Thursday, May 29, 2014

Before and After: Eco-Roof, One Year Later

It has been a year since we installed our eco-roof, so let's see some before and after pics and then learn how it's going and share the pros and cons of the project and its outcome.

To recap, this is what it looked like before the eco-roof was installed, this photo is from the fall of 2012. One of my first posts covered it in detail, if you are interested in the step-by-step and plant list, read about it here.

BEFORE: Pretty bland. We wanted more plants, more green. Plus, there are numerous benefits to eco-roofs:

Some benefits of eco-roofs: They manage storm water, protect streams, cool cities and clean the air, conserve energy, save money and provide habitat for beneficial insects and birds. But mostly, they just look cool and hey, it's an excuse to plant more! We also feel it visually balances the back garden. For more information about eco roofs and resources, check out the Portland Ecoroof Program or the Ecoroof Handbook.

DURING: Here's what it looked like during and directly after the eco-roof was installed:
The foundation was built.

The soil was placed.

The finished roof.
Finished roof a month in.

OK, those were from last summer. Here is what it looked like a couple of months ago:
Things have definitely grown.

AFTER: And here is what it looks like today:
Here's a stitched-together image of the whole roof. Pretty cool!

Here are some detail images:

Here are some views of the roof while standing on it. I had to weed, so it was a good opportunity to snap a few photographs.

Filling in nicely! Some sedums have spread more rapidly than others, which is to be expected.

 Here is the second eco-roof, on top of our garden shed. It's hard to photograph this one.

 Here's a bit more of a close-up, slightly different plants, some yarrow, native grass, sedums and a some Zauschneria, or California fucshia and a Penstemon pinifolius. Both the zauschneria and penstemon have taken a bit more time to establish themselves, but I think they will be fine.

This second eco-roof sits directly beneath two large evergreen trees in the neighbor's yard, so rainfall is not as plentiful. This has definitely made a difference, so I have added more drought-worthy plants than I did on eco-roof number one.

RAINFALL: Speaking of rainfall, both did great in what was an epic winter in Portland with record cold and rain, we also had snow and ice. The skies opened up many times this winter/spring and both roofs came out like champs - no soil was lost, no plants lost, it just kept absorbing and slowly dripping off.  That's where the idea for the new area directly underneath eco-roof number one came from:

This newly created area acts as an absorbent garden for runoff from the eco-roof above and is filled with shade plants, most native to the Pacific Northwest.

Just for fun, since I'm so seldom up there, here's the view of the garden from on top of the eco-roof.

 I've been asked if it's a lot of work to maintain, and also about drawbacks to an eco-roof. First of all, it is virtually no work to maintain. I have gone up on a ladder to weed about three times, each time taking about three minutes to get about seven small weed seedlings. Really. I know others might be in the line of fire for more weed seeds, but this is honestly what I have had to do to maintain it. I have added a few starts of sedum to the second eco-roof, and also taken off a lot of Douglass fir litter from the neighbor's tree, but that again has been just a handfull of times.

The first several months after installation we had to irrigate on really hot days to get things established, but since then have not had to.

It has grown in nicely. Birds pretty much ignore it, the bees love it when the sedums are in bloom. The squirrels surprisingly avoid walking on it, they prefer the hard surface of the strip of roof we left untouched just at the top of the roof for access. We've touched on the benefits, how about the drawbacks? The cost can be prohibitive to some, we did it really low-budget, so the overall cost was worth it for us. The most expensive thing was the soil, and you do not want to pinch pennies there. Get a good quality soil like we did from Sunmark Environmental. The other drawback? We didn't do it sooner. It has added so much visually and is just really cool to have way up there. It's little to no maintenance, it was designed to be this way. Eventually, in 10 or so years we will likely have to replace some of the wood frame, but the soil is designed to last for a very long time.

I hope this little tour of our "rooftop garden" has been entertaining! If you have one yourself, please let us all know how your experiences compare to ours. If you have questions, please feel free to ask away, many people now have eco-roofs and are happy to share the knowledge, as we are.

Thank you for reading and until next week, happy gardening!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Nursery Visit Hawai'ian Style

Freshly back from the Big Island, I am still floating on turquoise waters with images of agaves in my daydreams. If we lived there: Oh, the garden we would have!

