Chicago is not only home to a green-roofed city hall building, but on September 22, it will also be home to the country’s prototype green roof evaluation program.   Welcome to Chicago Botanic Garden’s new Daniel F. and  Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center, home to hundreds of thousands of plant varieties.

The Science Center, which opens for members on Tuesday, September 22, and to the general public on Wednesday, September 23, is boldly dedicated to plant conservation with a mission to “Save the Plants, Save the Planet.”   Inside this 38,000 square foot, LEED-certified center, nearly 200 scientists and other professionals dedicated to plant education and research will carry out their mission.

The Plant Science Center is truly sustainable and not just another Chicago structure: Its rooftop and foundation are made up of plants.   The Rainwater Glen is a below-grade garden which lies beneath as well as surrounds the building.   Not only beautiful but practical, the Rainwater Glen will collect and filter the building’s rainwater runoff.   Thanks to skillful design with natives that are hardy– from dampness to dryness-building and parking lot waters have a place to flow that’s truly green.

Whether you want to learn more about green roofing or seriously plan to implement green roofing on your own or future home, be sure to visit the center’s new Green Roof Garden.   Feast your eyes on pure aesthetics as you educate yourself on how a green roof could work for you.   There is plenty of room for plants up above, with 16,000 square feet of rooftop green space.   You’ll enjoy 320 species of plants, from indigenous plants of the Midwest to plants from other countries.

The Dixon National Tallgrass Prairie Seed Bank houses tens of thousands of seeds from 1500 plant varieties.   Ordinarily, you could view the scientists at work here in 9 laboratories through gallery viewing windows.   However, if you’re a member and visit on September 22, you can meet the scientists personally before the center opens.  Each lab contains an interactive exhibit which demonstrates to the public how it contributes toward its “Save the Plants, Save the Planet” mission.

The Green Roof is semi-intensive, so although its weight, cost and maintenance are greater than an extensive roof, it’s also more versatile in the types of plant varieties which can grow on it.   The conservation scientists will soon see how plants from green roofs across the globe perform in our Midwestern climate.

Want to see some stunning native plants?   Visit the Ellis Goodman Family Foundation Green Roof Garden South.   You’ll see many natives that haven’t been used before in green roofing (job security for the researchers, who will evaluate the plants’ performance in this climate).    To see ornamental plants, many from abroad, visit The Josephine and John J. Louis Foundation Green Roof Garden North.

Are you so impressed with the Rainwater Glen that you’d like a miniature one on your own landscape?   On Saturday, September 26, and Sunday, September 27, check out The Plant Science Center’s rain garden demonstration cart, which will be at the entrance of the building.

Also, the weekend of September 26 and 27 invites you to check out The Plant Science Center’s Herbarium, which is normally closed to the public.

Interested in green roofing?   Be at The Plant Science Center on Saturday, September 26, and Sunday, September 27.  Hear about green roofing specifics and get your questions answered by Dr. Jim Ault, Director of Environmental Horticulture, on Saturday from 1-4 p.m. Green Roof Garden Horticulturist Emily Shelton will be on hand to educate you on both Saturday and Sunday from 1-4 p.m.

Need a stimulating place for the kids?   On Saturday and Sunday, September 26 and September 27 respectively, attend The Plant Science Center’s open house, complete with behind-the-scenes looks at special areas not ordinarily open to the public.   There will be tours and plenty of hands-on science-related activities for children.   Strawberry DNA extraction, anyone?

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