Mother Earth, Every Day

May 12, 2009 at 3:35 pm

A Spring Garden

Spring is the Birthday of the World

“‘Tis like the birthday of the world,
When earth was born in bloom;
The light is made of many dyes,
The air is all perfume:
There’s crimson buds, and white and blue,
The very rainbow showers
Have turned to blossoms where they fell,
And sown the earth with flowers.”
– Thomas Hood

Spring is way sprung and we’re in full gear, knee deep in the season of birth and renewal, of laying the foundation  for the future, of nurturing and sowing our seeds within the season of perpetual  hope and new beginnings!  

I guess it’s no wonder, then, that events honoring the sacred feminine – the ying opposing the yang in the universe within  our spiritual and physical worlds –  are  observed during this time.     Holidays such as Easter and Earth Day occur during Spring in the Northern Hemisphere which runs from March into June.   According to Wikipedia, ying yang  describes “seemingly disjunct or opposing forces…interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, giving rise to each other in turn.”     The decidedly earthy, motherly Yin and masculine Yang are complementary opposites within a greater whole, each dependent of each other – sounds like  the  basis for a really good  relationship, right?

Yes, and wouldn’t you say that the greatest environmental maternal relationship of all has to be with Mother Earth?     I believe it’s no coincidence that late March was chosen to host Earth Hour,  at the beginning of Spring.     Earth Hour 2008 was held internationally on March 29 from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. local time, marking the first anniversary of the event.   This year it was celebrated on March 28 from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. local time and as a  company and as a family, this was our second  year  participating in  Earth Hour.

Although we  observe Earth Day on    April 22, Earth Day was initially celebrated on March 21, 1970, the equinox day.   Earth Day, now Earth Week, marked the beginning of the modern environmental movement.    Wikipedia says, “The equinoctial Earth Day is celebrated on the March equinox (around March 20) to mark the precise moment of astronomical mid-spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and of astronomical mid-autumn in the Southern Hemisphere.”   Margaret Mead added her support for the equinox Earth Day, and in 1978 declared:

“EARTH DAY is the first holy day which transcends all national borders, yet preserves all geographical integrities, spans mountains and oceans and time belts, and yet brings people all over the world into one resonating accord, is devoted to the preservation of the harmony in nature and yet draws upon the triumphs of technology, the measurement of time, and instantaneous communication through space.

EARTH DAY draws on astronomical phenomena in a new way – which is also the most ancient way – using the vernal Equinox, the time when the Sun crosses the equator making night and day of equal length in all parts of the Earth. To this point in the annual calendar, EARTH DAY attaches no local or divisive set of symbols, no statement of the truth or superiority of one way of life over another. But the selection of the March Equinox makes planetary observance of a shared event possible, and a flag which shows the Earth as seen from space appropriate.”

View of the Earth from NASA

Landscape Architecture Month  is also set in Spring, in April.   I chose  the field of landscape architecture for many reasons, but most definitely for the blending of creativity and ecology, stewardship of the land, and my simple passion for plants – I’ve always had a green thumb (my nurturing side also gave way to my three children) and love to draw.   Still dominated by men, the last  20-25 years or so has seen an incredible rise in female practitioners.   When I was at the SED at UGA from 1996-2000, enrollment was extremely  male-dominated – easily 4, if not 5, to 1.

As a planet, as a culture on a mega-grand scale, we are bound together as minuscule parts of a mutual whole…One of my favorite quotes is sometimes labeled as an Ancient Indian Proverb, or attributed to Antoine de St. Exupery, Ralph Waldo Emerson, David Bower or Andre Gide, but whoever wrote it obviously felt respect for our natural environment, promoting spiritual sustainability, too:

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”

In any case, I hope you’re enjoying Spring by having celebrated Earth Hour, Earth Day and Week, Landscape Architecture Month, and especially  Mother’s Day, a smaller scale but equally important celebration to honor the feminine.    

Mother's Day 2009
Happy Mother’s Day, from our Pahl/Velazquez family of four generations:
Top: My sister Alicia Pahl-Arritola; Bottom, left to right: my Mom Ellie Pahl; me; my daughter Anjuli and my grandson, Nicholas Joseph.

Let’s continue to  honor our mothers, ourselves, and Mother Earth, every day.

~ Linda V.

Spring Conferences: Stuttgart-Nürtingen and Atlanta Greenroofs, Here We Come!

