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Archives for June 26, 2014

Outdoor entertaining: How Bob Williams and Stephen Heavner throw a patio party

There’s a party going on high above the traffic of downtown Washington. On roof decks in Shaw and balconies in Dupont Circle, people are gathering at the end of the day to welcome summer.

The urban view is awesome from the penthouse terrace at Bob Williams and Stephen Heavner’s Logan Circle one-bedroom condo, where they opened the season last week with drinks and dinner for a dozen friends and colleagues.

The dramatic outdoor space, a 45-by-12-foot expanse, is accessed by a spiral staircase and is furnished as carefully and comfortably as the stylish 1,200-square-foot space below. After all, Williams is co-founder and president of design at furniture company
Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams;
his husband, Heavner, vice president of operations for the Velvet Foundation, a nonprofit that is creating a national LGBT museum in Washington, is a lifelong gardener.

On the polished terrace, three outdoor rooms are defined by planters of lavender, artemisia and daylilies, a tiny herb garden and a miniature succulent meadow. The pale blue, charcoal-and-white Sunbrella sink-down sofa cushions beckon visitors to linger over coffee or a cocktail. The bonus: Guests get to soak in a skyline of historic rowhouses, cranes putting up new buildings, church spires, plus other Washingtonians enjoying the evening on their own terraces.

Read: Six tips from Williams and Heavner on outdoor entertaining

“The deck gives us so much extra space for entertaining,” says Williams, 53. “Once the sun starts going down and moves to the other side of the building, it’s shady and pleasant and there’s a nice breeze up here.”

Last week, the couple threw their first party since their landscaping project was completed. They hired caterer Susan Gage and worked with her to come up with a summer menu. Guests gingerly navigated the twisting metal stairs up to the terrace, balancing tumblers of strawberry rhubarb sangria. They were welcomed with wasabi peanuts, artisan cheeses and toasted pimento cheese mini sandwiches and a well-appointed bar cart. Later, Gage arranged an indoor buffet of shrimp on grits, pulled pork barbecue, balsamic watermelon and yellow tomato salad and star-shaped cornbread. (They decided it was better to serve the food inside on this hot evening.) Guests could choose to dine inside or head upstairs to the terrace.

Heavner and Williams bought the condo in November as a Washington base. They already owned a spacious house in Hickory, N.C., near Taylorsville, where Williams and Gold’s $150 million furniture company is based. But Williams travels constantly for work and Heavner was spending more time in Washington working for the foundation. There is a Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams store on 14th Street NW, and another just opened at Tysons Galleria.

The place would be an urban retreat, small yet suitable for corporate and fundraising events as well. “We wanted something compact and modern, but with an outdoor space and a view,” Heavner, 51, says. This condo has an open-plan kitchen, dining and living area and a bedroom, full bath and powder room, with walls of windows. No surprise, Williams shopped his own store for most of the furniture, using a Franco sectional in off-white as the anchor piece. They tied in the same fabric on the dining chairs and the upholstered bed.

Outdoors, a driftwood-finish wood sofa and chairs conveyed from the previous owner. New cushions were made in colors to coordinate with the blues, silvers and grays of planters and plants in the landscaping plan. “We happen to know some great upholstery people,” Williams says.

Heavner took the lead in overseeing the plantings and design of the terrace. They hired Dupont Circle landscape designer Robert Bell of Bell Design, known for his inventive, small city gardens. “They wanted a sort of English urban garden and entertaining space with different zones,” Bell says.“We worked together closely on the concept, where we took elements of a traditional garden and used an unexpected color palette.”

As party guests came up the stairs, they stepped outside and into the first of three outdoor rooms, an open breathing space to take in the view and experience the small “lawn,” which is actually a carpet of sedum. As they passed the bar, they entered the lounge area, with comfortable places to sit and chat and have appetizers. The final space features a dining table and chairs sheltered by a large umbrella, with a nearby herb garden of thyme, dill and rosemary.

The focal point of the terrace is the 6-by-12-foot wall sculpture that Bell designed, incorporating an aluminum frame with a steel matrix fitted with hinged pieces of foils made of brass, stainless steel, copper and zinc. The design is based on a section of one of Alexander Hamilton’s eyes as depicted on the $10 bill. “I was looking for something iconic to tie in Washington,” Bell says.

