Thursday, June 14, 2012

Native Cultivars on Green Roof

How do I pick my favorite gas stations?  Lowest prices? Nope, it's the plants, of course.  Here is a great gas station on the corner of 22nd and M St. NW in Washington, D.C.  The roof of this Exxon station was designed as a part of the 22 West Condos.

photo by City Paper

It's hard to do plant ID from twenty-four feet away, but the Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger'--as known as Tiger Eyes, is pretty effective from a distance.  A great plant for drought resistance, texture, color, heck, just about anything.  It is a very vigorous plant in most garden settings, so make sure you have space (and a machete).

The Tiger Eye Sumac is perfectly scaled for this urban environment.

Also peeking over the edge is Schizachyrium scoparium 'The Blues' (Little Bluestem).  While not a terribly tidy grass, the blue color of this cultivar works well with the gray metal panels and chartreuse colors of the Sumac.  Little Bluestem and Sumac are commonly found together along great American highways, so this association in a more urban context is kind of a fun play for me.  The use of the strongly colored cultivars translates two rather weedy plants into a more contemporary combination.

The Sumac is not only spectacular in spring and summer, but fall as well.  Here you can see Tiger Eyes in this shot I took at the U.S. National Botanical Garden in the fall.


  1. I'm not familiar with this cultivar. But I will attest to the species and it's toughness and exquisite scarlet fall color. The texture is interesting, Some say coarse, but really it's like one huge, fine compound leaf. It does flower in kind of a creamy panicle and the weird fruit is interesting.
    A lot of contradicting thoughts are running through my mind. A fossil fuel giant and landscaping. I look to the positive and the green.

    1. Scott,

      Yes, I know. I'm trying not to dwell too heavily on the irony of the setting. I don't even think Exxon paid for the green roof. It was the adjacent condo building who wanted to have something nice to look down on instead of a gas station.

  2. Chartreuse clouds!

  3. Thank you for posting this. It’s exactly what I was looking for!

  4. I see Tiger Eyes used here in Chicago's Millenium Park as well. I like the fall color, but for some reason I just can't warm up to sumacs. Maybe it's my childhood in LI where they grew weedy and rampant along the expressways. There's also something about the leaves that seems tropical in a way that clashes with a cottage garden or native plant look.

  5. As a gardener and someone who lives in the middle of nature and works on, against, and with it constantly, but who happens to be a petroleum jobber in my work life, I like to say that nobody gets to hate Big Oil more than me. But I would say that a project like this is fairly emblematic of E/M, who in their post-E. Valdez era is unquestionably the safest and best-managed of all our Evil Energy Overlords (unlike BP, who has learned how to profit from their wild incompetency in a way that is grotesquely offensive. If they were a dry cleaner, they'd have gone out of business decades ago). I have no trouble imagining E/M deciding they wanted a station, and figured the cost of a green roof--as well as some architectural interest, some community 'blending,' and likely the most forward thinking, technologically advanced site monitoring--were just a loss-leading upront operational expense. Unlike BP, who would just have a massive spill, run a bunch of TV commercials about their green energy initiatives, and then raise their price a buck.

    Forgive me, but I find this fascinating in so many different ways. Nobody even builds gas stations here any more.

  6. It's nice to see that this roof garden is offsetting the carbon emissions from the gas station somewhat! It's a shame this kind of thing isn't done more. Surely if we won't cut back on carbon emissions it should be a priority to help neutralize them by planting more greenery (especially in cities)?

  7. That was a clever pick, Thomas. While many consider the price of gasoline, you are looking at the whole of the station. Having a green roof really says something good about the place. The garden above will help maintain the cool temperature. That was an intelligent move from its management, since businesses involving oil products are prone to a hot atmosphere.

    Sierra Nordgren

  8. Green roof needs to be placed in every building, offices or other establishments to help against the urban greenhouse effect. Green roofing will not only look good on top of the structures but it is also helpful for the environment.


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