‘Lone Wolf’ Sawtooth

Sawtooth sunflower in the Cherry Creek Habitat

At 9 feet, this perennial sawtooth sunflower is standing tall in the Cherry Creek Habitat

My, my, my… how one of our perennial sunflowers has grown!

We have a sawtooth sunflower (Helianthus grosseserratus) in the Cherry Creek Habitat. When grown in tight colonies the sunflowers reach 3-5 feet tall. However, when you plant one by itself (described as a ‘lone wolf’) it can reach up to 12 ft tall. This afternoon, we went out and measured the sawtooth sunflower in the Cherry Creek habitat and it is 9 ft tall. It is glorious! Unfortunately, it is too tall for the space (and could be aggressive),  so we’ll have to move it later. There are plenty of pollinators on the sunflower now and it certainly is a standout in the habitat.

Other habitat news:

  • Excited! Jim in our office is busy adding a camera out back so we can view the habitat on the web and share video. We should even have “night vision”.
  • We’ve also been doing some nitty gritty work with weeding and adding more rock to keep working on the erosion issues with the space.
  • The activity at the bee nesting structure has really slowed down, although I did see one leaf cutter bee busy at work. Bumble bees have certainly not slowed down their activity – they are still as busy as “bees”.
  • Today, we saw a lot of monarchs moving south on their migration while working in the habitat.
  • As we move into fall, it will be time to harvest seed and plant more plants.
  • Speaking of sunflowers, the Lemon Queen sunflowers may not look as pretty now that the flowers are gone, but they are providing food for birds. This afternoon, a female cardinal and three of her young were busy feeding on the seeds.

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Tubs, Hoses and Stuff

UNL research on building/parking lot runoff

Tools UNL researchers are using to monitor runoff from buildings and parking lots

If you visit our office, you might wonder about the blue plastic tubs with hoses and “stuff” connected to them (photo). There is one set on the building and one down a drainage slope by the parking lot. University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers are monitoring runoff from our building roof and parking.  This information will be used to help researchers work on reducing non-source point pollution coming from urban features like buildings and paved lots.

Bit of “Buzz” on the Cherry Creek Habitat: We’re getting more mulch soon to help conserve moisture for plants. We had so much rain and now it looks like we’re going to slide back into a drought pattern. I stopped by this weekend to water some of the newer plantings. The big cottontail rabbit who was busy munching on some of the plantings was surprised! MJ added a low-tech water feature today for insects. The feature is also perfect for the birds. Our resident robins seem most excited and vocal about all of the improvements we’re doing. Soon we’ll be putting together the components for the insect hotel. Can’t wait until this fall when we can do some more plantings.

Here’s to Sharing the Buzz!


UNL Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere – http://lancaster.unl.edu

We’re making progress!

Cherry Creek Habitat - Making Progress

Making Progress – July 2013

MJ, Dave and Chris have been busy working on the Cherry Creek Habitat. All of the erosion-prone areas look great now with a new river rock bed to slow the flow of water. What water does run off now, goes exactly where we want it (so far, so good!).  What a huge difference (see what it looked like when we first started)!!!

The grassy area (now mostly bare) is being converted into an area with plants beneficial to pollinators. When renovating, we left a few plants that were already growing there – heath aster, common milkweed, chicory and white clover. Most of the grass has been removed (still working on it). MJ brought in some wild violets (early bloomers) and rudbeckia (black-eyed susan) and those were planted recently. We’ll be adding more plants this fall – it is going to be too hot to do any more transplanting right now.

The old satellite pole has been capped, primed and painted. We’ll incorporate the pole into our plans (still working on it). Next week, we’ll get more wood chips from the landfill.

Even with all our activity, the deer are still wandering through the area leaving behind their telltale signs. We’re keeping a close watch on the plants to see if we need to take any steps to protect them from the nibblers.

Here’s to Sharing the Buzz!


UNL Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere – http://lancaster.unl.edu

Not so easy… not so fast

Erosion - Building Runoff June 2013

BEFORE Erosion after recent rains – June 13, 2013
(photo by SC)

We hauled in soil, we packed in eroded areas, we created a berm…. and then it rained, and it rained and it rained some more. Now for those of us in Nebraska, this is something we aren’t used to in recent years. We’ve been in a very stubborn drought. Thankfully, in a few short weeks we’ve swam out of the drought – our ponds are full and fields are green! The only negative has been progress on our project.

The rain amplified some of the issues with erosion and runoff from the building. We called on Tom Franti to take a look at what we were facing before we moved forward. Tom is the Extension Surface Water Management Specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. When Tom visited our site, he determined very quickly that we would not be able to install a rain garden. The slope from the building to the creek was too steep and our berm would never be able to hold the water back with the amount of water coming off the building. The soil was also not conducive to a rain garden. Tom also told us he does not recommend putting a rain garden over any utilities. Our site is full of flagged utilities with the exception of just a few places. We have a tough situation.

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It rained!


Cherry Creek habitat – last year’s cattail stalks in a marshy area. April 2013

It rained last night. Most of Nebraska is still in a drought – every drop of rain helps! I hope when we get back to the office on Monday the berm we started is still intact and held the runoff from the office roof. If not, that’s OK. The berm is a work in progress – we’ll shore it up.

I’m sure the plants/wildlife at the neighboring saline wetlands appreciate the rain. You know, we haven’t talked about our neighbors. Just to the north of our Cherry Creek site, is an amazing resource few people know about. It is the Lincoln Saline Wetlands Nature Center, 92 acres of unique habitat. Map

What’s a Saline Wetlands? From the Lower Platte South Natural Resources District who manages the sites in our area: “When the ground water rises to the surface a wetland is created. When that water passes through salt deposits on its way up, a saline wetlands is created. Lincoln, Nebraska is one of the very few places on earth where that happens…. ” Continue reading

Runoff to rain garden

One of the features in our habitat plan is to include a rain garden and berm. This should help eliminate some of the runoff from the roof of our building. The runoff is causing some erosion problems and could carry pollutants to the small wetlands area on the northern edge of the habitat.

What’s a rain garden? A rain garden is a small area designed to temporarily hold and allow water to soak in to the soil. It isn’t a pond or wetlands. In fact, most of the time it is dry. Rain gardens can be both beautiful and functional.  A mix of perennial flowers, ornamental grasses and woody shrubs adapted to both wet and dry conditions can be used in a rain garden. We intend to use plants that will also benefit wildlife/pollinators.

About 4-5 years ago, rain gardens created quite a “buzz” around our community. I’ve got a couple spots around my own home where I should seriously consider a rain garden. Add that to my “to do” list!

Our local government has a resource page to help people create their own rain gardens. Check it out:


Here’s to Sharing the Buzz!


UNL Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere – http://lancaster.unl.edu