Green Roof Project

Master Gardeners assist with the landscape bedding maintenance at the Boardman River Nature Center, which is the home of the Grand Traverse Conservation District, as part of a symbiotic relationship. The beds at these grounds are all planted with native plants, and are designed with education and demonstration in mind. Over time, the need arose for more storage for tools and equipment to keep these beds in shape. 

In October of 2014, MGANM listened to a presentation about green (vegetated) roofs by Nathan Griswold, founder and president of Inhabitect LLC. Click here for a synopsis of that presentation. Afterward, MGANM members were quite abuzz with the idea of a new shed/project that could serve as an educational piece regarding green infrastructure . The idea of building a new storage shed at the Boardman River Nature Center to house our garden tools and equipment with a green roof was born that night. 

The next year included quite a bit of planning and coordination. Throughout this process, the following Partners were all integral:

Inhabitect LLC

Michigan State University Extension (Leelanau Branch)

Grand Traverse Conservation District 

Northwestern Michigan College (Construction Technology division)

Master Gardener Association of Northwest Michigan (MGANM)

Ekocite Architecture

green roof concrete

screeding concrete with volunteers Tim McGrew, Judy Reich, and Whitney Miller

Our foundation was dug and poured by volunteers, with the concrete donated by The Concrete Service Inc

The NMC Construction Technology division was able to adopt our shed as a project for their students to build. Their fall construction 101 and 105 classes worked weekly under the supervision of instructor Devin Hill to erect the storage shed

Instructor Devin Hill (left) and the NMC Construction Class students who diligently built our shed

Instructor Devin Hill (left) and the NMC Construction Class students who diligently built our shed

The green roof was installed on October 18th, 2015. Our volunteer turnout was terrific, with over twenty five people assisting. NMC’s Construction Technology Program Coordinator Dan Goodchild, Instructor Devin Hill, and some of the construction students chose to join us as well and learn about green roof technology and installation. Nathan Griswold (Inhabitect LLC) began our day with a quick presentation, and then up to the roof we went. When it was time to get the special growing media up on the roof, our amazing volunteers did a “bucket brigade” and hauled over 3 cubic yards up to the roof in about 30 minutes. It was fast! 

Starting our "bucket brigade" to get the growing media up to the roof

Starting our “bucket brigade” to get the growing media up to the roof

The roof holds six inches of growing media and is exposed to full sun. Plants had to be carefully selected to thrive in that type of environment. One hundred ninety plants were put in on October 18th 2015, with all of them being native to Michigan prior to the English settlement around 1850. According to our research, we are the first public educational green roof in the state of Michigan to exclusively use native plants. As the seasons and years go by, the successes and failures these plants will be reported to the green roof company, Inhabitect LLC with the intent of expanding the plant recommendation lists for green roofs around the country. 

We will be placing educational signage on the structure in 2016. We still need funding for this and welcome contributions in any amount. To donate, please contact us at:

To see more photos of our progress, please go to our GALLERY page.

Michigan Master Gardener Association’s Fall 2015 newsletter highlights our roof


Our current plants are all Michigan natives and include: 

  1. Carex pensylvanica (Pennsylvania Sedge)
  2. Aquilegia canadensis (Wild Columbine)
  3. Rudbeckia hirta (Blackeyed Susan)
  4. Artemisia ludoviciana (Prairie Sage)
  5. Penstemon hirsutus (Hairy Beardtongue)
  6. Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf Coreopsis)
  7. Aster novae-angliae (New England Aster)
  8. Geum triflorum (Prairie Smoke)
  9. Lupinus perennis (Wild Lupine)
  10. Sisyrinchium angustifolium (Blue Eyed Grass)

Coming fall 2016: 

  1. Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Bearberry)
  2. Solidago hispida (Hairy Goldenrod)
  3. Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed)


This project has been 100% funded by donations. We would like to thank our sponsors: 

Coneflower Sponsors ($1,000+): Terry Harding

Milkweed Sponsors ($500-999): The Concrete Service, Inc., and Tim McGrew

Lupine Sponsors ($200-499): Marathon Automotive, Linn Energy LLC., Mike and Marina Deering, Whitney Miller, Cheryl Gross and Gary Richardson


We would also like to thank our volunteers, without whom this project would not have been possible. A special thanks to Judy Reich for her help throughout the entire project.

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