It may be cold and blustery outside, but it’s never too early to think about what you might want to add to your landscape in the spring.

It’s actually the perfect way to while away a winter afternoon. Drop a few hints, and you might even find a gift card for your favorite garden center under the Christmas tree.

If attracting wildlife and pollinators to your yard has become a priority, Justin Evertson of the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum says picking regionally native species is the best route. Especially when it comes to trees and shrubs.

“From dried seeds and berries throughout the entire winter to abundant summer foliage, flowers and fruits to early spring nectar sources for pollinators, trees and shrubs also offer the largest and most varied shelter for wildlife,” he said.

Evertson says there are more than 50 species of native trees and shrubs to choose from, but he narrowed that down to the 10 species that offer the best habitat for wildlife. The choices are a win for gardeners, too.

“Fortunately, they also offer some of the best year-round interest for us, whether we’re paying attention to the plants themselves or to the birds and other creatures they draw to our yards,” he said.

If you discover some of these trees and shrubs aren’t available locally, you’ll be able to find them in April at the Spring Affair plant sale in Lincoln or through arboretum sales that begin in May. Check out plantnebraska.org.

We’ll share more on great regional perennials for your landscape in a future column.

Nebraska Statewide Arboretum Awards

The Nebraska Statewide Arboretum awarded the Nature Conservancy in Nebraska with its Blazing Star Award at a reception in Lincoln this week.

Director of Science Chris Helzer accepted the award, which recognizes an organization “that has made a significant contribution toward advancing the horticultural use of native plants or the restoration of native plant communities in Nebraska.”

Helzer and other Conservancy staff have converted more than 1,500 acres of cropland to high-diversity prairie and wetland habitat as a way to enlarge and reconnect small isolated native prairies in the area. This work has taken place at the Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies, located between Grand Island and Kearney.

The restored prairies were built with locally harvested seed mixes of up to 200 or more plant species and are now managed with a combination of prescribed fire and grazing. The sites have maintained their plant diversity and also provide much-needed additional habitat for numerous wildlife and insects formerly living in small fragments of prairie.

Award presenter Bob Henrickson with the Statewide Arboretum said that, in addition, “Helzer works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations.”

Helzer is the author of “The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States” and his blog, The Prairie Ecologist.

Steve Rodie received the educator award, which recognizes “educators who have made an outstanding contribution toward advancing the knowledge and appreciation of plants among their students.”

Rodie is a professor of biology and environmental studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He teaches courses in landscape plants, sustainable landscape design, landscape appreciation and environmental sustainability, green infrastructure and other environmental topics.

Arboretum Director Christina Hoyt said Rodie has helped lead stormwater management research and education across Nebraska and the region. He has worked with the City of Omaha Stormwater Program, and was a member of UNL’s Stormwater Management Education Team that received the 2013 Outstanding Team Gold Award from the Association of Natural Resources Extension Professionals. He also received UNO’s Outstanding Service Learning Faculty Award for his teaching and community outreach projects, and over the past 25 years, has helped communities statewide become more waterwise in their landscape management.

Other award winners:

Johnny Appleseed Award — Mark Wilson, Lincoln

Jim Kluck Honor Award — Jeff Kennedy, Gothenburg

Affiliate Excellence Award — Wayne State College, Wayne

Volunteer Award — Jim and Jan Wilhelm, Humboldt

Community Landscape Award — Southeast Nebraska Cancer Memorial Garden, Humboldt and Vintage Heights Neighborhood Arboretum, Lincoln


Holiday lights in Omaha through the years

Marjie is a writer for The World-Herald’s special sections and specialty publications, including Inspired Living Omaha, Wedding Essentials and Momaha Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @mduceyOWH. Phone: 402-444-1034.

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