Durban-KZN-South Africa: A Green Roof Journey

Jane and her family have submitted their project as inspiration to many. The plan has been to renovate an 1940′s home into a Green and Gorgeous home, including a roof garden and green vertical wall element. Thanks Jane for bringing your wonderful journey/blog to us. It is truly a gift and we thank you for it!


Follow Jane’s step by step journey in building her roof garden. Remember Rule #1: Waterproofing!

Choose your plant species carefully. It goes without saying your locally indigenous/native plants must be selected and these should be water wise and heat tolerant. ~Jane

Here is Gorgeous Green House selection of plants that will do well in Durban, South Africa:

Aellanthus parvifolius, Aptenia cordifolia, Aloe maculata, Aloe cooperii, Bulbine abyssinica, Bulbine natalensis, Cissus quadrangularis, Cissus fragilis, Crassula multicava, Crassula hirta, Crassula ovata, Crassula obovata, Crassula perofliat, Crassula vaginata, Aloe rborescens, Aloe rupestris, Aloe thraskii, Aloe van belanii, Cotyledon orbiculata, Delosperma rogers,Hibisucs calphyllus, Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, Nymphoides thunbergiana, Portulacarai afra, Stafpelia ginantea, Vernonia capensis


Photo Credits: Gorgeous Green Roof

Inspiration, Gardens and Determination = Mobilegro

Guest blog post submitted by:

Angela Dimaggio, Inventor of Mobilegro

When I moved from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Phoenix, Arizona in 1971, I was amazed at the year round growing seasons here. Snow back home, citrus on the trees here. We purchased our home in Arizona and turned the entire backyard into a massive garden. We grew everything, even planted 30 zucchini plants; what a mistake! Even planted peanuts. You name it I had it growing in my backyard.

Within a few years I went through a divorce and landed in a condo with a cement patio for a yard….gone was my beautiful garden. I sat at my teacher desk and drew out my idea to still have some kind of garden ability even if people were dealing with the same problem, limited space, no land, no anything. I drew out Mobilegro, sketches on a piece of paper ( no name at that time).

I put the paper in my desk and said to myself, when I retire I want someone to build this for me. In 2007 I retired from teaching and was cleaning out my desk for the last time. I was shedding a tear because I thought I couldn’t live without the energy of all my high school students around me and my sketches and drawings for Mobilegro fell back into my lap.

I revised the drawings with more sophistication, did the initial patent myself and MOBILEGRO was born. Five versions, two trademarks, 22 domains in 9 countries today. My Linkedin account went from 25 to 1100. People from Australia to Denmark want the Mobilegro product.

I need to mention that many manufacturers blew this old lady off, didn’t pay any attention to me or my product and
it was like climbing mount Everest with a toothpick. I persevered no matter what and here I am today helping people who have lost their homes and who lost their gardens just like I did.

Mobilegro will allow people everywhere regardless of space constraints to once again enjoy gardening. I made it to help people…..and it is doing just that!

Update 04.15.2012:
Mobilegro featured in Phoenix Home & Garden Magazine, April 2012 Picks for the Gardener feature! Congratulations Angela on another incredible achievement!

Turf Diagnostics & Design Puts Green Commitment Into Action

Turf Diagnostics & Design has an ongoing commitment to protecting and improving our environment. All of our test procedures, sample processing, and disposal efforts are performed with the intent to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

We have eliminated the use of hazardous materials in our test procedures, and we are committed to reducing or eliminating the use of any potentially unsafe substances.

Turf Diagnostics & Design’s policy is to receive and test only uncontaminated soil, growing media and aggregate samples in our laboratory. To the extent allowed by law, these materials are reused after testing.

Our green activities include efforts to reduce the amount of waste generated in office and lab procedures. Electronic reports and documents are produced and used whenever possible. Clean packaging materials are reused in-house and through relationships with other local businesses. When reuse is not possible, waste is diverted through recycling of paper products, metal, glass, and plastics used by our company.

