In 2003, the Museum’s Robert M. Morgenthau wing opened. At the time, small pine trees were planted around the walkways of the new wing’s roof, which could be accessed only by operations staff.
Over ten years later, the pine trees had spread sideways instead of upward. Weeds grew between the pines, and the soil was impoverished from a lack of plant diversity and tending. Then a new employee had a request: Could he pare back the pines, enrich the soil, and start a rooftop garden?
This summer marks the fourth year that our Museum colleague and expert gardener has supplied employees with fresh produce grown as locally as possible, all on his own time. Kale, pole beans, cucumbers. Lettuce and tomatoes. Bok choy and beets. Herbs, garlic, radishes.
Some of the original pine trees remain. They add to the variety of plants providing different nourishment for the soil. Beans are grown for the nitrogen they release into the earth. Mint is grown—and left to seed and flower—to discourage plant-eating insects and to encourage bees, nature’s best pollinator. No pesticides or man-made fertilizer are used—nor needed.
Our in-house gardener remains unnamed here at his request, but he should know that his horticultural efforts don’t go unnoticed. In addition to his co-workers, who marvel at the bounty he offers us throughout the growing season, Museum passers-by who look up can see the flowering mint, sunflowers, and tall grasses that rise from the garden beds.
Our colleague, who before a major career switch was a farmer, has created a living roof for our living memorial.