May 1, 2009 at 12:09 pm

After a flurry of showers, tornadoes, and even a sprinkling of late snow here in the Atlanta area, leaves are boldly unfurling, flowers are sprouting, and the pollen is flowing.   If you’re also in the northern hemisphere, you’re probably experiencing much of the same.   Spring is in full bloom and Spring greenroof conferences are gearing up across the U.S. and the world!   What better time than the season of rebirth to enjoy visiting new or favorite cities and, of course, taking in the greenroof scenery?

Stuttgart has over 3.2 million sf of greenroofs!

We’ve been busy planning for and helping to promote our two favorite conferences devoted exclusively to the organic architecture of greenroof technology: the 2nd International Green Roof Congress in Stuttgart-Nürtingen, Germany on May 25-27 and the 7th Annual Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities Conference, Awards & Trade Show  here in Atlanta, GA on June 3-5.    Each is  an awesome opportunity to meet and greet with industry experts and greenroof colleagues, old and new.     I’ll be talking about both, starting with the German event.

International Green Roof Congress 2009

But first,  some quick  thoughts on traveling during our trying economic times – people ask me how fiscally responsible is it to spend money now  on an international conference – or any conference for that matter, factoring in the expenses plus the cost of missed billing of clients or other income producing work…   Great points, but I see it  also as a working vacation, continuing education, an investment in our future.   Referring to traveling, a recent professional acquaintance of mine commented, “Our interest lies in seeing what else is out there, what experiences (the good, the bad and the ugly) other professionals have had, and provide an opportunity to exchange ideas.”   But, she added, it has to make economic sense, and be perceived as a “good value for our money.”   Meaning, I believe, the educational component must be strong and varied.   And I know that both of these conferences offer incredible opportunities through the lectures, workshops, tours, and just plain networking.   The experiential benefits of participating  in these interactive events  present invaluable hands-on learning through  engagement with the actual designers and planners.      If you can swing it, you simply cannot replicate the knowledge obtained and lessons  learned in-situ.

The venue, K3N, and a niew of the lovely city of Nuertingen

This will be our second participation in the  International Green Roof Congress, after  attending in September, 2004.     Along with many international colleagues we heard from a wide variety of green roof experts, including the late Dr. Dave Beattie,   Prof. Dr. Manfred Köhler, Dr. Nigel Dunnett, Susan K. Weiler, Dr. Franz Alt, and Ho Wan Weng, just to mention a few.

After the success of the first one four years ago,  the second Congress  is once again organized  by the International Green Roof Association  (IGRA) under the patronage of the German Federal Minister of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs, Wolfgang Tiefensee, and co-hosted by the German Roof Gardener Association (DDV).   They have numerous national and international supporters, including the Title Sponsor, ZinCo, Premium Sponsor Dow Hyperlast, and Greenroofs.com as the Media Sponsor.   International supporters include ciria, the construction industry research and information association/UK; European Landscape Contractors Association; International Federation of Landscape Architects; and the Internationale Föderation des Dachdeckerhandwerks e.V.   German national supporters include the FLL, among others (see all).

Mountain Dwellings in Copenhagen and the Zaragoza World Expo 2008

Wolfgang Ansel, the Coordinator, met up with us at last September’s World Green Roof Congress in London, and brought us up to speed with the upcoming Congress and their  amazing line-up of world renown experts and practitioners – see his January Guest Feature INTERNATIONAL GREEN ROOF CONGRESS 2009: “Bringing Nature Back to Town.”  They are concentrating on case studies of truly extraordinary global projects, from  Copenhagen to London, Zaragoza, Nijmegen, Warsaw, Singapore and Fukuoka, Japan where the ACROS – Asian Cross Roads Over the Sea  – designed by Emilio Ambasz, will be  highlighted as an example of his philosophy  and presentation  “The Green over the Grey” – Landscape-cum-Building Designs.

ACROS designed by Emilio Ambasz & Associates

Learning that famed Argentine-born, New York-based  Ambasz himself would be presenting on this amazing 100,000 sf green oasis in the middle of the city sealed the deal for me – I’ve been a fan of his since I went back to school at UGA in the late 1990’s, and even selected him once to study as our architect of choice for a group project on green architecture.   And in 2008 when we inaugurated our Greenroofs of the World Calendar series, we selected the ACROS Fukuoka  Prefectural International Hall for the month of December – the very project I reported on!

