Research & Development

As the first U.S. nursery to specialize exclusively in green roof plants, Emory Knoll Farms, Inc.  has been a leader in researching and studying plants for roof applications for over 10 years.

We have been fortunate to have had opportunities to work with some of the best people and companies in the field, in advancing the technology of green roof systems.

Over the years, manufacturers have asked us to assist in developing and characterizingnew roofing materials at our test facilities.  In these cases, we have been happy to allow test plots to be developed and installed by the manufacturer on our site for assessment.   We have trialed well over 300 plant species and varieties, and constructed our test beds in various installation configurations to account for different environmental and climate factors.  One of our earliest test bed projects assessed the water retention performance of  expanded slate aggregate by comparing the growth performance of plants in similar plots with and without the stone mulch.  Later projects included comparing single species plantings to mixed species plantings, testing the spreading rates of different  species, and developing a list of more shade tolerant varieties.  We also have a” green” retaining wall, which at the time of its installation was still an early prototype of wall block units now in production by companies across the U.S.  Our wall is planted with several varieties of our green roof plants and serves both as a testing area and as an educational display for visitors.

Although we have developed a list of “staple” plants we grow for our inventory every year, we are constantly trialing new plant species to determine their viability in green roof applications.  On our own green roofs, we have tested different types of plants including groundcovers, tall sedums, perennials (and biennials), grasses, and annuals.  We have experimented with growing plants  from seed, cuttings, and bulbs.  We’ve grown plugs, pots, quarts,  sedum mats, and green roof modules.  Our current selection of plants and sizes is based on our first-hand experience of what works best.  We have experimented with a variety of construction methods on our roof,  using a built up layering system (i.e. built-in-place of individually supplied components), and a number of different modular or grid systems.  Over time, we have installed several different designs and tried a variety of maintenance schedules, to varying degrees of success; and our test roofs continue to evolve.  Our customers all gain the full benefits of our research and direct experience, both with plants and green roof systems.  To see the latest plants that we have selected for use on green roof projects, please see our Online Catalog.

In addition to our own research, Emory Knoll Farms  supports green roof research efforts by universities and colleges.  Often we are asked to provide the plant material for research projects, scientific trials, and case studies.  In other instances, we work more closely with university research teams in planning and executing projects.  Educational facilities with which we have been involved, or which are actively conducting green roof research include:

University of Maryland

Colorado State University

Columbia University

Michigan State University

North Carolina State University

Penn State University

Southern Illinois University Edwardsville

All of our test plots are held to our regular nursery standards; meaning that our research areas are constructed of reclaimed, recycled, and recyclable materials, and use  locally available, sustainable, and natural fertilizers, growing medium, plants, and other components.  If you have specific questions about our plants or research, or need an experienced professional horticulturalist to consult with on your green roof project, please contact us directly.

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