A secluded retreat at East Campus in Lincoln

Reconnecting with the Natural World

Step 1: Disconnect

Take back your yard: it's not about the neighbors anymore. It's about creating a restorative outdoor retreat to find a little peace. There are countless studies about the connection between connecting to the natural world and mental health and performance. Spending time outside improves the symptoms of depression, anxiety, and attention disorders, and stimulates creativity and learning.

Some tips on creating an outdoor retreat:

Start by using some larger plants to hedge in a hidden "room" in your yard. Layer with plants that have fragrant leaves or flowers like lavender, bee balm, and agastache to add to the sensory experience. Add pavers or use high-traffic groundcovers like creeping thyme for the "floor". Comfortable furniture, a fountain, and outdoor lighting can complete the space. Short on space? Even a balcony with a few potted plants can serve as an outdoor sanctuary. You don't have to have a green thumb to take advantage of a beautiful outdoor space. Work with one of our designers to select plants that require little care so you can enjoy your time relaxing outside!

Step 2: Find ways to interact with the landscape.

Cut flower gardens are a good way to bring a little bit of nature inside with you while developing a relationship with plants as they change throughout the seasons. Even just the act of arranging flowers can lift spirits. New breeding has resulted in fresh, bold colors in yarrow, coneflowers, hollyhocks, and poppies. Keep an eye out for unexpected elements like unusual flower shapes, colorful leaves, seed heads, berries, and grasses to add to your arrangements.

If cutting flowers isn't your thing, try growing food for yourself and your neighbors, or invite pollinators, birds, and other wildlife in with intentional plant choice and design. Even just sitting and observing the seasonal change happening in your yard can help you find a deeper connection with the natural world.

Habitat reconstruction at Audubon's Spring Creek Prairie

Positive Impact Gardens

Growing concern over the decline of pollinator and songbirds populations have contributed to a backyard habitat reconstruction movement in the last several years. There are programs to make your yard a certified wildlife habitat and connect with other gardeners working on conservation effots. Native plants play a pivotal role in this movement because they co-evolved with these insect populations, supporting them through all stages of life. Nebraska has an especially important role to play because tall grass prairies are among the world's endangered ecosystems. We can celebrate our ecological heritage and cut down on hours spent pruning, amending, mulching, and fertilizing at the same time by choosing plants native to this region. Look for an expanded line of natives and plants better adapted to our soils and climate in our garden centers this spring.  To learn more, check out our Cultivating Ideas Seminar Series with Audubon and the UNL Bee lab.

Native plants and their cultivars also adapt to extreme weather patterns associated with climate change, like flooding from spring storms and summer heat and droughts, better than some of the traditional landscape specimen plants. But it's not just about aesthetics, deep-rooted natives can help absorb and retain stormwater in the soil, and help purify the water pollution associated with runoff from intense storms.

Landscape impact doesn't stop with the natural environment. Your planting choices can help feed the community. Try including edibles in existing landscaping, or devote a few pots or a raised bed to growing a little bit extra that can be donated to the Food Bank. Campbell's is a Food Bank of Lincoln collection site for fresh garden produce, so be on the lookout for that program this summer.

Native garden at Antelope Valley

Low Maintenance Landscapes

When life gets demanding, landscape in a way that allows you to spend and less time maintaining more time enjoying your outdoor space. Design trends are reflecting this need by turning towards an emphasis on choosing plants that are naturally suited to the environmental conditions of the site, and mimicking the concepts found in landscapes designed by Mother Nature.

Some tips for low-maintenance landscapes:

Relax your standards. Healthy landscapes are ecosystems and that means bugs, leaf litter, and a few weeds. If something seems out of balance, stop in to our stores or ask an expert if it's a problem that needs to be addressed.

Design with low-maintenance in mind. Pick plants that have similar environmental needs to be planted as companions. Try using perennial groundcovers underneath showier plants to cut down on weeds and help water retention in the soils. Spacing plants close so they grow together as a community can also help maintain plant health and crowd out weeds.

Work with what you have. Sun? Shade? Soil? Water? These are all important considerations when designing landscapes. Working with these conditions is much easier than trying to fit a plant into a site that doesn't meet its growing requirements. Proper identification of existing plants allows our staff to make appropriate maintenance recommendations, cutting down on unnecessary work. To learn more, stop by our Cultivating Ideas Seminar Series with landscape designer Ryan Stewart as he talks about pruning and maintenance.