Other  not-to-be missed speakers include Bernd W. Krupka, famed German landscape architect, “certified expert” and author of technical books on greenroofs – I’m not sure how you get that designation, but I’ll find out!   He’ll talk about “Basic Green Roof Planning – Vegetation Technology;”  with his many years of experience in the field, Bernd was very helpful to me a few years ago when I was writing my paper “European Airport Greenroofs – A Potential Model for North America,”  (2005).  The always popular British plant expert, Dr. Nigel Dunnett-  soft-spoken but with a bite,  will present “Plant Selection Criteria for Green Roofs – The Question of Biodiversity,” American restoration ecologist Paul Kephart of Rana Creek fame will lecture on “Ecological Designs with Green Roofs,”  and  our knowledgeable and charming Brit colleague Dusty Gedge of Livingroofs.org will discuss “Promoting Green Roofs in the UK – The Greater London Authority Campaign.”

K3N Lecture Hall

And we’ll hear from  these distinguished German professionals as well: our colleague Roland Appl, green roof engineer, President of the International Green Roof Association: “Green Roof Technology – Yesterday – Today – Tomorrow;” Rolf Disch, architect known for  integrating solar into green building design: “Sustainable Architecture in the 21st century,” another esteemed colleague of ours, Prof. Dr. Manfred Köhler, landscape architect, professor at the University of Applied Science Neubrandenburg, and President of WGRIN: “Energy Savings with Green Roofs,” and Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Gilbert Lösken  of Leibniz University of Hanover and  Head of the FLL Green Roof Workgroup: “Key Criteria for Creating Green Roof Guidelines.”   Click here to see the complete list of speakers.

View of Lake Constance

The excursions  will be the real highlight for Aramis and me – last time we went on  the all day ZinCo Green Roof Tour which took us to the Stuttgart region including “Hundertwasserhaus Plochingen” – the Hundertwasser Multi-Family Development, “MAG-Galerien” in Geislingen, Schule Unterensingen, ZinCo International’s Headquarters, and “Römerpark-Museum” in Köngen.     So this time I think we’ll try something different – I think a jaunt  to the German solar capital, Freiburg, would be highly informative, or maybe you’ll catch us cruising on the Zeppelin NT over beautiful Lake Constance in Southern Germany on the lookout for greenroofs…

Zeppelin Overview

So, will you be going?   Finalize  your plans now and hopefully we’ll see you there!

~ Linda V.

From Llamas to Greenroofs: An Interview with Ed Snodgrass

March 13, 2009 at 2:52 am

Over the years here at Greenroofs.com we have been fortunate to accumulate eight (so far) very different but certainly unique Contributing Editors who are well known and respected throughout the greenroof community. If you follow us regularly, you know that they all write “occasional” columns, which means whenever they can take time out of their busy schedules (and paying careers, I should add)!  They’re all great people whom we’ve come to highly regard as colleagues and friends and today I’ll be inaugurating the “Meet the Editors” series, starting in order of coming on board, so our readers can get to know them a bit more, too – first up is Ed Snodgrass.

Ed Snodgrass is co-owner of Emory Knoll Farms/Green Roof Plants  (along with John Shepley), and co-author of the appropriately titled “Green Roof Plants: A Resource and Planting Guide,” 2006 from Timber Press, Portland, OR (along with his wife, Lucie L. Snodgrass).  As the first nursery owner in North America to devote 100% of production to growing greenroof plants and having presented on the subject across the world, Ed is considered a leader in our field and definitely the expert on extensive greenroof plant materials.

Basically, Emory Knoll Farms jump started a new business market; they currently stock over 100 varieties of greenroof plants and are always acquiring and testing new plants.  So Ed’s become quite famous – practically a week doesn’t go by where he’s not quoted or interviewed somewhere…but I’m happy to say that none of it has gone to his head – he’s just a regular, laid back kind of guy who’s passionate about what he does for a living.

And Ed is also our very first Contributing Editor here on Greenroofs.com and has been writing the occasional column “Ask Ed” as our Plant Editor since August, 2004.  He answers reader mail, features greenroof plants, and provides highlights of the plant trials and research performed regularly at Emory Knolls Farms (EKF).

I had the pleasure of visiting Emory Knoll Farms last May, 2008 – Lucie prepared a lovely and healthy locally grown lunch for us in their beautiful 1881 farmhouse.  Lucie Snodgrass has been a journalist for years and is very active in D.C. area public policy and lobbying efforts, more recently in promoting local farms, food production and distribution. Together they live on this wonderful farm, tending to the beautiful flower and vegetable gardens, enhancing the local ecosystem, and taking care of Huckleberry Hound, a few cats, and each other.

