Put Your Christmas Tree to Good Use

In addition to pollinators, the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat is also visited by birds, deer, raccoons, rabbits, and more. Learn how you can recycle your Christmas tree to benefit wildlife in your own backyard.

Home Wise! Family Smart!

by Sarah Browning, Extension Educator – Horticulture

Add fruit garland to your Christmas Tree Add fruit garland to your Christmas Tree

Before taking your Christmas tree to the recycling center this year, consider using it to create backyard habitat for birds. To attract birds to your backyard, you must provide their three basic needs- food, water, and cover or shelter. Your old Christmas tree will provide excellent shelter for birds, providing protection from wind and predators. It can also serve as a feeding station, where you provide a buffet of food that our native birds love.

Before taking the tree outside, remove all decorations and lights, including tinsel. To provide the most shelter possible for the birds, place the tree on the south or east side of the house, sheltered from winter’s harsh north and west winds. Anchor the tree securely by setting the stump into the ground or a large bucket of damp sand, and securing…

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Wild Begamot-for Pollinators

Wild bergamot, Monarda fistulosa is blooming now in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. This perennial plant is native to Nebraska and found through out North America. It reaches heights of 2 to 5 feet tall. The flowers are light purple and is an important pollinator plant to bumblebees, skippers, swallowtails, monarchs, solider beetles, wasp, leaf cutter bees and sweat bees.

MJ Frogge

Monarda fistulosawild bergamot

September Blooming

The Cherry Creek Pollinator habitat is full of color and life. There are so many important native plants blooming now. These plants are important because they are used by migrating butterflies like monarch and painted ladies. They are also important to the native bees and other beneficial insects that will be active until the first hard frost. Blooming in the habitat right now is smooth aster, tall thistle, sawtooth sunflower, goldenrod and pitcher sage.

MJ Frogge

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Feeding Birds

The Cherry Creek Habitat hosts many American Goldfinch. I placed three sock feeders for them in our mature trees that border the habitat. I also hung the sunflower seed bird feeder for our seed eating birds. We often see Dark-eyed Junco and Northern Cardinals in or near the habitat.

M J Frogge

Master Gardener Lunch & Learn

Today the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat hosted a Master Gardener Lunch & Learn.  Master Gardeners brought their lunch, toured the habitat and learn more about our bee structures and plant selection for pollinators.  They constructed a solitary bee nest to place in their home landscape next year from recycled and repurposed items. Master Gardeners also made nature journals and spent time in the pollinator habitat observing nature.  The Cherry Creek Habitat is the perfect place to lunch and learn.


Master Gardeners make solitary bee nests.

Master Gardeners make solitary bee nests.


MG Lunch & Learn - 09

Native Grasses

At the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat we have included many native grasses.  We have established Indiangrass, little bluestem, big bluestem, switchgrass and sideoats grama.  The fall color and seed heads are at their best now.  If you plan to add ornamental grasses to your landscape, consider native grasses.  You will not be disappointed.

Native grasses, like Indiangrass, established in the pollinator habitat.

Native grasses, like Indiangrass, established in the pollinator habitat.

UNL and Pollinators

Last week I attended the UNL Entomology, Agronomy and Horticulture Pollinator Garden and Outdoor Classroom open house. This new garden is located on East Campus in the teaching gardens. Dr. Doug Golick, from the UNL Entomology Department led the tour. Pollinator plots have been seeded with native plants. A water wise garden area, pollinator food plot and larval habitat are also part of this pollinator garden. We viewed many pollinators while we toured the garden.

Nebraska Extension is in the process of forming nineteen new issue teams. I joined the “Protect beneficial insect ecosystems including pollinators” Team. In November this new state wide team will meet for the first time to discuss and plan our mission for the coming year. This team was organized because Nebraskans see beneficial insects and pollinators as a priority.


Pollinator Garden and Outdoor Classroom on East Campus.


Water wise garden.


Honeycomb structure in pollinator garden.


Open house for UNL Entomology, Agronomy and Horticulture Pollinator Garden and Outdoor Classroom.


Southern Plains bumblebee on purple cone flower.

What is Blooming in the Habitat-September

Asters are one of my favorite flowers. Smooth aster, Aster laevis, is blooming now in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat. This native aster produces an abundance of lavender-blue flowers through late autumn.

smooth aster

Smooth Aster is upright with arching branches and reaches 3 feet tall. It easily grows in dry to medium, well-drained soil in full sun.  Asters are a must for your perennial garden. All bees, bumble bees and butterflies flock to asters.  They are an excellent stopover plant for migrating Monarchs.


What is Blooming in the Habitat-August

Bumble bee on Pitcher's sage.

Bumble bee on Pitcher’s sage.

Pitcher’s sage (Salvia azurea) has been blooming in the habitat for a few weeks.  It has an amazing blue color. This native perennial is in the mint family, but is not an aggressive spreader.  The stems are tall and erect, with the plant reaching a height of 2-5 feet. Plant it in full sun. Nearly every day this month, I see bumble bees on the flowers of this plant. They love it and so will you.


Pitcher's sage in the Cherry Creek Habitat.

Pitcher’s sage in the Cherry Creek Habitat.