Buffalo’s first green roof, ten years later

The roof now

Buffalo is not landscape architecture central. Aside from a large Olmsted park system (that’s been adulterated in spots), I find many WNY public landscapes uninspired. Private gardens are the thing here; almost 500 of them will be open to the public next week.

However, I do have a favorite local landscape architect. I’ve written before about Joy Kuebler’s forward-thinking public and private garden designs. We worked together on an unusual Show House exterior landscape in 2009, but, before that, in 2007, I visited Joy’s house to see my first green roof. It was also the first to be installed in WNY.

The 200 square foot roof is over her office, a separate building behind her house. The October installation was quite an event, with local green industry professionals and students invited to witness it. A company from Pennsylvania (Lichtenfels) provided the complex structure, as no local nursery had the training to do this (at that time). In fact, when Joy told people she was putting in a green roof, many assumed that she was referring to the paint color. Go here for a detailed technical description of the installation. As my small image (above) shows (go to her website for bigger ones) the roof was very pretty the following summer, with Russian sage, grasses, and various sedums.

This year, I returned for the first time to see the ten-year-old structure. There have been changes, to be sure, but many of the original plants have survived (some seeding themselves in the yard as well as on the roof). The Russian sage and Karl Foerster grass did not survive the first big drought (the roof is never watered) in 2013, and have been replaced by yarrow and Japanese palm sedge, but the red and yellow sedums are thriving. There are also grape hyacinths in spring (snowdrops, which love moisture, did not fare well).

We discussed a couple aspects of the roof:

Weeds: These are really not much of a problem due to the dry conditions. The roof is cleared once of year of maple seedlings (you can see it’s surrounded by trees), but many ground weeds are simply not supported.

Planting: Fall is the best time, because of the moisture, but the plugs have to be tiny—about three inches—because of the grid structure.

Pitch: At 7:12, the roof has the maximum pitch advised.

Joy Kuebler’s garden has some other cool features; this water feature was designed for the 2009 Show House project.

There are now a few more green roofs in Buffalo, though not nearly as many as many as I’d like. You’re far more likely to see solar panels these days. Too bad, because this one demonstrates how beautiful and easy a residential green roof can be.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com