Urban landscapes, naturally.

green roof city hall

Geomorphology. The study of Earth’s form. Of landscapes and landforms and the processes that create them. It could be the most interesting field of science that you’ve never heard of.

Geomorphologists look at how the world’s landscapes are shaped by the actions of water, ice, wind, life, and geological processes such as volcanic eruptions. They study mountains, coasts, and deserts. No landscape is off limits. Some geomorphologists even study landscapes on other planets.There are urban geomorphologists too. They look at the interactions between landscape processes and urban development, and this is where geomorphology is relevant to green roofs.

As an example, imagine a pristine hillslope during a big storm. Much of the rain is being intercepted by the natural vegetation. The rain that makes it to the ground is seeping into the soil, although some of it is running over the surface, maybe in gullies. The flow of water in the creek at the bottom of the hill is slowly increasing, and sediment concentrations in the creek are changing. These are the types of processes that are studied by a geomorphologist, who will also look at the origin and evolution of the hillslope itself.

Now imagine the same hillslope covered in buildings and roads. It’s an entirely different story. When rain falls on this urbanized hillslope, it is almost certain to land on a hard surface, and it is likely to reach the creek very quickly. Even if the creek itself has escaped being modified as part of urban development, it will not escape the effects of its urban surroundings. It will change, and a geomorphologist would study this.

urban landscapes

And now imagine that every building on the urbanized hillslope has a green roof. The green roofs, by design, will capture rainwater that otherwise would have reached the creek. Urban development altered the processes of the landscape, but green roofs can help guide them back towards the natural state.

A geomorphologist can help to evaluate where green roofs are most beneficial, or how their design can be optimized. A geomorphologist can give green roofs context, by considering their place and role in the landscape. While geomorphology often overlaps with other fields, such as hydrology, a geomorphologist could see things that other green roof professionals might miss.

We are going to be thinking about how we can use geomorphology to create better green roofs and better cities. Because geomorphologists should Do it on the Roof too.

Paul Richards, Do it on the Roof

Melbourne’s war on leaves

Carlton gardens

Don’t you just hate leaves? They fall to the ground with their bad intentions, mocking us with their freedom to blow wherever they please and dirtying up our clean streets. Smug, crinkly jerks.

But what if our hate is misplaced? What if leaves are in fact, our friends?

If we look at the biological mechanisms that leaves are crucial for, maybe we can learn to appreciate them. After all, leaves play a crucial role in the health and vitality of our trees. You know—those things that pump out the oxygen we breathe. Trees shed their leaves (in a process known as tolerance) during winter in order to avoid damaging conditions.

But that’s only half of the battle…

The other half, as it turns out, is the part where the tree reinvigorates itself to come back stronger than ever. And guess what? It needs the leaves it shed during the winter in order to do that.

Plants need organic matter like we need water, nutrients and binge watching Netflix. The trees eat themselves via mineralised leaf compost in the soil. When we deny a tree of the natural process it creates for itself, we create nutrient poor soils and less healthy trees.

Too many times as an arborist and horticulturalist, people have asked that I remove a tree because it drops leaf litter and looks sick, not realising how crucial the leaf litter they remove is for the tree (as well as the surrounding ecosystem).

Leaf-Litter

If we want our trees to be healthy, and we most certainly do, we must mimic their natural requirements as best as possible. This is difficult in an urban setting, sure—but by promoting awareness of the science of trees and the increasing importance of their protection and survival, I’m sure we can convince the world that leaves aren’t so bad.

How about this? The next time you’re about to ask your gardener to blow all your leaves down the street (or at the house of that neighbour who gives you the stink eye), pause for a moment. Consider that those leaves could be used for good, not evil, in our urban environments.

Compost them, mow them over and break them down the natural way, not in our drains and waterways.

Make use of the humble leaf, your trees and garden will thank you with vitality.

happy tree

Angus Murray, Horticulturalist – Do it on the Roof

What’s blooming this winter?

protea

Take a walk down the street and you’ll notice a few things. While many plants appear to have shut up shop for the winter, there are still a few delightful spots of colour to be found amongst the grey.

Wattle trees

wattle

Winter is the season for wattles. There is something fantastic about the contrast between the wintery sky and the gorgeous golden yellow of a wattle tree, and these hardy natives come in many varieties from tall trees to screening plants, right down to low ground-covering wattles.

Brachyscome multifida (the cut leafed daisy)

brachy

The beautiful cut leafed daisy (sometimes called the rock daisy) is a perennial herb, endemic to Australia. It forms dense mats of colour and is a wonderful ground cover (and excellent option for your green roof). As an added bonus, Brachyscome multifida can be easily propagated using several techniques including cuttings, layering and growing from seed. Flowering from autumn to winter, these plants bring a delightful spot of colour during the grey winter months.

