Boardman River Nature Center Green Roof Project

All native green roof located at the Boardman River Nature Center. Photo by Bob Grzesiak, 2016.

This project is an active research and demonstration garden maintained by local Master Gardeners in conjunction with Michigan State University Extension. We will be evaluating several native plant species for long term survival. While we strive for beauty, we promote scientific research and the value of native species in the environment.   What is a Green Roof?



Master Gardeners assist with the landscape planning and maintenance at the Boardman River Nature Center, which is the home of the Grand Traverse Conservation District. 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. The idea of building a new storage shed with an all native 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. Of special note, Nathan Griswold of Inhabitect LLC acted as co-manager for this project 

Inhabitect LLC

Michigan State University Extension (Leelanau County)

Grand Traverse Conservation District 

Northwestern Michigan College (Construction Technology Program)

Ekocite Architecture

Laying the foundation



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

If you build it they will come


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

Installing the green (vegetated) roof


Under the supervision of Inhabitect LLC, our green roof was installed on October 18th, 2015. All of the labor was completed by volunteers, 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

When it was time to get the special growing media up on the roof, our volunteers did a “bucket brigade” and hauled over 3 cubic yards up to the roof in about 30 minutes. 

What makes ours special?


According to our research, we are the first public educational green roof in the state of Michigan to exclusively use native plants. Native plants are those that were growing in a particular region prior to European settlement. In Michigan that dates to 1850.

As the seasons and years go by, the successes and failures of these plants will be reported to Inhabitect LLC with the intent of expanding the plant recommendation lists for green roofs around the country.

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.

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)
  11. Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Bearberry)
  12. Solidago hispida (Hairy Goldenrod)
  13. Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed)

Project Sponsors


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

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

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

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

Phlox Sponsors ($5-199): Oryana, Rare Earth Hardwoods, Judy Reich, Lillian Mahaney, and Glynis Waycaster

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.


All native green roof located at the Boardman River Nature Center. Photo by Bob Grzesiak

All native green roof located at the Boardman River Nature Center. Photo by Bob Grzesiak


  • Michigan Master Gardener Association’s Fall 2015 newsletter highlights our roof
  • From the Grand Traverse Conservation District: “The Grand Traverse Conservation District prides itself on the demonstration native gardens at the Boardman River Nature Center.  The addition of the native garden green roof installed by Inhabitect on the newly constructed tool shed adds an exciting dimension for incorporating native plants into landscapes and educating the public about the benefits of green roofs.  Green roofs improve storm water quality, reduce run off volume, support wildlife (especially pollinators), improve air quality, reduce heat radiated back into the environment contributing to the Urban Heat Island Effect, and connect people to the natural world in their everyday life.  This demonstration project illustrates on a small scale what could be done on a larger scale to be conscious stewards of our land. Inhabitect has been instrumental in bringing this demonstration project to life.”
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