In This Issue
Green Roof Plants at the Chicago Botanic Garden
Results from a five-year study of soil depth and plant performance on Chicago Botanic Gardens' green roofs are set to be released this spring. A recent article in Landscape Architecture Magazine highlighted the research project.

The roof on the Daniel F. and Ada Rice Plant Conservation Science Center is designed as an outdoor classroom and living laboratory. It's also the site of a five-year evaluation study directed by Plant Evaluation Manager, Richard Hawke. The study involves more than 200 plant species. Three soil levels (four, six, and eight inches deep) are used throughout the roof in criss-crossing zones that allow plant assessment under different growing conditions. Plant performance falls under four criteria: cultural adaptability, resistance to disease and pests, winter hardiness, and ornamental quality.

The roof plots include a number of grass species, including Andropogon, Bouteloua, Calamagrostis, Carex, Eragrostis, Festuca, Molinia, Schizachyrium, Sesleria, and Sporobolus. Based on early obsrevations, Hawke has some preliminary recommendations for grasses and planting depth.

See pictures and read more about what's happening with their green roof.

Saxon Holt on Grasses
Stipa gigantea
P hoto: Saxon Holt / Saxon Holt Photography. From San Francisco Chronicle article.
Saxon Holt has been photographing grasses for nearly four decades, and he continues to love and appreciate them. Known for his stunning and creative photos, you can find his award-winning work in scores of magazine articles and books.

In a wonderful article, Holt shares the unique qualities grasses bring to the landscape. Starting with easy beauty and easy care, the list continues. He also talks about grasses that best capture light for gorgeous effects.

Read more about his take on grasses. And see some of his amazing photos on his website.
Touching the Future - Student Career Days
John & Jill Hoffman at PLANET SCD
John and Jill Hoffman organized the Annual & Perennial Identification for Student Career Days.
In mid-March, North Carolina State University hosted PLANET's 39th Annual Student Career Days (SCD). It's a gathering of more than 800 horticulture students from 65 schools across the country. They compete in events, network with potential employers, and generally have a fantastic time.

Hoffman Nursery was there to sponsor the Annual & Perennial Identification event, help with other duties, and get to know the students. It was a rewarding experience for all of us. 

As we connected with these students and heard their stories, their enthusiasm and interest was apparent. We wanted to make sure they feel supported, encouraged, and welcomed into our industry. That's why being there was important.

See what happened at this extraordinary event.
The Power of Grasses
Changing with Native Grasses
In Houston, Texas, a planned community called Bridgeland has chosen to install native grasses, wildflowers, and tall wetland reeds instead of the usual turf grass. With current drought conditions and increasing development, the developers wanted a more sustainable choice. The native grasses require less water and mowings to maintain.

And they won't be alone. The article notes other developers are concerned that expected population growth will exacerbate drought conditions, which could hamper future development in the state. Find out what this community is doing now.

Bobwhite Quail have experienced significant habitat loss. Converting conventional fields of Fescue to native bunch grasses can help boost the population.
Five hundred miles to the north, Pea Ridge Military Park in Arkansas is converting Fescue fields and other crops areas to native grasslands. Their hope is to bring back the bobwhite population, which has declined precipitously.  Bobwhite and other grassland birds need bunch-type grasses for habitat. As opposed to thatch-forming grasses like Fescue, the birds can move freely among the bunch grasses, tunneling through and finding shelter.

Other grassland bird species are in decline, too. Converting land to native bunchgrasses such as Big Bluestem, Little Bluestem, and Grama Grass goes a long way toward helping build populations. Read more about what they're doing for the birds.
Switchgrass for PCBs
Researchers at the Univerity of Iowa recently published a study they used a combination of Switchgrass and microbes to remove polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from the soil. PCBs are harmful contaminants that are found in many sites throughout the country. Removing them is an expensive prospect, but this new research offers a lower cost solution.

Switchgrass field
Researchers hope to plant contaminated soil with Switchgrass to remove PCBs.
The microbes act directly to break down PCBs, and Switchgrass boosts that effect. According to Jerry Schnoor, a researcher who focuses on remediation, "Switchgrass is famous for its deep rooting and dense root mass. Because it's mostly the bacteria that do the work, (switchgrass) helps with multiplying and making a good home for the bacteria and multiplying their numbers so degradation of the PCBs occurs faster."

The researchers have applied for funding to continue their research. The published study was done in a lab setting. But with new funding, they hope to take the research into the field. That's where they'll know if this approach is feasible.

Removing toxic chemicals? Yep...we knew Switchgrass was great. Read more about this research.
European Adventures with David Hoffman
David Hoffman, son of owners Jill & John Hoffman, joined the nursery as Project Manager at the beginning of March. David has been working in Europe for the past couple of years. Before returning to Hoffman Nursery, he spent February visiting nurseries in Europe. His travels were filled with generous hosts, friends, and lots of plants.

He visited a large nursery in Poland, where they specilize in geraniums, but are starting a grass program. They also grow much of their own food. David also spent a day with Pat Fitzgerald in Ireland. Pat grows the EverColor® series of sedges. It was a grand time, so we put together a visual tour that you won't want to miss.
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