By Erica Noonan, Globe Staff
Soon, the Natick Collection won't just be home to the state's first Nordstrom department store.
It's also going to host the largest rooftop garden in New England, what developers are calling a 1.2-acre experiment in residential living, energy conservation and drought-resistant botany.
The garden is a private amenity for residents of Nouvelle at Natick, a housing development of 215 luxury condos, located in the Collection. Only 30 units have been sold so far and developers say the new garden may help boost sales.
Workers have begun laying down eggcrate-like rubber insulation, a three-quarter-inch membrane that will hold and distribute water to the roots of the plants while protecting the upscale shopping galleries below from an estimated 3,000 tons of soil, water, planters, and greenery. ``With retailers like Tiffany and Gucci below us, you don't want any leaks,'' said General Growth developers Aaron Bartels.
The garden is not only meant to be beautiful to look at, as well as a pleasant place to stroll, sit, or entertain guests -- it is also one of the most environmentally correct construction projects in the region, according to Bartels.
The garden itself will use drought-resistant plantings -- including flowers, trees, native grasses showcased in beds of black river rocks. It's expected to be in place by November, just as the first wave of tenants are expected to move into their brand-new condominiums.
Layers of insulation and soil, moisture sensors, and drip irrigation reduces its water consumption to just 12,000 gallons per year, the amount used by the average U.S. single family home. Bartels said the same amount of land and plantings traditionally requires 1.2 million gallons per year.
Roof gardens have sprouted in recent years on many city buildings, including the Boston Marriott hotel, the Boston Children's Museum, the new WGBH building, and Massachusetts General Hospital. This summer, Dorchester restaurant dbar is growing tomatoes and herbs on its roof, and a upper-level parking lot at Boston Medical Center is being used to plant 6,000 square feet of crops by The Food Project, based in Lincoln, which sells the produce at local farmer markets and donates it to food pantries.
For future resident Michael Gould, Parc Nouvelle can't get planted soon enough.
The garden wasn't the only reason he wanted to live at Nouvelle, which offers other amenities, he said.
``But I do want to enjoy a garden without having to do any upkeep,'' said Gould, who is renting nearby until his unit is finished. ``And its cool to be part of something that is so `green.' My friends are definitely expecting me to throw a rooftop garden party when I move in.''
Erica Noonan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. What do you think of rooftop gardens? Have your say in our comments section below.
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