Guests who take in views from all sides of the terrace can’t help noticing that the tip of the Washington Monument is visible from one corner.

Next gathering on the calendar: a Fourth of July fireworks-watching party.

See the party-ready Logan Circle perch

Six tips from Williams and Heavner

More summer party planning tips, ideas

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Outdoor living should be green too

Spending time outside and doing it in a responsible way is important to homeowners making the investment of landscaping.

In a recent survey, landscape architects were asked what the most in-demand elements of outdoor spaces were for the 2014 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Overwhelmingly the survey showed consumers want gardens, landscaped spaces and outdoor living spaces while keeping up with sustainable and green choices in landscaping.

“Homeowners know that designed landscapes add value to their lives as well as their property values,” said ASLA Executive Vice President and CEO Nancy Somerville in a statement. “They’re interested in livable, open spaces that are both stylish and earth friendly.”

The survey showed designing outdoor spaces into low-maintenance landscapes and using native plants are tops for consumers, followed by recreation, sustainable design practices and vegetable and fruit gardens.

The desire for natural products extends to outdoor furniture too, says Maureen Flowers of Kospia Farms in Alburtis.

Take, for example, chairs made from recycled milk jugs and water bottles. The longtime Valley grower and plant nursery business retooled itself this past winter to focus on natural outdoor living environments. From furniture made of reclaimed wood

and outdoor sets made of stone slabs, outdoor enthusiasts can get ideas from the 27-acre farm and store, which also features animals like cattle and a horse.

“Any time we can utilize the products nature gives up is huge,” Flowers says, adding that the natural resources add to the beauty of the furniture. The farm chose only vendors who have similar ideals to their own. “The whole farm to table — it’s part of our character as individuals.”

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Kalamazoo area Parade of Homes: What does a modern farmhouse look like …

KALAMAZOO, MI – What does a modern farmhouse look like these days?

“We tried to blend certain styles,” Kevin Hoekzema, said of the house his Kalamazoo-based company, KLH Custom Homes, built and is showing in the 2014 Spring edition of the Kalamazoo area Parade of Homes. It was priced at $350,000 to $400,000.


The 2,820-square-foot house at 7828 Drake Ridge in Texas Township has  four bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms, and is modern, with clean, straight lines and bright colors. Its exterior is white with black windows frames. But it has elements that harken back to an old farmhouse.

It’s roof is silver, made partially of metal with asphalt shingles, giving it the effect of something you may see in the countryside. And one side has a yellow Dutch door. It also has sliding barn-like doors to access its sun room and office.

“It’s mixed up with the old, the almost rustic feel of a barn,” Hoekzema said.

Variety is a hallmark of this year’s springtime Kalamazoo area Parade of Homes, said Amanda Kuchnick, director of marketing and social media for the Home Builders Association of Greater Kalamazoo.

The parade is the organization’s semi-annual showcase of home-building craftsmanship, interior/exterior design work and trends in modern living. It is opening up 19 properties in greater Kalamazoo ranging in price from $150,000 to more than a $1 million. Thirteen are newly built, five are remodeled properties and one is a showcase of exterior landscaping.  The Parade started last Friday and will continue through Saturday (June 28).

The Drake Ridge house, in the Crooked Lake Cove area, has 9-foot-high ceilings on the main floor and basement. It has an open kitchen with a 10- by 4-foot center island and white quartz countertops.

All of its cabinetry is custom-made of poplar and every room in the house has built-in cabinetry and/or shelving, Hoekzema said.

The house has an informal dining room and all four of its bedrooms are on the second floor, as they might be in an old-time farmhouse. The house has a sun room adjacent to a living room/great room, as well as an office. It has a 1,000-square-foot, three-stall garage.

Its yet-unfinished basement is expected to have two additional bedrooms, a bathroom and a large great room that will serve as a TV room and a playroom for children.

“A lot of people have been commenting,” Hoekzema said about the style of the house. “

He said his wife, Liz, does all the interior decorating and design work for KLH Custom Homes and the couple has a list of ideas that are incorporating into projects.


