History of Aldersgate Gardens

July 1, 2023


Introduction After selling three residential lots in 2010-2011, Aldersgate UMC has about 1.9 acres of green space – excluding the building, parking lot, and sidewalks. Before 2016, this consisted of about 83,000 square feet of lawn with a fair number of mature trees. A description that year noted that some of the trees were dead or diseased, and the lawn had a serious problem of dandelions, crabgrass, and other weeds.

In 2016, Aldersgate UMC began a multi-year effort to transform its green space into a neighborhood park with extensive plantings and a new playground. As of the spring of 2023, this included 122 trees, nearly 800 shrubs, and over 1500 perennials. These numbers will increase as we continue to replace grass with native plants and fill in empty areas. So far, landscaping has reduced lawn space to about 23,000 square feet, which is a little more than 25% of what existed in 2016. This includes an estimated 7,500 square feet of parkway. Achieving this transformation has taken seven years and finishing the project may take several more years. In some respects, a project like this is never done; there will always be ways to make it better.

This document traces the history of Aldersgate Gardens, from the initial planning through major developments each year. Here are some pictures of the landscaping before 2016.


Aerial view of church
Aerial View of Church
Front of church
View of Aldersgate from South Street
View of Aldersgate from Pinedale.
View from Pinedale Ave looking Southeast



There were three major accomplishments in 2016:

  1. developing an initial landscaping plan;
  2. constructing the swale (neighbors paid the $3,100 cost); and
  3. planting 100 pollinators just west of the  sanctuary.

In addition, the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum sponsored a Sustainable Landscape Workshop  on December 8, 2016. Attendance at that workshop led to research on several grant opportunities and a  collaboration with Luann Finke of Finke Gardens and Nursery. 

Pollinator Plants


The big story of 2017 was a major landscaping project in the spring. A total of 24 volunteers contributed  well over 300 hours to plant 51 trees, 73 shrubs, 90 perennials, and 51 grass plants. Todd Mason  Enterprises removed 13 trees and stumps from the double row of lodgepole pines along Pinedale Avenue.  Major sources of funding included grants from the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum ($7,500), Lower Platte  South NRD for trees ($4,602), and City of Lincoln Raingarden Program ($2,000).  

The rain garden proved to be a far bigger project than expected. Amending the heavy clay soils with  organic matter was a challenge, and then torrential rains washed out the original check dam. Eventually,  we reshaped the bottom of the rain garden and added another 1,000 pounds of rock in addition to the ton  that was first installed.  

In September, an Eagle Scout candidate landscaped the parking lot islands with 10 shrubs, 32 perennials,  and 40 grass plants.  

Other developments of note included choosing the name of “Aldersgate Gardens” on April 29, achieving  designation as a “Landscape Steward Affiliate Site” of the NSA on August 18, holding a celebration on  October 1, and hosting a tree care seminar on December 9. The Lincoln Journal Star published an article  about Aldersgate Gardens on November 19. Some from 2017 are below. Pictorial histories of the spring  landscaping and rain garden projects have many more photos. 

Volunteers planting trees
Trees waiting to be planted outside the south side of Sanctuary
Trees in buckets waiting to be planted
Volunteer planting tree.
rain water diverted to collection point of what will become the rain garden
Trees planted in berm on north side of property


Thirty applications to private foundations for grants to assist with developing Aldersgate Gardens yielded  nothing. Initially, the only grant money for 2018 was $500 from the Lincoln Parks Foundation, which  covered part of the cost of the “prairie parkway” on Pinedale Avenue near the rain garden. For the most  part, progress in 2018 depended on memorial funds and donations. Plantings included: Pinedale Avenue corridor in March (90 bareroot shrubs) 

  • Meditation garden north of Fellowship Hall in April (4 trees, 6 shrubs, 22 perennials) Front entrance in May (28 shrubs, 15 perennials, 420 grass plugs) 
  • Prairie Parkway in June (48 perennials, 490 grass plugs) 

In addition, vouchers from the City of Lincoln paid for 9 street trees along Pinedale Avenue. These were  for replacing two ash trees the city removed in 2017 and in anticipation of losing the remaining ash trees  along Pinedale Avenue. (Note, in 2021, the City of Lincoln began treating the ash trees along Pinedale  Avenue to prevent emerald ash borer infestations.) 