Proteas

protea comapcta

If you’re looking for a low maintenance, colourful winter plant, Proteas are a wonderful and hardy option. Originally from South Africa, these beautiful flowers form part of the larger family of Proteas, which includes Waratahs, Banksias, Hakeas and Grevilleas on the Australian side. There are many Protea varieties available  – some are low growing and others form sizeable screen plants, which are an excellent hedging option. Protea compacta is one example of a beautiful, dense growing plant. It flowers for many months from winter through to spring and provides colour just when the garden really needs it.

Heathland Plants

epacris
Our Heathland plants also love the cold, with the Epacris (our state floral emblem) in full flower over the winter months. They’re tough little plants and can tolerate nutrient poor, sandy soils. With a range of colour from pink, through to red, through to white, all of the Epacris have tiny little tubular flowers that add a spot of colour to any garden.

crowea-saligna

Another beautiful heathland plant to look out for (and one we use on our own green roof) is the Crowea. These plants sport bright pink star shaped flowers, and though these are present across most of the year, they bloom heaviest in winter. Another sensory benefit of the Crowea is the slightly citrus smell to its leaves, which makes it a pleasure to encounter in the garden.

Native plants are a fantastic choice for any gardener. They’re both beautiful and resilient, (often wind and drought tolerant) making them a great contender for the sometimes harsh conditions on our rooftops. So if you’re looking for something new to plant, remember that there’s much to be done, and inspiration to be found, in our own backyard.

From wreck to rover

When John and Shelley found an old trailer for sale, the idea was born; a green roof on wheels. But how to go about it? What system to use? What planting design? Lucky John, our green roof systems expert was up for the challenge.

When John picked it up, it was clear the trailer was in no shape to shine and a makeover was sorely needed before any construction could get done. Over the next few weeks John sanded and painted the trailer…and painted it again.

 sEarly days        Final touches

Next came the branding. We wanted to show case our partnership with the People’s Solar, and more than that, the partnership between green roofs and solar panels themselves.

Branding

Alex Houlston from the People's Solar with John Hassall from Do it on the Roof

Alex Houlston from the People’s Solar with John Hassall from Do it on the Roof

Finally, the rover was ready to be planted.

With its even dimensions of 2.1m x 1.5m, the trailer roof was the perfect size for 12 modules, albeit with a bit of modification. Now, Do it on the Roof are big on waste management, so we were quick to give recycled materials a go. With the help of some practical friends, Jordie and Tony, we cut down some aluminium fly wire doors we had bought at the tip and fixed them to the frame to create a structural base.

john and doors

After a road trip to Kuranga Nursery, the day of planting had come. Our ecologist, Trevor Edwards, had carefully selected a range of flowering native grasses and ground covers, along with some marshy plants (which would favour the lower slope of the modules). Now to create the perfect planting design.

We wanted to show case the beauty and variety of the plants, from the taller grasses to the flowering covers. Trevor suggested we construct a deeper planting bed in the centre of the trailer so as to plant an even greater diversity of plants. This great idea engendered a late night construction effort by John – thanks Trevor!

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At last, armed with gloves and hats, plants lined up and our scoria-based substrate mix ready to shovel, we prepared to do battle.

         cAROL diy          DSC7022-56

Now sporting its flowering native roof and equipped with the solar panel, the sustainability rover was ready to roll. A victory for the whole team (and above all for John).

Team pic        john finished trailer

If you keep an eye out, you may spot the elusive rover at a school near you soon

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Plants & Panels Incursion Program

Equipped with its freshly planted green roof and solar panel, the Sustainability Rover is heading out on the road to teach kids about energy efficiency and sustainable design.

Our Rover delivers Plants & Panels school incursions.

Plants & Panels program coordinator, Pip Hildebrand

Plants & Panels program coordinator, Pip Hildebrand

Over the past few months, our program manager, Pip Hildebrand, has been putting together a range of hands-on activities where students can get creative and learn about how to apply maths and science in real life. Our interactive program is based on the Harvard Visible Thinking Tools and E5 instructional model. We use them because they help us bring maths and science alive for students in an exciting way.

We are excited to share our passion for energy efficiency and green infrastructure with the Melbourne community, and bring the Sustainability Rover to schools around the city. If you’re looking for a new education experience based on cutting edge technology you can book the Plants & Panels experience using Supersaas or visit the Teaching & Training page on our website at www.doitontheroof.com.

DIY green roof workshop

       cAROL diy

Got a lonely garden shed that wants a better hair do? Ever dreamed of having your very own green roof? This April, Do it on the Roof are offering a DIY workshop for anyone who wants first hand practical experience in installing green roofs.

Anton Englemayer is an award winning builder experienced in green infrastructure construction who has created multiple green roofs on his home. Trevor Edwards is a renowned ecologist with over 30 years experience in the field. John Hassall specialises in green roof systems and waste reduction.

If you’re a DIY enthusiast, or keen to get some hands-on green roof experience and make your own green roof, check out the Teaching & Training page on our new website or REGISTER NOW to book in for this exciting workshop.

Let’s green the city, one roof at a time.