Motherplants: Where green roofs are born

Mother plants at Motherplants

dog house roof

The mother plants at Motherplants (above) and demo dog house (right).

This morning, I stopped by Motherplants — a woman-owned nursery specializing in plants for green roofs. Marguerite, a friend and co-worker, is one of the operation’s principals, and I’ve been having her save up some ‘seconds’ for me for my Mudman project. (More on that later.)

The business is thriving. Marguerite is propagating and growing for projects small (the dog houses are for demo purposes) and large (one order for 18,000 square feet is keeping her hopping) from Alabama to Manhattan. But the nice thing about growing plants for living roofs is that they thrive on neglect. If being a little late to ventilate the greenhouse is going to kill your plants, you probably aren’t growing the right plants for the stressful conditions they’re going to encounter later in life.

wall panelMotherplants’ plant list includes nearly 50 sedums and a couple dozen other species, including Armeria, Delosperma, Dianthus, Festuca, Opuntia, Sempervivum, Thymus and more.

Motherplants’ primary product has been flats of plugs. But more and more they’re custom planting modules that are installed directly on the roof, eliminating transplanting on-site. Another twist along these lines is the living wall unit Marguerite is holding (right). The planting cells are angled slightly to help retain the media.

Plant ’em. Grow ’em. Hang ’em. Nothing to it.

motherplant pad
Mother plant pad

dog houses
Demo dog houses

Caltha palustris, lone apple

caltha patch

caltha plantAbout 6 of our 7 acres (here’s an aerial view) is pretty scrubby woodland. I suspect that it was once apple orchard and/or pasture on pretty poor soils that were further compacted and depleted for 100 years or so of use and abuse. (Our house dates to 1863, and there was also a small cheese factory on the site.)

With the lousy soils, disturbance and heavy deer populations, there isn’t much exciting going on plant-wise out in the woods. But along the small stream and wetland that define the south edge of our yard, there is a great showing of Caltha palustris, aka marsh marigold or kingcup. (palustris = of the marsh.)

caltha flowersIt’s not rare. You can find it in wet areas across northern North America, Europe, Russia and Asia. It’s poisonous and a skin irritant, so the deer leave it alone. Here’s a nice botanical drawing from 1885 and a double-flowered variety from a co-workers garden. The photo is fuzzy, but it’s a spectacular plant.

There’s a little bit of high ground that extends into the wetland, where there’s more grass than cattails. Growing out of that high spot is what I call the lone crabapple, but I suspect that it’s a seedling from one of the trees that formerly dotted the property, maybe with some cider apple lineage in it. There is one huge (30-foot-tall) ancient apple tree on the edge of the wood that looks dead in winter but leafs out every spring. It’s flowering profusely this spring. When it does manage to produce a few fruits, they are white-skinned, usually with a little green algae-like cast to them.

Anyway, the lone crab is on an alternate-year flowering schedule. This year is its year and it’s covered with flowers. On off years, there’s a mirror image of it flowering 200 yards away to the west on the other side of the main wetland. You can see it from the kitchen and bathroom windows. It couldn’t be better placed, though I would never have thought to put it there.

lonely apple

The flowers close up.

apple flowers

Post-dated pix

What with the fast-paced spring and being away, I’ve got a backlog of pix on the hard drive from the past two or three weeks that I need to purge now or they’ll be lost forever. Click images for large view (in most cases).


Drumstick and ‘regular’ primulas.
Drumstick and 'regular' primulas

Close up of the drumsticks.
drumstick primula

Two views of double-flowered bloodroot (Sanguisorba Sanguinaria canadensis ‘Flore Pleno’ from memory ssp flore plena best I can tell.)
double-flowered bloodroot

double-flowered bloodroot

Mertensia and dragonfly.
double-flowered bloodroot

Muscari and bleeding heart. (Sorry don’t know the variety.)
muscaribleeding heart

I’ve decided to start coordinating animal and plant colors.
double-flowered bloodroot

No CCD for organic bees?

bee in irisInteresting report (I can’t vouch for the credibility) that organic beekeepers aren’t seeing so much colony collapse disorder. Perhaps because they aren’t stressing the bees with antibiotics and pesticides fighting parasites and diseases and aren’t trucking them all over kingdom come, the colonies aren’t collapsing.

I’ve got a bunch of other bee links that I haven’t really had time to explore. Surf away:

Bee Colony Collapse Disorder – Nothing new here. But I was told to keep an eye open for updates here.

Texas A&M CCD info

Mid-Atlantic Apiculture CCD info – Hosted by Penn State