-Parade homes will be open for visitation from 6 to 9 p.m. today (Thursday); from 4 to 9 p.m. Friday; and from 1 to 9 p.m. on Saturday.


-The cost to visit is $15 per person and children age 12 or younger are admitted free. Tickets are available at any Parade Home or can also be purchased at any Kalamazoo area Lake Michigan Credit Union location.

-Tickets include dining deals at the Millennium Restaurant Group, which includes Epic Bistro, Fieldstone Grill, Martell’s, The Union, Central City Tap House, Centre Street Tap House and Wine Loft.


-Builders and their representatives will be on-site to talk about the homes and answer questions.

Business writer Al Jones may be contacted at Follow me on Twitter at ajones5_al.

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The grass is always greener: High-design ground cover in landscaping

There are greener options than grass when it comes creating a beautiful landscape. Groundcover and other earth friendly textiles are gaining popularity as home owners and landscape designers seek to reduce their carbon footprint while still enjoying variety in their outdoor space.

Bryon Angerman, the nursery manager and a landscape designer at Alsip Nursery (10255 Wicker Ave. in St. John, Ind., 219.365.0882, says groundcover has come a long way in the past 15 to 20 years and has grown in popularity as more varieties become available.

A few decades ago, there were only about 20 types to choose from, but today there are thousands, giving homeowners plenty of options for solving common landscaping issues.

Groundcover tackles problem areas such as slopes that are eroding, heavily shaded areas, or heavily trafficked paths. The right low growing, foot friendly groundcover can tolerate traffic well and add an element of color and softness.

Most are also low maintenance and better for the environment because they do not require mowing, weeding or chemical fertilizers.

In many cases, they also provide more color and interest in the landscape, Angerman says. Their small plants and short root systems also make them a good fit for container and fairy gardens, both of which are quite popular, Angerman says.

“Going to lower maintenance groundcover has really changed the homeowner and commercial use as far as taking out some turf grass areas and going to native or non native species,” Angerman says. Alsip Nursery staff can help customers choose the correct groundcover to suit their needs and can even special order groundcovers if they are not carried on site.

Dean Savarino, owner of Dean’s Lawn and Landscaping (238 Kennedy Ave. in Schererville, 219.864.9078, says the first step he uses to determine the correct groundcover is assessing the site. Conditions that will affect the selection include how flat or high the location is, how much shade and sun it receives and what height the plants need to cover. Groundcover can range from flat to two feet high.

If a homeowner needs to add appeal to the side of a house or hillside, for example, climbing hydrangeas can provide color and a branch structure of vines. English ivy, which reaches a height of 4 to 6 inches, can be used to take over an area and cover a lot of ground, he says. His favorite groundcover is ajuga, particularly the chocolate chip variety, which produces a small flower and has a nice burgundy color. It is also foot traffic tolerant.

“We do try to implement perennials or shrubs where we’re getting our color from the foliage,” he says.

His landscapers can use a 3-D rendering of the home and lot to project how groundcover will grow.

“We can show you grade elevation, what it will look like in 5 years, 7 years. If you’re phasing in landscaping, you can see what it will potentially look like.”

The move toward using groundcover has been an industry trend, says Roger Boike, principal designer at Groundworkes, Inc. (15486 Red Arrow Highway, Lakeside, Mich., 269.586.2133, He has begun to use more groundcovers like dune grass in sandy neighborhoods and vinka in shady, forested areas.

Dune grass, which comes from a Michigan supplier, comes in plugs with a few shoots of grass and a small root that will travel underground. It grows in sand and counts on water draining away from the roots quickly. “If we’re planting it on a property where there’s topsoil, we have to add at least 6 inches of sand,” Boike says.

“We like to use it in areas where it seems natural, if it’s close to the beach, if it’s on a bluff coming off the beach,” he says. Combining it with evergreens like white pines can create a beautiful look.

Clients feel good about having the dune grass because it is indigenous to the area, making it a “green choice.”

For his clients with forested and heavily shaded areas, Boike has the most success with vinka, also called periwinkle, which blooms “a beautiful little flower in the spring.” It also does not interest deer, which is a big plus for his clients.

