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American Society of Landscape Architects

 

January 2007 Issue

 

Green Roof Guru
How Emory Knoll Farm’s Ed Snodgrass became the go-to guy for green roof plants and what landscape architects can learn from him.

By Linda McIntyre

Green Roof Guru Emory Knoll Farm

Rarely is the horticultural aphorism “right plant, right place” more important than when the place is up on a rooftop, where extreme temperatures, desiccating winds, and a growing medium that more closely resembles gravel than soil can try even the sturdiest of plants. Landscape architects who include green roofs in their projects often turn to Ed Snodgrass for help in finding the right plants for the job.

Snodgrass has been an integral part of almost every extensive green roof project—those with a thin profile and usually planted with sedum and other succulents—in the mid-Atlantic region and a good number of them in other parts of the United States, more than 200 in all. Look at the project credits for nearly any green roof and you’ll find plants sourced from Snodgrass’s Emory Knoll Farm, the first—and so far only—specialty nursery for green roof plants in North America.

Despite its prominence, Emory Knoll Farm is a humble operation, set in the rolling hills of Maryland north of Baltimore. The agricultural land has been in Snodgrass’s family for generations, and Snodgrass himself had worked it as a traditional farmer. He still grows some plants for seed production for a German company and leases out some of his acres to neighboring corn farmers. But in the 1980s, increasingly disenchanted with chemical-

centered modern agriculture and the dismal economics of family farming, Snodgrass changed course and headed into commercial horticulture. He learned the trade in part during a stint working with Kurt Bluemel, whose eponymous nursery in Baldwin, Maryland, is considered the premier source for ornamental grasses.

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