Other notable events and activities in 2018 included: 

  • Installing a fence screen to hide the HVAC equipment outside Fellowship Hall. Installing an underground drain so that runoff from the roof of the Sunshine Room would not flow across the playground. 
  • Installing 3 metal benches. 
  • Applied for Nebraska Pollinator Habitat Certification. 
  • Holding another Tree Care Workshop on December 8. 

In September, we applied for grants for 2019 from the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum and Lower Platte  South NRD. The NSA awarded $9,000, and the LPSNRD provided $2,295. Weather conditions and  availability of stock allowed us to plant 5 trees on November 24. 

Planting trees along Pinedale.
Planting in front of church
Planting trees and shrubs beside Pindedale Ave
the rain garden full of rain after a storm.


The grants from the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum and Lower Platte South NRD allowed landscaping multiple locations in the spring. These included:

  • Areas to the north and south of the parking lot.
  • 84th and South Streets around the large, illuminated sign
  • South of the sanctuary.
  • The Hutchinson garden.

South of the Sunshine Room (the triangular area formed by the sidewalk.
A Waterwise Lawn Grant from the City of Lincoln ($1,078) allowed us to replace 11,000 square feet of turf grass with Legacy buffalo grass from Todd Valley Farms. Total plantings included 11 trees, 149 shrubs, 211 perennials, and 2,520 grass plugs – mainly buffalo grass.

On August 30, NSA awarded another grant for $7,500. This paid for planting 5 trees and 40 shrubs in the fall and covered the costs for a landscaping project focused on 84th Street in the spring of 2020. The fall planting focused on the perimeter of the playground and west lot line near South Street.

West Property Line and Playground Area (Fall 2019):

  • 5 trees
  • 40 shrubs
  • Delivery and Placement of Boulders (Fall 2019)
  • 32 small boulders (from Finke Gardens and Nursery)
  • 35 tons of large boulders (from Outdoor Solutions)

Another major accomplishment in 2019 was constructing a new playground and fencing. A gift from Linda Schafer paid for the hill slide and toddler swing. Other costs were donated as in-kind expenses. On June 16, Aldersgate Gardens was part of the 2019 Wachiska Garden Tour. As many as 375 people came through.



South Side of Building
Planting the entryway
Planting on 84th St
Watering plants
Staked tree
sign near parking area
Planting near Pinedale
Trees near parking lot
Planting Berm
Playground before fencing
Building swingset
newly mulched playground
Installing fencing around playground



On January 28, 2020, the Interfaith Power and Light announced that Aldersgate UMC was the national winner of the Sacred Grounds category of its 2019 Cool Congregations Challenge.

The NSA grant awarded in August 2019 funded several plantings in the spring of 2020. (Donations covered the match.) Areas landscaped in the Spring of 2020 included:

  • Removing four pine trees along 84th (Spring 2020)
  • 84th Street Frontage (Spring 2020)
    • 8 trees
    • 20 shrubs
    • 81 perennials
    • 24 grass native grass plants
    • 1,400 buffalo grass plugs
  • South of the Sanctuary – Fill-In (Spring 2020)
    • 14 shrubs
  • Hill Slide (Spring 2020)
    • 17 shrubs
    • 37 perennials
    • 10 Carex appalachica (NSA)
    • 125 liriope (donated)
    • 5 tons of large boulders (Outdoor Solutions)
    • 32 small boulders (Rich Finke)
  • Playground Area – Additional Plantings (Spring 2020)
    • 13 shrubs
    • 99 perennials
    • 22 native grass plants
    • 300 buffalo grass plugs


Except for five of the trees, landscaping the 84th Street Frontage area was an Eagle Scout Service project.