“It grows well in shade. It’s indigenous. It becomes a beautiful cover that eliminates the need for the cost of mulch or the time consuming work of weeding.” A variegated version, which has white edges on the leaf, is also available.

Boike says all grass must be removed before planting groundcover and suggests planting in May through September to give the roots time to get established.

“You have to be patient with groundcovers and all perennials,” he says. A common industry saying is, “The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, the third year they leap.”

As a landscape design and installation company, he is interested in the concept for the total property.

“A lot of our clients work in phases over time but always good to have a design for total property so that it will all work together.”

Another environmentally friendly way to cover ground is with recycled granite.

Julie Rizzo, owner of Recycled Granite (866 Kennedy Ave. in Schererville, 219.313.1388, and founder of the recycled granite network, says recycled granite pavers can bring beauty, sustainability and strength to a landscaping project.

Each stone is more than 50 million years old and the designs have been naturally built into the stone. They are three to five times stronger than concrete pavers and guaranteed not to fade.

While the pavers have been around worldwide for thousands of years, the new concept of creating them out of remnant countertop material has been done for about six years.

“Buyers want something beautiful and one-of-a-kind. With our recycled granite products we can manufacture entire outdoor patios with 100 percent recycled stone that is jaw-dropping. The quartz and mica in our stones actually sparkles. They are truly amazing.”

The pavers and stone veneers appeal to all buyers because they are affordably priced, yet still a high-end material.

“Since there is so much granite waste in the marketplace we like to keep our prices low.”

The products work for small patios and walkways as well as larger commercial projects.

Rizzo employs individuals with disabilities to perform 100 percent of the manufacturing, which is done in Valparaiso and Gary.

“When buyers purchase our products for their landscaping project they are making a huge difference in the lives of people in their local community. Every single dollar counts in more ways than one. We are a triple bottom line company. We care about people, profit and our planet.”

The landscapers revealed some of their favorite groundcovers.

English ivy: Takes over an area and covers a lot of ground to a height of 4 to 6 inches

Dazzleberry sedum: Beautiful burgundy foliage

Irish moss: Chartreuse green with a small bloom, looks nice in between flag stones on walkways; stays low and spreads beautifully.

Veronica: Good for areas where dogs run back and forth

Nepeta: Loves the sun, will flower all summer and attracts bees

Trifolium: Aggressive groundcover that looks like a clover with a burgundy tint, foot traffic friendly

Pachysandra: Can grow in deep shaded areas

Ajuga: Beautiful coloration and little flowers, foot traffic friendly

Low fragrant sumac: Has a light fragrance when it blooms and grows to about 18 inches high, providing dimension when planted behind lower ground covers, good for covering large amounts of ground

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Garden: Find hardiest varieties for our area – Waco Tribune

Since Texas is such a challenge for gardeners, landscape plants growing here need to be tough and adapted to our area.

Fortunately for us, researchers have developed many varieties of landscape plants that can meet these challenges. Not only that, but they are continuing the search for the toughest, most drought-resistant and heat-tolerant plants, and new varieties appear almost every year.

This year, Texas gardeners have faced even more challenges than usual. After the coldest winter this writer has ever encountered, we faced erratic spring temperatures, as well as periods of not enough rain, and other times when it flooded in some locations.

It sometimes seems that we are in a war with our climate. It is imperative that we pick the best “soldiers” for these battles — plants proven to meet the challenge. Two categories of plants are particularly important to know: the Earth-Kind plants and Texas Superstars.

There is a great tool on the Internet to help you choose Earth-Kind plants and learn the principles and practices of Earth-Kind gardening. Go to On the right is a column of links to explore. If you choose “Search the Earth-Kind Plant Selector,” you will be taken to a list of plants you can search by your ZIP code.

You will be able to see a photo of each plant and its description. Here you will find some of my favorite tough but beautiful plants, such as Mexican Mint Marigold, a wonderful fall flowering herb that looks great with mums, or Vitex, a lovely shrub with gorgeous purple flower spikes. Of course, our beloved crape myrtles are listed. If you have not tried Plumbago, a blue-flowering perennial, you can read about it here as well.