After lunch Ed and Lucie showed our group (my husband, Aramis, our intern, Caroline Menetre, Trish Luckett, Tom Liptan, Brad Rowe, Kristin Getter and me) around the sensitively managed large farmlands starting with the two test greenroofs on site – a smaller one over a barn shed, above, and the larger covering the business office, below.  There are other greenroofed surfaces, too, including houses for the kitties, small sheds, and some very unorthodox yet creative applications (more later).

The test greenroofs hold many varieties of succulents and herbaceous plants including various herbs, bulbs and some grasses, and some modular systems are also monitored on the main test roof alongside the built-in-place living roof – which also sports solar panels.  Along with plant material, EKF tests growing media and several methods of planting including plugs, seeds, and vegetated mats.  Read some of EKF’s trial results here.

Ed offered me the opportunity to see the growing facility from a really cool vantage point, and so I didn’t hesitate and hopped on board this Deere scooper thing (whatever you call this type of farm equipment!).

I may not know its name, but it went up pretty high and I did take some interesting overhead photos – notice the solar panels above on some of the growing facility offices, and some of our lovely group, below.

Along the fields and nature trails on the property we also visited the testing area for green walls, the old barn, bee hives, and the nearly 10,000 sf of greenhouse space and acres of stock plants.

Ed’s pretty private, so it’s an honor for me to have had him answer some of my questions after our tour:

Linda:  Ed, you’re a fifth generation farmer, but you also had another completely different career before returning to the land – can you talk about that and why you felt it was important to return to your roots?

Ed:  When I was farming I did so because it was what I knew and what I had grown up doing.  I never thought about it as a career choice, but after it become impossible economically to farm and I had to go and work “in the world” I realized what a touchstone the land was for me and it was always in my mind to try to make something work on the farm again.

Linda:  When were you first introduced to living roofs and how did you arrive at the huge conclusion to dedicate EKF operations exclusively to greenroof plants?  In other words, you really went out on a limb back back then – what year was that?  This was when we were just a fledgling community, let alone a new industry. What made you and your partner decide to make greenroofs the “green” part of the basis for your “black?”

Ed:  I don’t remember the exact date, but somewhere around 1998-1999 I became really committed to the idea of starting a nursery.  I was working as a management consultant at the time and doing a lot of traveling. Lucie was also working full time and we both talked about the notion of being self employed.  Right around then, the company I was working for was bought by a bigger company and moved to Tampa.  I wasn’t about to commute to Tampa, so the time seemed right to start something.

Lucie continued to work and I started to build the nursery.  I started by going to farmers’ markets, doing some free lance consulting, some landscaping and anything that would generate a little cash.  I had the first green roof sale in 2000 and John Shepley came as a partner in 2004.  Lucie eased off her full time work and became a freelance writer and did project work in public policy.

                 

Linda:  You carry social responsibility and equitable practices throughout all facets of your life, including running the farm with partner John Shepley.  Would you share your philosophy of EKF’s sustainable operations with us and give us some examples of what you are doing to tread lighter on the land?

Ed:  The redesign of the farm is based around the design protocols of the Natural Step.  It is important to me to tread lightly because I am on a piece of land and have this opportunity because people that came before me didn’t exhaust it as a resource.  One of the first decisions was to not print a paper catalog and subsequently we have heated all our greenhouses and offices with spent fry oil, we pump all our water for the nursery with solar power, we have a small photovoltaic array, we allow employees to job share, and on the land front, Lucie and I have planted 9 acres of native trees and are turning over 75 acres into ground bird habitat.  It feels like we are just beginning to get a handle on our stewardship responsibilities.


Linda:
  How did you go from llamas to greenroofs?  And what’s the deal – are you really a hippie?  I remember one of your “fans” sent this in a while back:

Dear Ask Ed,

The picture of you in a lab coat suggests you are an MD or have a Doctorate in something.  Are you?  The sign on the wall presents some confusion as Hippies are an untrustworthy, unclean lot.  So how do I know you are a legitimate specialist and not some wacko aging hippie grinning outside his meth lab?

Signed,
Wanting to trust

Ed:  Check out the song from the group The Bobs: First I Was a Hippie, Then I was a Stockbroker, Now I am a Hippie Again.  I think that song about sums it up.

Linda:  You’ve been central to the greenroof movement from the beginning through plant research, development, public speaking, and most recently writing your first book along with Lucie.  What do you enjoy most about your work, and do you see any more book endeavors in the future?

Ed:   I don’t think I have been central to the green roof movement, there are lots of folks that are moving this thing forward.  It takes a village to make a green roof?  I enjoy learning most of all, and I enjoy the people I work with at the farm.  They are bright enthusiastic folks I learn from them every day.  I love watching things grow and looking at the systems that support things that grow.  The people that are in the green roof movement worldwide are great people to converse with and learn from.

