Color-Filled Public Gardens of Lincoln

The Sunken Gardens—a hidden oasis in the heart of Lincoln.

Originally “The Rock Garden,” Lincoln’s Sunken Gardens has since evolved into something quite stunning. It is the only Nebraska garden listed in the 300 Best Gardens to Visit in the United States and Canada by the National Geographic Guide to Public Gardens.

The Rotary Pavilion with its lacy domed top greets visitors as they enter the gardens. The dome is made of individual laser cut panels representing the four seasons of Lincoln’s skyline.  But the colors, textures and fragrances of the flowers and plantings draw the people in for a closer look. 

Garden lovers seeking fresh ideas can find inspiration in the design and varieties of the flowers and grasses. The multilevel plantings show off many varieties of perennials and annuals that live happily together.

Laura Williams visits the gardens often. “Entering the Sunken Gardens is like being immersed into a valley of beauty and tranquility,” she said. “The colors and patterns are a feast for the eyes and every year the designers come up with a new theme.” 

Much of the summer color is created by thousands of annuals.

In May, after the last frost-free date, volunteers plant the annuals at the Waking up the Beds event. It’s a yearly affair that invites the public to participate in the installation of the annuals. Limited to the first 60 volunteers who call, you can register with Zac Halley, zhalley@lincoln.ne.gov Or call at 402-326-9045, by May 4th. 

The Healing Garden, also known as the White Garden, was inspired by the famous White Garden created in the 1930s at Sissinghurst Castle in Kent, England. Clusters of white blossoms inspire calm, serenity and meditation. The ethereal effect of the garden is best on moonlit summer evenings.

The gardens are not just for viewing the colorful flowers and foliage. City dwellers searching out a bit of solitude can find a bench to relax in a beautiful quiet setting. All ages enjoy the gardens, including children who crowd around the koi ponds.

Visitors get artistic inspiration from the ever-changing colors and design. Couples plan their engagement photos or wedding pictures. Families educate children in nature’s beauty or host visitors from out-of-town. For many activities, the Sunken Gardens, located at 27th and Capitol Parkway, is the perfect choice. 

The Hamann Rose Garden 

Just across 27th Street from the Sunken Gardens, the rose garden has delighted flower lovers for over 75 years. More than 123 rose varieties grow here, including Hybrid Tea Roses, Floribundas, Grandifloras and mini roses in a formal setting of boxwood hedges, hardy perennials and evergreens. The garden also includes a large hydrangea collection. Plus, All-Americas Rose Selection (AARS) award-winning roses are on display in the AARS official Rose Display Garden. 

This lovely rose garden dates to 1945 and was completely updated in 2008. As visitors walk through the garden they soon come to the Bicentennial Cascade Fountain in its pool (now under rennovation). The center of the garden features a fountain with a laughing children, which is a serene spot for contemplation. The fountain, Joy, cast from an original by Edith Barretto Parsons, was donated by Walt Canney to honor his wife Louella.

The park is small and intimate, a great place to walk and think and relax in the middle of the capital of Nebraska.

Veterans Memorial Garden 

A garden with a different look, this site is dedicated to the veterans who sacrificed to preserve our freedom. Visitors can stroll through the garden to view 37 memorials, monuments and tribute benches. 

The garden allows peaceful reflection and gratitude for the veterans who served our country. The Veterans Memorial Garden is located within Antelope Park at 3200 Veteran’s Memorial Drive. 

To reserve any of the gardens or other park space for a wedding or other special event, please contact the reservation staff at 402-441-7847, opt 0 or visit the online reservation system at www.lincoln.ne.gov/aspx/city/facility/default.aspx.

Maxwell Arboretum

Towering oaks and evergreens create a peaceful woodland on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln East Campus. The arboretum is near 33rd and Holdrege streets. Named for Earl G. Maxwell, the five-acre area began when Maxwell began planting trees more than 50 years ago.

The arboretum is a live learning center, inspiring homeowners, business owners and cities to beautify landscapes and public spaces using species that are not only attractive but also suited for the area.

Specialized collections of trees, shrubs, vines and perennial plants, sunny open prairie and trial sites for new cultivars can all be found in this area of the UNL Botanical Garden and Arboretum.

The Karl Loerch gazebo at the entrance to the Arboretum offers shady seating for visitors. From the gazebo, paths branch off through the Arboretum where secluded benches and picnic tables offer space for studying, lunching or quiet reflection.

The UNL arboretum is part of the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, which offers events year round. Topics include trees, gardens, design and wildlife. For details visit plantnebraska.org.

Other UNL Gardens

Nature lovers can enjoy a variety of gardens on both the East Campus and City Campus. Each garden shows its own character and design elements.

The Cather Garden on the city campus depicts the use of prairie plans in an urban setting. Grasses and wildflowers combine to live in the campus setting.

Love Garden features elegant garden gates that frame the traditional entrance to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln city campus. The lawn is bordered by flower beds that bloom against the backdrop of Love Library. The Garden Gates always remain open, inviting the community to visit the campus and enjoy the garden’s ever-changing colors and textures.

Several other gardens dot the UNL city and east campuses. For more details and maps of the UNL Gardens, visit http://unlgardens.unl.edu.

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