To learn about Texas Superstars, go to You will find a list of some of the indispensable, tough and beautiful plants that should be the stars of our Texas gardens. These plants have passed rigorous testing and are approved by Texas AM’s agricultural department.

I have seen one of these test gardens, and I can assure you that the testing these plants go through is similar to boot camp for a Marine. Only the few and the brave come through this testing alive. You can be assured these plants will perform well for you.

Among the selection of Texas Superstars you will find many great landscape plant choices. This list gives you alternatives to some plants that look great, but don’t do well in our area. For instance, the Texas Gold Columbine is a large flowering columbine that does well here. Many other varieties of Columbine may look beautiful, but they will not be able to survive here.

Pam’s Pink Honeysuckle is another variety that will perform better than the native, invasive honeysuckle you find everywhere. Several wonderful roses also made the cut.

If you have tried to grow a tea rose in Central Texas, you have probably been disappointed. The Texas Superstar variety Belinda’s Dream is a shrub rose with large, pink flowers that closely resemble the tea rose form. Yet it will bloom reliably without a lot of extra spraying and maintenance. As a matter of fact, it does not need any spraying, as it will bloom profusely even if a little bit of black spot manages to break through.

The Surefire tomato is a Texas Superstar. This is important to know because it is a variety that is good to use as a fall planted tomato. Fall tomatoes need to go into the ground during the last two weeks of July. This one can take the heat.

With larkspurs, verbena, petunias and phlox, improved varieties will perform much better than the “generic” forms. Texas Superstar varieties of these plants are available. They will be healthier and bloom longer than the old varieties you see everywhere.

When you go shopping for fall plants this year, first do a search on the Internet for the varieties available that have undergone vigorous testing and have achieved status as Texas Superstars or Earth-Kind plants. These will be available at the better nurseries in town. If you cannot find one of these, ask the nursery to carry it. If enough of us demand these plants, the nurseries will carry them.

The Texas AM agricultural websites also contain volumes of valuable information regarding how to garden in Texas. It would be of great help to you to search out the practices of Earth-Kind gardening. There is a wealth of information that you can find on these practices on the Internet and in the best Texas gardening books.

Armed with this information, you can make your gardens and landscapes not only beautiful, but easier to care for and maintain. You will also learn the principles and practices that will allow you to use less water — a valuable resource that we must learn how to protect and conserve.

Another way to learn about these plants and landscaping techniques is to visit our local Carleen Bright Arboretum in Waco. Here you will find many gardens filled with the toughest and best plants for our area.

Plan a trip to the arboretum as you are planning your fall gardens. It will serve as an inspiration to you to improve your techniques and practices in the landscape. You will learn that gardens can be maintained in environmentally wise ways without sacrificing beauty.


Melody Fitzgerald is a McLennan County Master Gardener who has spent more than 35 years facing the challenges of Central Texas gardening.

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Landscaping wonders delight Garden Walk visitors

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The 20th Anniversary Garden City Garden Club’s Garden Walk was billed a success by the organizers.

“It went great,” club president Stacy Karafotis said. “We had about 75 visitors. We also had kids, which was nice.”

The walk is important because the proceeds go to support the club and others in the community.

“It was awesome,” said Lisa Hicks-Clayton, a Dearborn Heights resident. She visited for the first time.

There were eight gardens to tour this year, which began at Barson’s Greenhouse at Merriman and Maplewood.

One conversation piece garden was that of Roxanne and Bill Mueller at 31036 Hennepin. Visitors were impressed with the size of the koi fish in their large pond.

These fish are known for their ability to survive and adapt too many climates and water conditions and they can have different colorations.

“They are like large goldfish,” said David Knezek, a Dearborn Heights resident.

Jim Rhoades, a Garden City resident, visited the gardens for the first time this year, accompanying his wife who has visited in the past.

“I liked all of the gardens,” Roads said. “The goldfish were great.”

He came away with ideas for his own garden.

