I absolutely loved the trip to Emory Knolls Farms/Green Roof Plants this past Thursday! The owner, Ed, and his employee, Jamie, gave us a tour of the facilities there. First of all, you get a good idea for the nature of the people and the business from the composting toilet and the "hippy parking only" sign. :) They were so friendly, and explained the green roofing process to us. Green roofs began to emerge in Europe around 1950. The plants were all succulents from all around the world, because they are pretty much the only plants that can survive in the harsh environment of a rooftop. Green roofs cost about 2x the price of a regular roof, but the "cool" part about them is that they can reduce the temperature of the roof by about 100 degrees F! A typical nasty coated roof can get ~150 degrees F. Green roofs reduce runoff water (on which there are many many laws and regulations) by over 50%, by significantly increasing permeability. It also reduces the temperature of runoff water (if there is any) to a much cooler temperature. The hot runoff (in an urban area) carries a lot of gunk and pollutants as it moves across parking lots, building roofs, etc, which then flows into waterways like the Chesapeak Bay. At the least, this has a big impact on the wildlife.
Green roofs are also aesthetically pleasing, especially on a layered building where the roof is visible from higher stories. Ed and Green Roof Plants supplying the plants for the new veteran's hospital in Gulfport, MS (that was destroyed in Katrina). What a wonderful addition and service to supply to the veterans of our country who maybe are disabled--they have a beautiful peice of green to view from the window. Ed is also doing a lot of research for the government to trial the green roofs' applicability around the world. Many government buildings are currently green roof'ed.
The production houses are completely solar-powered, and are hand-watered to supplement some overhead nozzles. Along the tour, I gathered that conservation is a huge part of Green Roof's mission. They are not only reducing the energy "footprint" we make on the environment, but improving the community by returning plants to the area that was cleared of them to pop up a building.
I was SO excited during the tour, so inspired by the creativity, wise business strategy (nothing is bought on credit--in these times, no debt whatsoever is surprising), environmentally-friendly practices, and Ed's genius expressed throughout the property. There are six full-time employees. The size of the business is refreshing. I would LOVE to work there!!!
We also went to Ladew Gardens, which is another beautiful garden in the area, with lots of topiary work and fountains. They also have a lovely nature walk that takes about 45 minutes. Several benches, umbrella'd picnic tables, and cute bridges are scattered within the gardens. I learned about topiaries from a gentleman caring for a little dog in the "hunt scene," how you have to avoid the temptation of electric buzzing the shape you want. This practice doesn't preserve the frame of the plant for long, because the inner canopy leaves are too shaded. Hand pruning and thinning must be done to allow light to penetrate inward. The topiary that the gardener was working on was over 50 years old. :)