Friday, March 27, 2009

More About Dry Stacking and New York Rooftop Gardening

More About Dry Stacking:

These next pictures come from fellow bloggers Becky and Ed - I think seeing more on drystack construction might help get some of your imaginations going.

When forming the corners of a dry stack construction wall, they should be woven together. Use small, thin rocks as shims lodged between larger stones to fill gaps that develop. By splitting the stone at 90 degrees, a clean corner can be achieved.

Fabulous Rooftop Garden:

Garden enthusiast, Brian Dube shot these great pictures at Rockefeller Center, and I thought they are a great example of the grandeur of rooftop landscape design. For just 4 hours, as part of OHNY (Open House New York), the rooftop garden atop the British Empire Building at Rockefeller Center was open to the public.

This private garden is rarely accessible and a detailed online search returns very little information about it. According to the Rockefeller Center website: "Originally, the architects envisioned an even more elaborate network of roof gardens to be connected by aerial pedestrian bridges, which they compared to the hanging gardens of ancient Babylon."

At this point in time, the garden primarily functions as eye candy to those in buildings nearby who are fortunate enough to have views of the hedges, wildflowers, fountains, lawns, pools and beautiful walkways. The rooftop overlooks Fifth Ave., St. Patrick's Cathedral, Rockefeller Center, so of course the views are spectacular!

Since I want to continue writing about Green Roofs, I want to share more about what they are and the two kinds: Intensive and Extensive.

Extensive Green Roofs:

Extensive green roofs, or roof meadows, are lighter weight, less expensive, and require less maintenance than intensive systems.

Plants for extensive green roofs require only a few inches of growing medium (2.5 to 6 inches) and little additional irrigation beyond rain. They require minimal maintenance - checking roof drains, scanning for invasive weeds or seedlings - about the same level of attention required by a conventional roof. Typically, roof meadows are composed of plants like sedums, grasses, and wildflowers - plants that can thrive in a rooftop environment with limited water, shallow roots, and sparse nutrients.

A citywide infrastructure of green roofs will likely be composed primarily of roof meadows; they are more feasible for a large number of existing and new buildings in the city since they are less likely to require structural enhancement of the underlying roof.
Intensive Green Roofs:

Intensive green roofs, which can be utilized as real roof gardens, are heavier, more costly, and demand more maintenance than their extensive counterparts.

Intensive roofs generally require an underlying roof structure with high load bearing capacity, in order to support the weight of deeper growing medium and larger plants. With a growing medium depth of 8" or more, intensive roofs can accommodate a wide range of vegetables, shrubs, and sometimes even trees. Intensive roofs will generally require regular care, particularly irrigation - though this will depend on plant selection.

Before beginning any green roof project, it is essential to consult with the proper building and design professionals.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Flat Surface Does Not a Garden Make

A flat surface is a farm. The difference between Suzy Homemaker’s flower bed and a fabulous landscape design company has a lot to do with elevation and grade changes. For example, when we look at nature and call it beautiful, what we are seeing are grade and elevation changes in the ground plane. Similarly we are seeing changes with plant material. We’re also seeing formal vs. “wild” landscape elements. If the scenery is too far in one direction or another, generally we don’t like it, and prefer a tasteful mix of the wild and the formal landscape.

This display garden pictured was built with a dry stack technique shown in the pictures below.

Take a long drive through the countryside on a fall day. Beneath the colorful, swirling leaves, you will see solid stone buildings and farm walls that date back to more than one hundred years ago.

Most of these were built by hand, using a simple, but sturdy, method of construction called dry stack.

(Joseph is pictured with a heavy rock moved to the area for the dry stacking of the display garden.)

Dry stack is a method of building that uses natural stone without cement or concrete.

Stones are carefully selected and placed in an interlocking pattern so the wall supports itself.

For our colonial ancestors, the advantages of this technique were that it took few tools and it utilized the rocks that they found in their fields as they ploughed.

While you may not worry about such things, dry stack stone construction does offer a number of advantages today, including:

Durability: Because they don't use mortar of any kind, dry stack stone walls conform to, and can settle with, the earth when it shifts—they are more resistant to earthquakes than brittle mortar. This makes them particularly appropriate for terraces and retaining walls.

Water Drainage: The small spaces in between the stones allow water to move through freely, so ice will not become trapped inside and cause frost heave during the winter, and that's good news since ice forms in zone 6.

Dry stack walls do not require a stiff concrete footing, which saves labor and material expense, and means that they fit practically anywhere.

Ease of Repair: If your dry stack stone wall does become damaged, you can re-use the same materials, which saves labor and money when compared to mortared walls.

(Pictured are the strong men working together to safely move these big rocks into place.)

Good Looks: Finally, a dry stack wall gives your property a classic, rustic look, makes great use of existing natural resources, and complements the environment around it.

Tradition: Think of it this way: dry stacking was good enough for the Egyptians when they build the pyramids, the Peruvians when they built Machu Picchu, and was used in countless other ancient structures. Your own dry stack wall can be a part of this great heritage!

Drystack is tricky. Some rules can never be broken like, the wall you are building must always tilt ever so slightly into the terrain. Another rule is that each 'course' (layer of stone) needs to be 'stratified' not stacked.

Stacking is when you pile stones of the same size on top eachother. It looks horrible. Stratifying stone has the impact of naturalizing the appearance. The tighter and more like puzzle pieces these fit, the more amzin' the efx.

Each course can include 1-2 sub courses but ALL courses need to be level. (Example pictured above.)

Furthermore, if your wall is going up or down a hill, you need to STAY level or perpindicular to the slope from which you are ascending or descending, as opposed to tilting the stone to follow the slope.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

New York Rooftop Gardening - Green Roofs

One of the most interesting topics in the New York Metro area is Green Roofs. Because the ratio of building surface area to natural habitat is so dispprortionally large and normal ecosystems destroyed, the regional impact on the environment is particularly significant and cumilative. As a result interest in Green Roofs in places like Brooklyn and Manhattan is high. Rooftop garden construction involves covering the entire roof, or the majority of it, with soil and plants. The term ‘green roof,’ refers to a type of rooftop garden using layers to provide insulation, retain specialized lightweight soil, drainage systems that manage and often recycle rain water. All of this to provide a growing medium for certan types of plants. Since this type of construction is more difficult to create, the assistance of qualified professionals is often required. However, there are many suitable resources available for constructing your own ‘green roof’ system. The first layer of the green roof is applied directly to the roof and is intended to guard against leaks as well as provide insulation. The next layer contains lightweight gravel material for drainage with a filtering mat positioned on top. This allows water to soak through while keeping the soil in place. The final layer includes both the growing medium and plants. Regardless of the type of rooftop garden design, growing mediums should always consist of lightweight soil . The soil application should also maintain a depth that will not only sufficiently anchor plants but support the weight capacity of the roof as well since wet soil can get quite heavy. Plant choices are extremely limited . The dominant genus are succulants, or sedums.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Red Hook, Brooklyn Flowers

Over the course of a few weeks last Spring I took these pictures of Liberty Sunset Garden Center in Red Hook Brooklyn. Resident designer Joseph Schilling showed me around.

This Creeping Lantana looks so good here by this fence, and so do the flowers and greenery in the lower picture.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

MTV Real World Brooklyn 2009 Set Entrance

This is entrance to the set of MTV's Real World - Brooklyn 2009, designed by Landscape Designer Joseph Schilling of Woodland Landscapes.

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