on June 7th.


For years we've been having weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly tours of Maxwell Arboretum. And while there is always something to see, some tour participants have been coming for five years or more and it's time to branch out and look at new landscape areas on campus and new plants.
Here's the draft flyer. Stay tuned for the final schedule or follow us on Facebook for updates.
I'm excited about this new series of tours and I think you will be too.

2016 tour flyer1

[click to enlarge]

First Tuesdays, noon - 1:00
See for yourself the plants that have been posted and discussed here. The tours are informal with wonderful sharing by participants. In essence, the tours are designed to help us learn to see (and to learn what to look for). We'll also observe how different plants change through the seasons and share maintenance tips. And I'll place plants in the larger context of history and the arts.
Tours last about one hour. In case of rain, we will meet the following week (the second Tuesday). And watch Facebook and the UNL Gardens web site for updates (unlgardens.unl.edu).
Email me if you have questions at elevine2@unl.edu.
See you soon!
"wow, so informative on my level. I'm always sad when I can't make the walk"
"Knowledgeable, personable, includes knowledge of participants"
"love the seasonal aspect"
"detail of trees and plants"
"couldn't have been better"
"I always learn something!"
"stories and the history of the trees and plants"
"Great tour guide! So approachable and enthused!"
"Very, very informative. Makes me have a great respect for our trees and nature."


Find us on Facebook and click "Like" to get updates on Maxwell Arboretum tours, what's happening in the gardens, campus landscape history, and lots more!
facebook icon link


****Want to make sure that you see ALL OF THE POSTS from UNL Gardens?: ****

Facebook uses a complex algorithm to pick and choose what they let you see in your Facebook feed. (They also try to get page administrators to pay to guarantee that everyone who has "liked" our pages gets to see all of the posts.) Here are a few things you can do to make sure you don't miss any posts:
1. Go to the UNL Gardens Facebook page. Find the "Like/Liked" button near the top and hover your cursor over it. In the drop down menu click Get Notifications. Theoretically, you should then get a notification in your Facebook menu bar at the little globe icon that you can click on.
2. Simply visit the UNL Gardens page often to see the posts. Just enter UNL Gardens in the Facebook search box.
3. The Facebook algorithm responds to how much you interact with a page. If you "Like" posts or images often, or respond to images by commenting, you are more likely to receive more posts in your feed.
(If you've "liked" pages in the past and wonder why you never see posts from them anymore, this is why.)

What's Happening


Read about Parrotia persica, a "spotlight" plant in the Keim Courtyard. Great fall color, exfoliating bark, beautiful petalless flowers! Native only to a narrow strip just south of the Caspian Sea.

bark of Parrotia persica, a "spotlight" plant in the Keim Courtyard

Read about Maxwell Arboretum's fascinating Deciduous Conifers: Larix decidua (European Larch), Taxodium distichum (Baldcypress), and Metasequoia glyptostroboides (Dawn Redwood)

larch flower
Larix decidua flower