Although nursery visiting was not high on my husband's list, I squeezed in a quick visit to a Hilo garden store that to my delight featured a small nursery. My "I'll be back in 5 minutes!" was realistically a quick half-hour. Here's a quicker tour:

Right up front a table of succulents caught my attention.

But before we enter, let me show you the entrance. Garden Exchange in Hilo has all things for the garden: fertilizers, garden tools, seeds, garden art, soil amendments and plants. Sadly, like so many nurseries, they carry vast quantities of pesticides and herbicides. Hawai'i seems so fragile. Why would you want that junk? But I digress. Let's talk plants.

Many of the plants I saw are considered house plants in my zone 8 garden. Not so in Hawai'i. And there were other surprises. First of all, I thought the prices were excellent, and I also saw many plants common to nurseries in Oregon. I wonder how they do in Hawai'i?

A few choice plants had these great descriptions, most did not but that's okay in this information age as it's so easy to research. This particular plant does not seem common to Hawai'i, rather it came from the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Nice.

Here is the bloom on the Medinilla alata.

Here's an example of one that I  might see in Oregon, and with a great price.
No other information other than the tag.

That juicy color is fab.

Here's another detailed description; this one for a Dracaena draco or dragon tree.

For a one gallon pot, I like that price!

I include the ubiquitous Ophiopogon japonica here for the price. I have not seen it under $8 in Oregon, anywhere. I have to start coming to Hawai'i to shop plants? Not such a bad idea! 

Warszewiczia coccinea, dwarf wild poinsettia.

Here's a quite impressive bloom. Also called Macaw's tail for good reason.

Of course, there are many macadamia orchards on the Big Island. Hmmm...that might be a new calling for us: macadamia farmers. What do you think?

Macadamia leaves. I had no idea they looked like this.

Or maybe we could grow cacao....

An orchard of cacao trees?
Chocolate-loving husband says Yes!

I finally found my lucky lizard. No idea what he is but he was quite friendly, actually.

Here's some Thunbergia -

It was bluer in person.

Mona Lavender?

This one was new to me. 

Taro is one of those crops that the Polynesians brought with them to Hawai'i. It is what poi is made from (I had taro chips which were quite tasty). Here's an ornamental version:

Ornamental taro.

Again, the prices! I see though that most of the pots are recycled and have a lot of wear and tear. I don't mind, in fact I like the idea of reusing. Plus, if it saves a few $$...maybe we can petition our local nurseries?  

How about that silver sheen? This was the loveliest bromelaid I saw (there were many). I did not see a tag for this but I think it must be Alcantarea 'Silver Plum'. Anyone know?

Ginger...I belive some varieties are invasive to Hawai'i. 

I don't believe this is one of them. Nice orange, though!

This one takes the prize for my favorite. Wow, just look at these leaves! 

Velvety goodness. I **really** like this one.

And this one, too.

And here's another to adore.

What patterning! Love this.

Here's a fun one.

Lemon Lime indeed, how bright and cheerful!

Again. $3?? ...... I'll take five.

Of course, there were resident birds, chattering away and being friendly.

Agave attenuata, maybe? They were everywhere in landscapes, big and beautiful and healthy.

For $8, I'll take a couple of these, and in terra-cotta pots, too! 

See what I mean about recycled pots? Again, I think it's a great idea. Some of our nurseries already do reuse. Xera Plants for one happily takes pots back (from their own stock).

I believe these were in the $3 range. Sweet.

This was by far the most expensive plant I saw, and a lovely one, too. Variegated fishtail palm. 

Nice coloration. There were so many palm varieties in landscapes everywhere, it was a treat to see them. I did not see this one that I can recall. 

And while in Hilo, why not stop at the farmer's market? Look below at what we found, besides strange Spam products, tropical fruits and really wonderful hand-made items:

And, of course, one came home with us. For $5 a bucket! Come on! I'll take them all!

Here it is in our condo overlooking the sea at sunset. Mahalo, Garden Exchange and Hilo for a great day out. 

Thank you for reading and until next week, happy gardening! Aloha!