ISSUE 46  |  Harvest

Chicago’s Rooftop Gardener

November 15, 2012 12:00 PM

BY Sarah Lonsdale

A roof deck on the eighth floor of the Hilton Hotel in Chicago is not where you would expect to find a garden, but 83 boxes filled with greens are thriving on top of the asphalt there—the work of Sara Gasbarra, the city’s go-to urban gardener.

Gasbarra is the owner of Verdura, a company that creates and maintains urban gardens. She grew up eating produce from her parents’ garden (her father is Italian). However, it was a stint as a volunteer at Chicago’s Green City Market, a favorite chef source for organic and sustainable produce, that really got her into gardening. Sixteen months ago Gasbarra set up Verdura and has become the go-to source for local chefs looking to create their own urban green plots, whether it be on a roof or on a sliver of a lot. For more on Verdura and Gasbarra, visit her Facebook page.

Above: The roof deck at Floriole Café and Bakery in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Gasbarra says, “Floriole was my first project and Chef/Owner Sandra Holl and her husband Mathieu operate a beautiful French pastry shop and café. It’s truly one of the best bakeries in the city and they source everything locally. Not only is their product gorgeous, it’s absolutely delicious. I grow edible flowers and a mix of herbs, greens, tomatoes, peppers for them.”

Above: Gasbarra uses EarthBoxes, plastic boxes that have an in-built irrigation system. For more information, visit EarthBox.

Above: French breakfast radishes.

Above: A mixture of mints: peppermint, spearmint, chocolate mint, and orange mint.

Above: The roof of the Hilton with boxes of herbs, fennel, peppers, and tomatoes. Just some of the offerings housed in 83 EarthBoxes on the outdoor deck of the hotel.

For a hotel in San Francisco with a roof garden, see ” A Chef’s Secret Roof Garden: The Fairmont Hotel.”

Above: Gasbarra consults with chefs before creating a garden and sources all her plants from local farmers. In lieu of heavy wooden beds, she favors plastic containers from EarthBoxes that are easily grouped into clusters.

To visit the roof garden at the Hotel Palomar in San Francisco, see “A Chef’s Secret Fifth Floor Garden.”

Read more Garden Visits.