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Spring Cleaning on the Roof

March 2014

Every year, BBG springs forward by cutting back. Grasses on the Visitor Center’s living roof and throughout the Garden need to be trimmed in preparation for new growth. The Visitor Center and its surrounding beds account for the largest concentration of native grasses in the Garden and require specialized maintenance.

Ronnit Bendavid-Val, BBG’s director of Gardens and Grounds, and Barry Rogers, curator of the Visitor Center, describe maintaining the living roof as a process of learning how to work with specific species (sideoats grama, prairie Junegrass, little bluestem, and prairie dropseed) under challenging conditions. This March, BBG Horticulture staff and a team from New York Green Roofs—equipped with articulated pole hedge trimmers and rakes—were harnessed to a safety line due to the building’s height and the roof’s steep slope. Cutting back dormant plant material took two days to complete, just in time for the appearance of snowdrop and hoop-petticoat daffodil shoots. Over the next few months, we look forward to seeing butterfly weed, purple prairie clover, dwarf blazing star, and foxglove beardtongue bring bursts of color to the Visitor Center roof.

The living roof is just one component of the Visitor Center landscape. Almost three acres of new plantings have expanded BBG’s collection with 90 new species. Once the roof and its neighboring plantings become established, they will be more self-sustaining and require less intensive upkeep. In the meantime, BBG’s spring cleaning clears the way for fresh growth and months of beauty.

View a slideshow of the cutting at, and watch a video of the process by clicking the preview on the right.

Photos by Dana Miller.

The living roof on the Visitors Center at Brooklyn Botanic Garden The living roof on the Visitors Center at Brooklyn Botanic Garden The living roof on the Visitors Center at Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Green Facts

The Garden is working to save water, and you can too. The average New York home wastes as much as 11,000 gallons of water each year—that’s 30 gallons a day!