The other gardens were those of Della Haydon, at the corner of Alvin Court and Alvin; Jerry and Janice Cushman, 32240 Maplewood; Barb Sandburg at 1241 Dearing; Stacy and George Karafotis, 31327 Hennepin; Nancy Buckley, 30411 Pierce, Judy and Carl Sheko, 30414 Pierce and Martha Watts 32639 Florence.

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Newtown House & Garden Tour set

Which Newtown house is said to be the site of a clothing drive that was held to aid people serving in Gen. George Washington’s Continental Army?

Find out Saturday when the Newtown Historical Society holds its 18th annual House Garden Tour.

The June 28 tour is called “Mainly Main Street,” and for good reason. It features memorable homes and hidden gardens of the town’s historic district.

Most of the properties are only a short stroll from each other. Considering there’s a tall flagpole right in the middle of the road, it’s an easy area to find.

“This is a special tour this year because of the Main Street aspect,” said Virginia Carey, who has been involved in the event for a number of years. “We are including places many people have not yet had a chance to see up close, despite driving by them every day.”

The tour is a fundraiser that will take place rain or shine, and runs from 11 to 5 p.m. It includes Newtown’s 1792 Meeting House, plus four unique homes and their gardens.

Among the homes are an 18th-century Colonial, an imposing Second Empire Victorian from 1869, an 1849 post-and-beam Colonial on a quiet side street and an inspired renovation with extensive landscaping, a pool, deck and spa just a short drive away.

In addition, two private gardens will be open, plus the Dooryard Garden of the Historical Society’s Matthew Curtiss House Museum and the Pleasance, a popular public garden by the police station. The Pleasance has so many unusual features, people often visit to take photos there on special occasions, such as prom night. (On Saturday it’s reserved for the tour.)

Carey said the private gardens that are featured this year are not visible from the street because they’re fenced behind houses that aren’t part of the tour. “They are surprisingly large and spacious, and each one is a personal reflection of its owners’ garden design talents,” she said. “People will be astonished when they see what’s back there.”

More surprises await at the circa 1785 home of Betsy Kenyon, where beautifully decorated gardens are found in multiple areas. There’s a formal one on the side of the house, and others which are “less structured but absolutely charming,” said Carey. The property also includes a carriage house.

Carey said plants, furnishings and fountains provide a wonderful indoor-outdoor ambience on the Kenyon property. This is also where it’s reported the original owner held a clothing drive to aid members of the Continental Army.

The Meeting House is another of Carey’s favorites. “I just love it,” she said. “I’ve been to so many concerts where people who have never been there before are just in awe at the beauty and the acoustics.”

Carey said the Meeting House was originally in the middle of the street, where the flagpole is today. It was moved to the middle of West Street in 1792.

“Another interesting fact relates to the original gilded rooster weathervane that is still in place above the 100-foot steeple,” she said. “It was probably local rascals who put bullet holes in the rooster, but Newtown folklore continues to attribute the act to French soldiers under the command of Gen. Rochambeau, who marched through in 1781 and 1782. The rooster is now the official government symbol of Newtown.”

The Inn at Newtown, only a few steps away, is offering ticketholders a 10 percent discount on lunch the day of the tour.

M. B. Tuccio is a freelance writer;

Tickets purchased before Saturday, June 28, $25 adults and $10 children, 8 to 12. Advance tickets available at, Everything Newtown, 61 Church Hill Road, the C.H. Booth Library, 25 Main St. and the Newtown UPS Store, 261 S. Main St.

On Saturday tickets available 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Matthew Curtiss House, 44 Main St. $30 for adults and $15 for children.

Newtown Historical Society House Garden Tour, Saturday, June 28, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., $25 adults, $10 kids, 8 to 12, 203-426-5937,

Day of tour, $30 adults, $15 children, available 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Matthew Curtiss House, 44 Main St., Newtown.

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Living By Design: Rooftop gardens elevate the landscape

The urban cool of rooftop gardening can easily transfer to smaller cities and rural areas as well.

“Creating a green roof or a roof garden is a great way to utilize space that you already have,” says Corbett Miller, horticulturist at Taltree Arboretum and Gardens in Valparaiso.

From the simplistic—potted plants and containers brimming with blooms—to sophisticated seating arrangements, walking paths and plantings, these gardens create more outdoor living spaces or, at the least, turning the top of a small outbuilding such as a garden shed or even a dog house, into a visual focal point that becomes another part of an eye catching garden design.