About Turf Diagnostics & Design
Turf Diagnostics & Design is the leading physical testing company serving the landscape, golf and sports turf industries. Turf Diagnostics & Design provides compliance testing and research & development on green roof growing media (intensive and extensive mixes), components, aggregates, and drainage materials. Our testing services include standardized methods and specialized techniques developed in our laboratory. Test results can be compared to industry standards such as FLL or product or project specifications. All work is performed and reviewed by our professional scientists according to standard operating procedures. For more information, please contact Sam Ferro at (913) 723-3700 or

The Urban Canopy ROOFTOP Farm

10Previously, I wrote about an exciting project on the South Side of Chicago called The Plant. As part of this “vertical farming” project the Plant has a new tenant that will be growing on the rooftop. The Urban Canopy’s vision is to show how rooftop farming is a vital part of the urban agriculture movement to create a sustainable and equitable food system. For 2012, The Urban Canopy will build a 3000 square feet farm on the rooftop!

This farm will produce over 2500 pounds of fresh fruits and veggies in the first year alone. The main growing methods will include a combination of automatically irrigated raised beds, bucket-ponics, and lightweight hydroponic systems. Lots of pictures are posted on TUC’s flickr page. Once the farm is operating, the plan is to hire a few employees from the Back of the Yards community. A portion of the produce will be donated to local food banks and sold at reduced rates to neighborhood residents; the remaining portion will be sold directly at farmers markets and to green restaurants.

This project is currently going through a Kickstarter Campaign to raise the funds required to actually build the farm out in March. Consider pledging to the campaign to see exactly how you can enable this concept and rooftop farming overall. The various rewards include sustainable gear like organic cotton t-shirts/bags, tours of the building and rooftop farm, a veggie share of the 2012 produce, even up to a catered dinner ON the rooftop or naming rights to the farm! Alex also told me that there will be volunteering opportunities and other ways to get directly involved throughout the year. Please share this link with your friends and family to help the project:

Thanks so much for listening to us tell you about this awesome project in Chicago!


Contact: Ramon Gonzalez
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE-Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Mobile: 312.970.9642


NeighborSpace’s One Seed Chicago project lets Chicago gardeners vote on their favorite seed then distributes the winning seed for free to encourage urban farming, healthy eating habits, and sitting down for meals with family and friends.

CHICAGO-Gardeners across Chicago started the New Year by voting for their favorite herb seed for One Seed Chicago and the winning seed will be mailed to them for free. This year’s candidates are basil, chamomile, and cilantro. As in previous years, One Seed Chicago will teach Chicagoans who to grow the winning seed in their garden. Local chefs and foodies are encouraged to submit original recipes for the community featuring any of this year’s candidates to demonstrate how easy it is to go from garden to plate.

“For the fifth year One Seed Chicago is uniting Chicago gardeners,” said Ben Helphand, NeighborSpace Executive Director. “By planting a common seed, backyards, windowsills, community gardens and balconies across the City will be linked together in a season-long celebration of urban gardening and local eating.”
The three candidates were selected at the annual GreenNet Potluck. Community gardeners from across the city took part in a One Seed Chicago primary election which narrowed the race to the three herb candidates. In addtion, this year One Seed Chicago is expanding voting even further, offering schools, offices, garden clubs and wherever gardeners gather the opportunity to host a polling station.

“This being an election year, we thought we’d celebrate our democracy by growing new voters along with seeds,” explains Helphand. “Gardeners who want to host a polling station can download a ballot, poster and Teacher’s activity guides from the One Seed Chicago website.”

Voting began on Sunday, January 1, 2012 and continues until April 1, 2012. The winning seed will be unveiled at GreenNet’s annual Green and Growing Fair at the Garfield Park Conservatory. To vote simply log onto

Origins of One Seed Chicago
One Seed Chicago is a project of NeighborSpace, Chicago’s land trust for community gardens. Entering its fourth year One Seed Chicago aims to introduce more Chicagoans to the joys and benefits of gardening. Previous winners: Sunflower 2008. Blue Lake Pole bean 2009. Beebalm 2010. Swiss chard 2011. Since 2008 One Seed Chicago has distributed over one million seeds to Chicago residents.

