Moorestown has a secret garden

Town Hall is host to a green roof.

Chair of Sustainable Moorestown Wolf Skacel tends to the green roof on top of Moorestown’s Town Hall. Skacel said waters, weeds and fertilizes the garden every summer and was especially impressed by the garden’s growth this July.

If you walk through the main doors of Town Hall, ascend a flight of stairs and unlock a couple of doors, there is a spot in Moorestown that many people may not know about. Atop Moorestown’s Town Hall is a dense patch of greenery that serves as the municipal building’s garden.

While not open to the public, the green roof plays a vital role. From providing an extra layer of insulation to attracting pollinators, the garden is currently in bloom for its fourth year.

Wolf Skacel, chair of Sustainable Moorestown, said the green roof took root in November 2014. He said while he was not involved in the early stages of the project, he came to learn that Pompeston Creek Watershed Association and Sustainable Moorestown had applied for a grant through Rutgers University to implement stormwater features to Town Hall. He said one of the proposals was to create a green roof because it would capture stormwater and slowly release the runoff as opposed to all of the water immediately streaming from the roof.

Ultimately, the township received a grant, and in November 2014, 480 trays of rock sedums were delivered to Town Hall. Volunteers carried the 20- to 30-pound trays to the roof. Skacel said it took two days to set all of the trays in place.

A medal trim holds all of the trays together, and over time, the plants have knit themselves together to become one homogenous mass. In addition to helping with runoff, the garden helps to shade a portion of Town Hall in the summertime and provides an additional layer of insulation in the winter.

The rock sedums are drought tolerant and able to hold water water in their two- to three-inch trays. However, the roof is not without its maintenance, Skacel said.

Since 2014, Skacel and his wife have taken on the role of maintaining the garden. When they were trying to establish the garden, Skacel and his wife were up on the roof nearly weekly, but now that the garden has taken root, they visit once a month. Because the garden is so dense, weeds have a hard time establishing themselves in the garden.

“My wife and I are master gardeners. We just felt like this was just a way to give back to the community,” Skacel said. “It was something we recognized needed to be done and were willing to do it.”

Each spring, Skacel fertilizes the garden, and when it hasn’t rained enough, Skacel or Karen Daily, administrative assistant in the township manager’s office, will water the rock sedums. This year, the roof has seen so much growth that Skacel will have to give the garden its first mowing.

In the winter, many of the plants will die, and the garden looks dead. However, each spring, with Skacel’s careful care, the garden comes back.

“It just changes once you hit it with some fertilizer, time and heat,” Skacel said. “It just starts to perk up all by itself.”

Starting in April, flowers bloom in the garden and attract an array of bees and other pollinators. Skacel said there is currently a crisis with pollinators, and a lot of groups in the United States are focusing their efforts on trying to restore the pollinator population.

He said while many Moorestown residents take great pride in their yards, they are planting species that pollinators consider exotic and do not recognize as a food source. By contrast, bees and other pollinators recognize the relatively native species planted atop Town Hall.

Skacel said while the public cannot access the roof for safety reasons, Sustainable Moorestown has started posting photos of the garden to its Facebook page for residents to enjoy.

To see photos of the garden, visit Sustainable Moorestown’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SustainableMoorestown.