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Former state senators have completed fundraising of $1.4 million to restore the Capitol courtyards and signed a contract with Campbell's Nurseries and Garden Centers to begin planting in the spring. 

Tom Carlson, president of the Nebraska Association of Former Legislators, announced the contract Monday to begin restoring the gardens in the four courtyards.

“I thought this was a pretty ambitious project for our organization to take on and am very appreciative for the level of support from former and current senators, foundations and other organizations and individuals,” Carlson said.

About 90,000 people, both from the United States and many foreign countries, visit the Nebraska Capitol each year.  

Former Sen. DiAnna Schimek of Lincoln chaired the fundraising committee and said planting will begin in the spring in the southwest courtyard, and that courtyard is expected to be open to the public by mid-June 2020.

The other three courtyards will be opened every two years as the current heating, ventilation and air-conditioning work is accomplished by section of the Capitol by 2026. Each of those courtyards also has a fountain, and those were upgraded in the past year, with linings of one-inch squares of Venetian glass tiles, each fountain with a different color of blue, yellow, white and red. 

In addition to contributions from senators and others, money was donated by foundations and the Lancaster County Visitors Promotion Fund. 

The landscaping is expected to include petunias, tulips, lilacs, roses, hydrangeas, baby ramblers, spirea and other flowering bushes and plants. 

The money raised will also fund an endowment for all future maintenance of the landscaping. 

The restoration is based on the 1932 design of Ernst Herminghaus, and plant selections were to be modified slightly to account for changes in climate and improved species.  

Herminghaus was a Lincoln native who completed his horticultural studies at the University of Nebraska before studying landscape architecture at Harvard University. He returned to Lincoln in 1915 and opened the first landscape architectural practice in the state. He designed parks, boulevards and housing subdivisions in the Beaux-Arts style.

Inside the State Capitol

Reach the writer at 402-473-7228 or

On Twitter @LJSLegislature.

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