When the heat of August begins to beat you down, perk up by visiting this wide variety of landscapes where native plants are hosting butterflies, insects and birds while living side by side with lawns, vegetables, trees and concrete! There is no set order to check out the landscapes, other than your own curiosity! Activities confirmed to date include the availability of native plant seedlings and Raptor Conservation Alliance visits with some live raptors!
The tour will occur rain (bring your own umbrella) or shine. There is no charge, though donation jars will be at most sites. You can also make an online donation to Wachiska from their website homepage (upper right). Check “other” in the option box, then enter “Wild Side Tour” in the comment box. Checks are always lovingly received at the office.
Wachiska/Walt Branch Library Native Plant Garden – 6701 S. 14th St.
The 900-square-foot native plant garden is in its second year. Planted in April 2021 with the help of dedicated volunteers and funded by a PIE grant, the landscape is everything we hoped for and more. Sage, echinacea, rattlesnake master, hyssop, monarda, prunella, service berry, button bush, whorled milkweed, native grasses, and many other plants have made themselves at home and are ready to show off. Insects and birds abound with benches strategically placed for bird watching (2 feeders enhance the native plants providing food).
Raptor Conservation Alliance will have live educational birds of prey on display during the tour.
Peg and Larry Fletcher’s Prairie – 1900 S. 105th St.
Wachiska is a partner in this mature re-created prairie located near Walton. The 25-acre site was seeded with a high diverse mix of prairie plants from species throughout southeastern Nebraska over a 20-year period. It has a variety of wildflowers blooming throughout the year, highlights include spiderwort, white false indigo, rattlesnake master, butterfly milkweed, rough gayfeather, and compass plant. There are several species of birds year-round and the prairie abounds with insects.
On-site parking is available for those with mobility issues (go south from A Street on 105th Street). Others may park at the trailhead near 98th and A Streets. That intersection is closed for construction so you will need to take 98th north of Van Dorn to get to the parking areas. You may also park in Walton (trail parking is near the grain elevator) and walk the trail to the site. Masks are required at this Tour Stop and will be available at the check-in table.
Tim and Carol Hinkle - 1305 Plumridge Rd. (near Holdrege and 148th St.)
Our prairie (8 acres) was already planted with a variety of native grasses and diverse prairie plants when we purchased it in 1998. Since then, we have added plants and extended the grassy areas including Indian grass, big and little bluestem and side oats. Wild plum thicket surrounds two areas of the property and mowed paths wind throughout the areas that provide habitat for a variety of wildlife. If a birdwatcher, come with your binoculars! And, if interested in renewable energy, you’ll get a chance to see and learn about solar panels.
Native trees include bur oak and hackberry. Native plants include swamp milkweed, rudbeckia, penstemon, wild bergamot, purple coneflower, and golden alexanders. The property is a certified wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. Feel free to park on the grassy areas on the south side of the driveway.
Prairie Pines - 3100 N. 112th St.
Although not an official stop on this year’s tour, if you have extra time, you may want to stop by and experience 145 acres of woodland, grassland, wetland and prairie. The Prairie Pines Nature Preserve is a protected area of natural interest and habitat for diverse species. It is sustained for conservation, nature experience and understanding, and was created by nature and endowed by the life's work and pleasure of Walt and Virginia Bagley. Accompanied by the efforts of the University of Nebraska Institute of Natural Resources, Nebraska Forest Service and Prairie Pines Partners nonprofit, it forever shall be “a refuge for all living things”.
The Prairie Pines Nature Preserve grassed trails and the Nature Ninja course for children are open to the public every Saturday from 9 AM - 5 PM. Things will get busy in the afternoon as August 6 is the fourth annual Run Four the Pines!, which begins at 6:00 pm. For more information, https://prairiepines.org/index.html.
Aldersgate United Methodist Church - 8320 South St.
In 2016, the church at 84th and South Streets began a major transformation of its 1.9 acres of green space. The vision for Aldersgate Gardens is to benefit the environment and serve the community by providing habitat for wildlife, immersion in nature, and nature-based play for children. The site was on earlier Wachiska garden tours; since then, we have added a nature-based playground, including a 7’-tall hill slide, a second rain garden with a permanent pool of water, a 2000-square-foot mini-prairie, and eliminated another 7,000 square feet of lawn. There are paths leading to the playground from the side streets and a large poster featuring a variety of birds that frequent the area.
To date, the church has planted 115 trees, 659 shrubs, 870 perennials, 393 grass plants, and 4,708 grass plugs. This includes many different varieties of plants and many that are native to this area.
Plant markers provide the common and scientific names of many plants, and an online catalog (http://www.aldersgatelinc.org/plant-catalog) provides additional details of what is growing there. Aldersgate Gardens is an affiliate Landscape Steward Site of the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, a member of the Children & Nature Network, and a certified Pollinator Habitat.
Dave & Linda Titterington - 6324 Starling Circle
After living in the East Campus area for 35 years, Linda and I downsized to a home in south Lincoln that had a very large yard -- a new blank canvas where we could create wildlife habitat. After fencing in the entire yard for our two dogs we went to work on installing a hardscape feature that includes a fire pit and a stone walk around our bird feeding area. We used the dirt from the hardscape project to build a 75-foot-long berm where we installed high bush cranberry, black choke cherries, arrow wood viburnum, and a snowball viburnum. We have been filling in the berm with a variety of pollinator plants. We fenced in a garden area where we have two raised beds for herbs and two for vegetables. Inside the garden area we planted nanny berry bushes and two Juneberry shrubs, in addition to other plants. At this time, we still maintain a lawn, but it is completely organic. Corn gluten is used as a pre-emergent and fertilizer, totally harmless to children and pets. We control the weeds with organic non-chemical herbicides. The backdrop of our backyard is Colonial Hills Park enjoyed by families and wildlife. We have installed two Purple Martin housing units and have eight nesting pairs. It’s a joy to watch them and attendees will have the opportunity to see the martins.
Arapahoe Community Garden - 14th and Arapahoe Streets
Arapahoe Community Garden was started in 2013, a joint effort of Southview Baptist Church and the Indian Village Neighborhood Association and is managed by garden coordinators, Tim and Joanna Menter. Over the years the area has been transformed into more than just vegetable gardens. In 2017, Diane Walkowiak, a volunteer who had been helping with the gardens, brought up the idea of creating a pollinator garden to bring more beneficial insects into the garden area, as well as visual beauty. The initial plants came from her yard and donations from neighbors. Assisted by her husband, Bill Wehrbein, and other volunteers, her work kept expanding and now includes several spots that feature a variety of native plants, including yarrow, common milkweed, wild onion, indigo, larkspur, coneflower, sunflowers, penstemon, black-eyed Susan, and goldenrod. There are also mulberry trees, raspberries, and blackberries, as well as a variety of non-native plants. The plantings have not only increased the number of pollinators for the adjacent vegetable gardens, but also provide a restful space for gardeners and the public to take a break and enjoy the beauty and wonder of nature. Diane will be on hand from 10-2 to provide tours of the area and answer questions. This stop also provides several places to sit, so take the time to make it a relaxing visit! While resting, look north across Arapahoe Street and you’ll see what one building owner, longtime Wachiska member Elizabeth Nelson, is doing to make commercial property more "wild."