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
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
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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