UNL Gardens website graphic image header

                "From December to March, there are for many of 
us three gardens:
the garden outdoors,
the garden of pots and bowls in the house,
and the garden of the mind's eye."
-  Katherine S. White
                                                                                      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. continue reading . . .

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 Logo2017

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 2017. Here's the full list and East Campus locations:

Tree of the Year:
Shumard Oak, Quercus shumardii
Maxwell Arboretum- between footbridge and Vine Arbor

Conifer of the Year:
White Spruce, Picea glauca
Throughout campus

Shrub of the Year:
'Pawnee Buttes' Western Sandcherry,
Prunus besseyi '
Pawnee Buttes'
West entrance ETV

Perennial of the Year:
Meadow Gayfeather or Rocky Mountain Blazing Star,
Liatris ligulistylis
Evasco Garden and Rain Chain Garden east of Keim Hall

Grass of the Year:
Big Bluestem,  Andropogon gerardii
Maxwell Arboretum prairie

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.

UNL Garden Friends (UNLBGA, UNL Botanical Garden and Arboretum) Annual Lecture:
Jim Locklear
1:30 p.m. Feb. 25 Nebraska Union auditorium, 1400 R

Plant conservation and stewardship are hallmarks of Omaha’s Lauritzen Gardens. Jim Locklear, the gardens’ director of conservation, will talk about their efforts at a lecture beginning at 1:30 p.m. Feb. 25 in the auditorium of the Nebraska Union, 1400 R St., on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus. The event is free and open to the public.

The lecture, “More than a pretty place: Conservation initiatives at Lauritzen Gardens,” highlights the work being done at one of the Great Plains most valuable botanical gardens.

Lauritzen Gardens is a participating institution in the Center for Plant Conservation, a coalition of the nation's leading botanical institutions working to prevent the extinction of America's endangered plants. Lauritzen’s conservation work is focused on the Great Plains region where more than 100 plants are in danger of becoming extinct in their native habitat. The work of conserving endangered plants involves research, seed banking, and restoration projects.

Research by Lauritzen Gardens has identified 382 plants with geographic distributions that are mostly limited to the Central Grassland of North America. Of these "endemic" and uniquely grassland plants, 124 or 33 percent are at risk of extinction.

Locklear has headed Lauritzen’s conservation efforts since 2010. He has conducted conservation assessments of imperiled plants in the Great Plains for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, the Colorado Natural Areas Program, and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. He is a former director of the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum.

He is editor of “Jewels of the Plains: Wildflowers of the Great Plains Grasslands and Hills.” This classic guide, originally written by the late South Dakota plantsman Claude A. Barr, was updated by Locklear and republished by University of Minnesota Press in 2015. Books will be available for purchase at the event.

His talk is sponsored by UNL Garden Friends, who advocate for and support UNL’s Botanical Garden and Arboretum.



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.

Tours will resume the first Tuesday in April in Maxwell Arboretum.

click for 2018 tour flyer
2018 tour flyer

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!
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****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