NSA also assigned two UNL Landscape Architecture interns to assist Aldersgate Gardens by preparing a tree map and several plant catalogs.

In late summer and early fall of 2020, volunteers constructed a path from the sidewalk on South Street to the playground. In September of 2020, an Eagle Scout candidate and his volunteers installed entrance signs on South Street and Pinedale Avenue.

Trimmed trees
Planting trees
Mulched trees
Steps for slide
Berm near playground
Garden sign
Picture of Garden Sign


The major improvements to Aldersgate Gardens in 2021 were:

  • Building the upper rain garden and installing a check dam to hold back as much as an inch of
  • Planting the mini prairie in the swale connecting the two rain
  • Installing the path from the sidewalk on Pinedale Avenue to the
  • Landscaping the new rain garden and west of the playground and extended the naturalized area along Pinedale Avenue.
  • Planted a Red Barron Crabapple to replace one that died south of the
  • Added 3 Allegheny Viburnums to the grouping south of the
  • Developing and installing the bird poster next to the

In total, we planted 4 trees, 74 shrubs, 20 perennials, and 19 grass plants in 2021.

A grant from the City of Lincoln (Rainscaping Lincoln) paid $1,438.92 of the costs for the rain garden and two Douglas Fir trees planted in the naturalized area on Pinedale Ave. The rest of the costs were in- kind donations.

Aldersgate Gardens was the venue for three public events in 2021:

  • Annual garden tour of the Lincoln Garden Club on Saturday June 12 (about 70 people visited Aldersgate Gardens).
  • Annual Aldersgate Garden Party on Sunday June

NSA Bloom Box Garden Tour on October 12

Plants awaiting planting
Volunteer planting tree
Newly mulched area
Mulched path
water collecting in rain garden
new plants around rain garden
Garden sign
Installing mulch path
Bird identification sign near playground


Progress in 2022 included the following:

  • A spring planting that mainly focused on filling in the area south of the sidewalk along Pinedale Avenue and extending that naturalized area to the front sidewalk.
  • Installation of a boulder at the bottom of the hill leading to the upper rain garden (August).
  • A fall planting of 300 perennials among the trees and shrubs in the southwest corner of our property (August 24).
  • Constructing a new path parallel to Pinedale Avenue, bordering the naturalized area (October – November).
  • Planting 60 spring bulbs in four locations (NSA Bloom Box Bulbs program) – November

In total, we planted 11 trees, 85 shrubs, 360 perennials, and 65 grass plants. Some of the perennials and bulbs did not survive the very dry fall and winter.

The Nebraska Statewide Arboretum awarded another $5,000 grant on September 29, 2022, which paid half the cost of the new path and a major planting scheduled for the spring of 2023.

Major events at Aldersgate Gardens in 2022 included:

  • The annual Aldersgate Garden Party on Sunday July
  • The Wachiska Annual Garden Tour on August

A “Dogust” event sponsored by the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum on Friday August 6.

Plants in driveway awaiting planting
A volunteer assists with planting
after planting is completed
Planting completed near pinesdale
Rock installed in garden
Installing landscape cloth on mulch path
Adding plant signs
Digging holes for plants
Adding plant signs
Adding more plant signs


By mid-year, accomplishments in 2023 have included:

  • A workday on April 20 focused on biomass removal: mowing all the buffalo grass, trimming tall grasses, and cutting back last year’s growth in the mini prairie. We more than filled a 15-cubic yard roll-off.
  • Enrolled in the Chronolog program and installed a post with a sign and camera
  • Planted 7 trees (including the Eastern Redbud), 89 shrubs, 400 perennials, and 192
  • Developed a lawn experiment
  • Planted an Eastern Redbud Tree in honor of the church’s
  • Installed another entrance sign.
Rolloff for garden waste
installed Chronolog program sign
Many plants in back of small compact hatchback car
More plants awaiting planting
More plants awaiting planting
Volunteer tilling soil in preparation for new planting area.
New sites of experimental turf alternatives
Welcome sign near north side path