But, for those of us new to the concept, there’s a distinction between green roofs and rooftop gardens.

“For a green roof, think of it as more like a prairie transported to the top of you building, something solidly planted sometimes with pathways,” says Allan Smessaert, owner and general manager at Acorn Markets based in Kankakee, who has created rooftop gardens in northwest Indiana. “Rooftop gardens are more like a living space with no hardscape. It’s more about the seating with built in and portable container.”

At Taltree, one of only eight arboretums in the world to be awarded Level III accreditation by The ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program sponsored and coordinated by The Morton Arboretum in Lisle, Illinois, they’ve created a green roof in their Adventure Garden using a preexisting roof structure to harbor species of plants tolerant of weather conditions like high heat and low water.

For this particular roof, three varieties of sedum were planted in a diamond shape central design because this hardy perennial, with its thick, fleshy leaves retains water, tolerates both intense sun and periods of drought, requires little to no maintenance and upkeep and look as good in fall as they do in the spring.

Other plants that work well when designing a rooftop garden are hardy daylilies, ajuga — which is good for attracting butterflies and ornamental grasses like Blue Fescue and Maidengrass.

“In the city everyone has a rooftop garden because they don’t have any other space,” says Ann Marischen, owner of Flower Power Gardens and Chicago Mayor Daley’s Landscape Award winner in both 2000 and 2001, who created many roof top gardens in Chicago.

Marischen, who moved from Chicago to Valparaiso over a decade ago, is currently creating a 60-foot-long by 30-foot-wide rooftop garden atop of a converted commercial building that is now a residence in Valparaiso.

“We’re looking a maybe adding a pergola as well as some big planters for trees,” say Marischen, who also creates containers with evergreens, shrubs, grasses and perennials as well — for year-round beauty. “We’ll have seating areas and lounging areas and maybe, because of upkeep, artificial turf.”

Smessaert says sees rooftop gardening as not much more difficult than land gardening except for technical issues.

“You need to consult with an engineer or architect to see how much load an area can hold,” he says noting that dirt adds a lot of weight to a rooftop. “And you have to watch everything you add to the garden because it really adds up. I have an eight foot container that’s eight foot tall and looks like aged copper but it’s not. Those types of containers are perfect for rooftop gardens.

Though flat roofs lend themselves more easily to creating an up top garden, Smessaert says that even pitched roofs can be garden-able.

“They do it a lot in Europe and some even have goats grazing on them,” he says. “And if you just want to have a green roof for energy savings, it’s very doable as long as it’s not too high of a pitch. What is important is that it’s planted heavily and the roots are holding, like you find on a hillside.”

Maddie Grimm, director of education at Taltree, says that gardens on top of roofs are a great place to show gardening techniques that are both simple and aesthetically pleasing. She notes that besides being attractive some of the other benefits of a green roof and/or roof garden include an increased lifespan of roofing materials because there’s less erosion and weather damage and the gardens provide insulation by keeping hot sun from affecting inside room temperature in summer and decreasing heat loss through the roof in winter.

Public buildings are also adding rooftop and green roof gardens as both places to gather and to enhance the view.

Bill Hutton of the fifth generation Hammond based Hutton and Hutton Architects and Engineers says that when they worked on the design of the Hammond Academy of Science and Technology, they look at outdoor areas and rooftop gardens as a place for students to study and meet.

“We developed the concept of having several areas with seating and plantings,” he says.

A rooftop garden was also part of the design when planning the North West Indiana Veteran Village in Gary which provides supportive housing as well as other facilities for veterans.

Smessaert, who has designed rooftop gardens in New York where the weather is milder, says that Chicago and northwest Indiana have more severe weather and the cold and the wind are more intense up on the roof which needs to be taken into consideration when landscaping.

“It’s a whole other world up there,” says Marischen about rooftop gardens. “You really have to make sure everything is weighted down. In the summer it’s very hot, very dry and all year round it’s very windy. It’s easier to take care of a ground garden but rooftop gardens can be so distinctive and so special.”

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