Q & A with Noel Kingsbury

Noel KingsburyYesterday, I reviewed the bookPlanting Green Roofs and Living Walls”. After I read the book, I had the delightful opportunity to ask one of the authors or the book, Noel Kingsbury, a few questions. I skipped over the availability question this time. While he is quite adorable, I thought that the audience at large (that would be you) would be interested in some more relevant information. So here it goes…

What is the best use of either green roof or vertical gardening (or both) that you have seen? Why does it win that distinction?

Best green roofs I have seen have been in Germany where you have a rich dry meadow type habitat that looks after itself but is really bio-diverse with masses of drought-tolerant wildflowers. And one in the north of England which Nigel Dunnett designed, with a 12cms substrate, very flowery, but that is quite a generous substrate in a cool climate. The only vertical gardening that works is Patrick Blanc’s work in Paris, but it is very expensive and not an easy thing to manage. Far more practical is the use of climbers to cover vertical surfaces – which I know is not done much in the US, but is very common over here in Europe.

What advice can you give to a person who would like to implement a green roof in the typical American suburban neighborhood? Keep in mind, that these neighborhoods typically have ordinances that discourage new or atypical appearances on homes.

Ahh… the USA… land of the free! Where if the city won’t get you for being different the neighbours will. Why are you guys such a nation of conformists? 

A really inspirational gardener here is a chap in Chicago…. Marcus de la Fleur , despite the name a German and a good European freethinker. Check out his website at www.delafleur.com/168_Elm/ for how to convert a rented 1920s house in a classic suburb. He got his landlord interested, has a noticeboard for the neighbours to read, has open days. In other words he is saying he is doing something different and happy to share his ideas with others. If it is about saving water, saving energy etc. then it usually gets people interested.

What are the top three difficulties the typical home gardener may face or should consider when installing a green roof?

  1. finding a sympathetic builder or other construction professionals
  2. working out a suitable plant mix for your locality
  3. sourcing an economic supply of suitable plants

What would be your favorite plants to use in either a green roof or living wall?

Depends entirely on where you are. There is a lot of potential i should think in smaller native American bunch grasses like Stipa tenuissima, as they are drought resistant. Thrifts, armeria species do well and are very decorative. Dwarf alliums, ie. garlics do well, are very colourful and spread by seeding.

I’m going to talk about facadegreening, ie. using climbers. there are few, unfortunately which are evergreen. If you live in the south you can do fantastic things with evergreen ‘jasmine’ type things, not jasmines per se, but species with white and heavily scented flowers: holboelia, stauntonia, trachelospermum etc. Otherwise there are deciduous but much hardier species, a lot of native vines, ie. vitis species or other related Asian species have attractive foliage and fantastic autumn colour, and of course all your parthenocissus species which self-cling to walls.

Bonus IF question – If you could be transformed into any kind of plant in the world, which would it be and why?

Maybe an English oak (Quercus robur), stand there for a very long time and watch the world go by.

One thought on “Q & A with Noel Kingsbury
  1. Thanks for sharing the interview. I really enjoyed the bonus question. Makes you wonder yourself what you’d chose if you came up with the question.


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