Sustainable Parks Corner: Happy Earth Day!
For Parks Librarian Kaitilin Griffin, the 4th and 5th floor rooftop gardens at the Arsenal headquarters are more than just a lunch spot or quiet place to sunbathe; they are a second home. Spend a few minutes on the roof with Griffin - the Arsenal's volunteer rooftop gardener since 2008 - and you are blown away by her depth of knowledge and enthusiasm for plants. While some might be burdened by the daily walkthroughs and constant watering by hand, Griffin goes above the call-of-duty. Her kind, soft-spoken nature, strong work ethic and willingness to educate others make her the ideal garden manager.
The Manhattan-native joined Parks in 2001 after studying and working in medieval history and culture. Although she switched fields, her love for history remained and soon became intertwined with land stewardship. She spent six years at the Jurisdiction Office before moving to the Library. At the core of her work, and the backbone of the library, is the "Historical Science Project"- a project started in 1996 that looks at the history of each park's landscape." Griffin believes park design history can be a great tool for promoting environmentalism. "History teaches citizens about the stewardship of the parks," she said. "The more you know about the land, the better citizens can be stewards."
Over the years, Griffin has learned about plants through botanical illustration - an extremely detailed portrayal of plants to reveal their scientific accurateness. She also helped out with an old Arsenal rooftop garden, but it was derailed by roof leaks and repairs. Plans were in development, however, to bring back a garden in 2008. In exchange for maintaining the new development, Griffin was given permission to participate in a Master Gardening Certificate Course jointly offered by Parks and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
One of the most difficult tasks Griffin has faced since the garden's return involved replacing over 100 fiber-glass planting containers last year. Faced with such a monumental challenge, fellow Parkie and Arsenal compost extraordinaire Patricia Perone was amazed by Griffin's resourcefulness, attention to detail and commitment. "This was an intensive, complicated project that Kaitilin handled with grace and expertise on a tight budget and timeline," said Perone. "All of the old planting containers had to be replaced, which required selecting new containers, measuring which containers should go where in order to make sense logistically and aesthetically, taking the plants, bushes and small trees out of their old containers, laying several layers of substrate, and planting them into new containers."
Griffin is extremely modest in her garden management and is quick to divert any praise to volunteers or groups who have been instrumental in the garden's success. "If I ever need stuff, I am able to get leaf and tree compost from the Central Park Conservancy, supplies from professional horticulturists, and soil from the Gaia Institute." The Arsenal's history for maintaining plants and gardens onsite keeps Griffin focused and grounded." A home grown rooftop garden used to be here," said Griffin, as she pauses to survey the roof landscape. "This all started with one person who loved plants."
Standing with Griffin on a brisk March day, I learn that witch hazels, a yellow flowering plant in the southwest corner of the garden, bloom during winter. She also notes the weeping cherry on the west edge is battered by wind, and it's early flowering could be a sign of stress. Griffin's knowledge and passion for plants is inspiring and contagious; her work is astonishing. "Kaitilin is single-handedly managing both the 4th floor rooftop gardens, as well as the vegetable garden on the 5th floor. She is always willing to educate others about the garden. It’s long overdue that this agency recognizes just how special and essential Kaitilin is for the Arsenal and the Parks Department."
It is about time we all do.
Kaitilin Griffin was nominated by Patricia Perone. Nominate a fellow colleague for a sustainable action by dropping an email at sustainable email@example.com.
If you cannot start a garden on top of, or around your building, take it inside and green up your office by bringing in some plants. Not only are they a pleasure to look at, but they provide a host of benefits that combat indoor air pollution to boost your health! Plants emit oxygen, clean the air, reduce stress and improve productivity!
Best plants for cleaning the air:
Areca Palm, Kentia Palm, Dracaena 'Janet Craig', Rubber Plant, and Peace Lilly
Plants that are low-maintenance:
Spider plant, Jade plant, Snake plant
of the Recreation and Nature Center Energy Contest!
“What is the use of a house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?”
Henry David Thoreau
(1817 - 1862)