I have two more books on the way, one with Nigel Dunnett, Dusty Gedge and John Little on small do-it-yourself green roofs.  That one is due out in May of 2009.  I am also working on another book, it’s going to be on green roof design, install and maintain, mostly from the plant perspective.  I have a new co-author, Linda McIntyre who was a staff writer and editor for Landscape Architecture Magazine and did all their green roof articles over the last few years.  We hope to help fill the knowledge gap that exists in the market today.  That book is due out in early 2010, both are from Timber Press.

Linda:  Emory Knoll Farms/Green Roof Plants has supplied over 2,489,238 sf or 221,251 M2 of greenroofs so far across North America – is there one particular project which is your favorite, or maybe particularly important in your eyes?

Ed:  I do like the one in Fells Point in Baltimore.  It is on the Mikulski Workforce Development Center at Living Classrooms.  Lucie and I are big fans of Senator Mikulski and Living Classrooms and their work, and it is a green roof that you can see from the ground, which is kind of rare.

And I do like the ones I have at the farm because I get to see them everyday, especially my barn roof which I see every morning from the bedroom window.  Gardens change every day and I love watching the change.

Linda:  What issues do you feel are important within our industry, and where do you see us heading in the next few years?  What would you like to see changed or addressed?

Ed:  I think the public policy side of the industry has to come into focus and be more uniform and that will require more quantifiable benefits derived from the research community.  I see that coming in the next few years.  I think design intent will become sharper as that happens and green roof terminology may become more precise.  I would like to see green roofs become more integrated with other green technologies like vegetated swales, rain gardens, and water harvesting.

Linda:  I think you’re a consummate professional, a trailblazer, and all around nice guy.  But if there was one thing that you’d like people to know about you or how you see the world, what would that be?

Ed:  That is nice of you to say, but we are only as strong as the people around us.  I think the world is getting smaller and faster; we need to think of all the people, plants and animals as part of ourselves if we are going to make truly lasting gardens.

You may have realized that Ed and company have quite a sense of humor.  Not all is hard work on Emory Knoll Farms – check out some of the lighter research going on here…greenroofs?  I don’t know – maybe green topped.  For example, remember the previous incarnation as a llama farm?  Well, they put some bones to rest in an unlikely spot – talk about recycle, reuse!

And although the EKF office has a composting toilet, the photo below shows Tom Liptan (who works, appropriately, for a Bureau of Environmental Services) displaying one of  Emory Knoll Farms’ even greener environmental options: the Sedum Toilet – “storm” water management at its best!

In case you’re interested in seeing Ed in public, here are some of his upcoming speaking engagements:

Sunday, March 15, 2009 – Alexandria VA: Harry Allen Winter Lecture Series, Green Spring Gardens

Wednesday, May 6, 2009 – Bel Air MD: Leadership Group, Harford Leadership Academy

Thursday, June 18, 2009 – Denver CO: Green Roofs for the West Symposium, Denver Botanic Gardens

Sunday, July 12, 2009 – Portland OR: APLD Conference, APLD

So thanks, Ed, for sharing some personal thoughts with us.  Among all the other things that you do, we know you’re a writer – but how about a blogger?  We haven’t read anything from you yet here, but  this could be a new horizon for you…  Should our readers expect to hear from you on Sky Gardens sometime in the future?

We’ll see…  Until then, send him your Plant and Horticulture questions to:

ed (at) greenroofs.com or Ed.Snodgrass@greenroofplants.com.

Next up in “Meet the Editors” is Christine Thuring, ecologist, researcher, world trekker, and currently our Student Editor (among other personas).

Happy Greening,

~ Linda V.

Climate change and phenology > USA-NPN needs your help!

March 12, 2009 at 7:09 am

For anyone in tune with the cycles of nature in your geographic area, whether noting the appearance of your favourite spring wildflowers, observing the migratory  timing of  birds and/ or  butterflies, or cheering on  the  fluffiness of wild baby animals in your neighbourhood forest,  the opportunity listed below could benefit from your help!

The USA-National Phenology Network (USA-NPN),  a consortium of government, academic and citizen-scientists  is launching a new national program built on volunteer observations of flowering, fruiting and other seasonal events.

Scientists and resource managers will use these observations to track effects of climate change on the Earth’s life-support systems.

If you are interested in participating in climate change science, instead of just reading about it, follow the U.S. Geological Survey link for more information: http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=2151.