About NeighborSpace
NeighborSpace is a nonprofit urban land trust dedicated to preserving and sustaining community managed open spaces in Chicago. Their growing network of gardens provide thousands of people the opportunity to grow fruits, vegetables and flowers; to restore habitats; and create unique gathering places in their own neighborhoods. NeighborSpace’s partners in the community can rest assured that the land will remain dedicated to conservation and their efforts will never be displaced. For more information, please visit

If you would like more information about One Seed Chicago or to schedule an interview with Ben Helphand, please call Ramon Gonzalez at 312.970.9642 or Email Ramon at You can find more graphics for web use at

Real People with Rooftop Gardens: Budapest Environs Support Green Roofs

Real People with Rooftop Gardens Series

A tribute to all of those who believe there is a right way to garden, both on a rooftop and on the ground. For gardeners, there is not enough soil to plant in, ever! Our site is reaching people all over the world and therefore we are so pleased to present an exemplary design and brilliant aesthetic from Douglas Gillis in Budapest, Hungary. Take me to Budapest, stat! I love this home and vista, wow!! We are all so lucky to get to know Douglas Gillis’ work through his story and photographs. Looking forward to many more Real People with Real Rooftop Gardens. Send us your submission to be featured by clicking here.

The roof garden has become part of a thriving culture targeted at improving the sustainability of our landscape and utilizing spaces in urban areas. While the focus of this type of development may seem to be directed more toward the commercial venture, it should be noted that there is a use for it in the residential market as well.

Here in Europe the development of the roof garden has an established history connecting it to mainstream architecture and garden design. The purpose of this article is simply to illustrate the perspective of one homeowner based on his observations and experience.

The house to be featured here was conceived by a Dutch architect, Erick van Eegarat. Built in 2003, it was a new style development within the Hungarian scene. There are 12 such houses on site, and each has a roof garden. The soil depth is 40 cm and the roof has been divided into three sections. There is no direct access to the roof garden, and so its function is architectural and ecological, rather than recreational.

Drains are located below the soil line in the lower corner of each section, and the concrete structure has been purpose built to withstand the weight. The greatest fear of roof gardens is the leaking roof, so it is the correct application of protective layers, as well as sealing around drains that is vital to its success. In this case, irrigation is minimal using drip line to keep the hardy shrubs going during the hot months. Given the Hungarian climate, irrigation needn’t begin until May or June, and can be discontinued in October.

Deciduous species have been used to provide shade, reducing the surface temperature considerably in summer. Six months later, they shed their leaves allowing the dark earth to absorb the sun’s rays at least until snowfall. This area provides a wonderful habitat for birds, lizards, and insects. These plants are also used as branches for Ikebana lessons, and so access by ladder for the occasional cutting is adequate. Although lavender has been used on the front corner as a showpiece, most shrubs are left to look wild and therefore blend into the surrounding hillside. Raspberries, blackberries, and rhubarb are also grown on the roof. All species can withstand minus 22 c in winter.

In 2007, the front area next to the drive was landscaped in 42 c heat. There is no window facing the south, but the atrium allows ample light into the house. If the house is sealed on hot days, the internal temperature on the upper level hits 26c at the hottest, while downstairs bedrooms are a constant 24c. Thus the soil on the roof acts as an insulator while the house, being partially submerged into the hillside, utilizes the hill itself as insulation. During early evening, the house can be opened and cooled within one hour using the forest air that moves through it without the aid of a fan or air conditioner. All in all, the roof garden cools the house in summer, and adds insulation in winter.

To date, the positive aspects of this project far outweigh the negative, and hopefully some of the ecological concerns that we feel today can be counterbalanced by technology and design as we see here.

By Douglas Gillis
Garden Designer and Historian
Budapest, Hungary